For most of us, the summer holiday is already long gone. So for me also. Still there is an observation I made that I want to share with you. We have been sailing on the Waddenzee1 this summer. Sailing, anchoring, mudflat hiking2, counting seals and other animals. One of the highlights was a visit to the island of Terschelling. A lot has changed since I was there last time with our boat. It must have been at least 30 years ago. At that time, we had to moor against the quay wall wherever one could find a spot. Now, there is a modern marine in the back of the port, specially made for yachts. Although stacking the boats next to each other is still the standard.
The new marina is more or less in the same area where we used to moor. From there you have an excellent view on a mudflat, that has been there been for ages3. When I was young, I couldn’t understand what its purpose was. Only that old fashioned Dutch flat bottomed boats were still allowed to anchor and stand dry. For us kids, it was an excellent place to muck about with our little dinghy and get dirty walking on the mudflat. We just enjoyed it was there. I still don’t know the exact name of the mudflat. I’ve seen it called ‘Dellewal’, although that seems to be just the quay side over there. Other names that I found on charts are ‘Oostelijk Ras’ and just ‘De Plaat’. Enjoying a nice sundowner and contemplating life and dredging in particular, I suddenly saw the purpose of the area: it works like a ‘Spuikom’4. I really don’t know how to translate this in English. So, let me explain what it is intended for.
Basically it is a part of the mudflat that is located at the south of Terschelling. About 85 ha in surface area, it is separated from the Waddenzee by a low dam. Just high enough to the high water level in the neap tides. The dam has an opening at the back of the harbour, near the marina. I Noticed that the water outside the marina was rushing by and the water inside was practically standing still. I figured out that the rushing tide was used to flush the old port. The huge surface area stores a lot of water that has to pass the quay in the port. Effectively increasing the flow velocity there and reducing sedimentation. This certainly helps in maintaining a navigable depth for marine traffic. Moreover, as each tide the area is filled from all around the dam and mostly emptied through the port, there is a resulting nett transport out of the port.
Voila, that is why the old islanders build those dams! Any other person would be satisfied with this plausible answer. Have pity on me, I can’t stop solving the riddles of the sands. Wouldn’t this be easier with a dredge? Apparently, near Terschelling, there is a sedimentation rate of 0.5 to 1 mm per year5, or about 600 m³ annually. With the dam, this has to be kept out of the port with the volume behind the dam. The average increase in flow is about 0.5 knots. According to the Hjuström diagram6, this will transport particles smaller than 10 mm out of the harbour. The stored volume has a potential energy as in a power dam of about 6.25 GJ. This is released twice each tide, resulting in a delivered power of 280 kW. Combined, this results in a specific transport power consumption of 4000 kW/m³/h. No contractor in his right mind will ever use a machine with such a performance. BUT: the energy is free and working flawlessly for at least 200 years. I still have to see a machine doing that. OK. We can step up the analysis even further. Drawing the 280kW continuously from the tide is eventually slowing down the rotation of the Earth. Just for those worried: each year, one day will be in the order of 10-19 seconds longer…
- Wadden Sea, Wikipedia
- Mudflat hiking, Wikipedia
- Landschapsvisie Baai Dellewal Terschelling, Feddes Olthof
- Spuikom, Wikipedia (Dutch))
- Slibsedimentatie in de kwelders van de Waddenzee, Arcadis
- Hjulström curve, Wikipedia