Water: Friend & Foe of Holland

Holland. The Netherlands. The Low Lands. The blue parts in the image are at or below sea level. Frightening idea, don’t you think? It would be, if it weren’t for the dikes, the sluices, polders and mills to protect the land and regulate the water level.

Last week, Holland was in a high state of alert: due to a storm and onshore winds, the dikes of the northern provinces were about to be breached by the rough seas. The water relentlessly pushed towards the shores, so the excess water could not be pumped back to keep our feet dry. Animals had to be taken to safety, houses flooded and things looked grim for a while. Luckily the wind eased up in time to prevent further damage.

Back in 1953, Holland was not this fortunate. In the night of January 31th (my mum’s birthday), a combination of  spring tide and a northwesterly storm pounded against our shores and dikes. It struck Holland, Belgium, England and Scotland.

The dikes were not strong nor high enough. Due to the storm tide, the water level locally exceeded 5,6 meters (18.4 ft) above sea level,  causing extensive flooding. Almost two thousand people were killed in the southwest, the province of Zeeland. In England, over three hundred people were killed in the counties of Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex, almost thirty victims in West Flanders, Belgium.

To prevent anything like this from ever happening again, an ambitious flood defence system was conceived and deployed in the Netherlands, called the Delta Works, designed to protect the estuaries of the rivers Rhine, Meuse and Scheldt. The works were completed in 1998.

In 2009, the movie De Storm was released, based on the North Sea Flood of 1953. Bløf – one of my favorite bands – performed the title song. In this clip you can see original images of 1953.

Bløf – De Storm

 

Perhaps I should move back to the southeast, where I was born.

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17 thoughts on “Water: Friend & Foe of Holland

  1. Pingback: The Netherlands, a little country in big water « Christine M Grote

  2. HI Marion, ran into you over at Katie’s blog. I really enjoy this post on Holland. Holland is my favorite country after having visiting and exhibiting my art with several other artists there in 1990. We showed our work in Deventer, Holland. Are you familiar with the locale? Check out my tag “art exhibition” I think it should take you to some of images of Holland. I will check out your work and subcribe.
    Walter

    • Hi Walter, so nice to meet you. I have subscribed to your blog too, you have made interesting photos!
      I have never been to Deventer, but visited other parts of the northern provinces (am from the south myself).
      Hopefully you’ll enjoy Figments!

      Have a nice weekend,
      Marion

  3. My village was lucky @ 1953..the water ‘licked’ our surrounding fields. My grandmother and- father, who lived in this house before us, helped a family from the province of Zeeland. They stayed here until they could return (or go elsewhere to relatives; that i don’t know). And now very dear friends of us live in the little city called Zierikzee. Every time when we go out to visit them i’m amazed that all the roads we travel toward them were flooded. It’s a scary thought that water can destroy so much in so little time like in those februarydays of ’53. Good for you to write about it. Compliments! xxx

    • You live in your grandparents’ house Karin? That is so special.
      What happened back then is dramatic. The dark, the cold, the water, the despair. Losing family and friends, loved ones. Each disaster destroys lives and hopes.
      x

  4. A feat of engineering then and now. The Netherlands has always been a leader in so many things, not to mention very intelligent, witty, clever and talented ladies. :D

    Much love,
    Jules

  5. It is beautiful to live on or near the water, but you’re right about the risks. I sure hope your Delta Works are stronger than the levies around New Orleans when Katrina came to call.

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