January 11, 2007

Thursday, January 11, 2007

By Nate Wybenga

Today’s weather was absolutely crazy!  For most of the day, there were substantial sustainable winds of about 50 miles per hour, with gusts up to nearly 70 miles per hour.  On top of that, there was heavy rain / maybe hail.  It was certainly a good day to drive around and look at floodwater protection!

In the morning we drove to an inflatable dam at Ramspol.  The dam is intended to separate the Ketelmeer and the Zwarte Meer during storms and provide protection for the land along the Zwarte Meer.  This dam is the only one like it in the world.  It is separated into three inflatable sections, each 75 meters long, 13 meters wide and 8.35 meters high.  At rest, the inflatable tube sits at the bottom of the water.  When a storm comes that threatens flooding, the dam inflates with both water and air and protects the region.  Since it’s completion 4 years ago, it has only been inflated 6 or 7 times.  Given the crazy weather of today, there was a possibility for inflation!  However, the winds were from the wrong direction (protecting the land from flooding), so no such luck.

Then we visited a water pumping station at the Noordoost Polder.  This water pumping station, along with 2 others, protects the polder from flooding.  The pump house uses 3 LARGE pumps, 2 natural gas and 1 diesel, to pump the water.  The innovative design of these pumps allows the plant to produce hot water and generate electricity that they then sell to the community.

Our third stop for the excursion was the New Land Heritage Center Museum.  We toured through and saw how the polder regions in the former Zuiderzee were created. 

Because we do not have class until Monday, the evening was very relaxing.  Some of us went into other towns to look around, while others stayed back and played games or relaxed.  Tomorrow most of us are headed out for a weekend of exploration and fun!

A small scale model of the inflatable dam


A side view of the actual dam (uninflated)


Professor Hoeksema puts his coat on in the storm (it was rather difficult to do)


A natural gas engine at the pumping station

January 10, 2007

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

By Nate Wybenga

Today we visited areas in which the water from lakes was drained and the space was then used for agriculture.  The process to remove the water from a lake is this: A large ring dike (a mound of earth) is built surrounding the lake.  Then, windmills were used to essentially lift the water over the dike and into the canals surrounding the ring dike.  Several windmills were needed in series to completely dry the lake empty.  This drained lake where the water table is controlled is called a polder.

So today we drove around and looked at some of these emptied out lakes.  At lunchtime, we went to a windmill museum.  Although windmills aren’t used anymore to pump the water out of the dried out lakes, this museum still had 3 windmills, one of which was running for us so we could see how it operated.  This was very need to see the innovation (for back then) of converting wind power into power to transport water. 

We then went westward and looked at the dunes on the North Sea.  Our group went up the dike on the North Sea and walked up to the water.  It was an incredibly windy day, and we certainly realized why the Netherlands needed such a large sea dike.

After the trip to the dune areas we drove home.  All of us are starting to make plans for Friday to Sunday as we do not have class and are then free to travel around as we please.  Tomorrow we are going to look at land recreation in the former lake Zuider Zee, which is now the current Ijsselmeer. 

A diagram of how the windmills worked


A view of the windmill we toured


Our group outside the windmill we toured


A windy visit to the North Sea!

January 9, 2007

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

By Nate Wybenga

On today’s excursion we explored the region of Randstad by train.  After driving a couple of hours south of our home in Broek, we were set free to explore the country by railway.  We were paired off into “train buddies” and with instructions traveled 111 kilometers, getting off at various cities along the way.  It was really neat to explore several cities and be able to see how different regions have developed.  In Rotterdam the downtown is very similar to large cities in the US.  Back in WWII, Rotterdam was nearly completely destroyed by the Germans.  This meant that after the war the city needed to be nearly completely rebuilt.  Thus, the buildings are very large and modern as compared to the history architecture of Amsterdam (a city nearly completely intact after WWII). 

Another neat part of the excursion was learning how to use the train system.  Travel by train is so convenient in the Netherlands, and as it will be a means of transportation for our free weekends, it is important that we understand the system.  Many of the train stations are impressive themselves, and some even have multilevel train tracks.

We all met up again late afternoon in the town of Weesp.  We then went grocery shopping as a group and returned home for dinner.  In the evening we had our briefing for our next day’s trip to visit “Polder” landscapes.

Leiden Central Station


An example of the modern skyscrapers found in some of the more modern cities


A church in our final train destination, Weesp

January 8, 2007

Monday, January 08, 2007

By Nate Wybenga

On today’s “field trip” we drove around in the northern part of the country and looked at 34 different “terps”.  Terps are dwelling mounds, manmade, that were used prior to dykes to protect against flooding.  They are literally manmade mounds of ground made with sod or manure that would raise houses or villages by a few meters.  There are thousands of villages built on Terps all throughout the Netherlands and Europe.  After the rise of Christianity, many of the villages built very large and beautiful churches at the top of the mounds in the center of the village.  As we toured around to all these different terps, we were able to stop at a couple of churches and either walk around or look inside them.

After the invention of dykes to prevent flooding, terps became unnecessary as a means of preventing flooding.  The land underneath the dwelling mounds had very rich soil, and it became profitable to dig away dwelling mounds for their soil.  So, many of the mounds today have either been completely dug away, or have pretty much just the church left on top of them. 

It was very neat to see the dwelling mounds and the towns built on them.  Prior to the invention of dykes, entire communities depended on these dwelling mounds for survival and in order to flourish.  In the late afternoon we drove back to our home in Broek. 

An example of a terp that has been nearly completely removed

Our group at a church on top of one of the dwelling mounds


A good example of a dwelling mound with a church at the top
(sorry for the blurry foreground)


January 6-7, 2007

Sunday, January 07, 2007

By Nate Wybenga

This weekend was a lot of fun.  The class split into 2 different groups, one group going to Groningen and the other group going to Aduard.  The towns were only about 15 minutes from each other, but both were in the northern part of the country, in the province also named Groningen.  This was about a 2-hour drive from our home near Amsterdam.  The group that went to Aduard left on Saturday morning.  Professor Hoeksema has a second cousin, Robert Hoeksema who lives in Aduard.  Robert organized swimming at a large indoor water park in Groningen with the entire group as well as some of the youth from his church on Saturday afternoon.  At dinnertime on Saturday, the half of our group that was staying in Aduard had a potluck at the church where we met and had dinner with our host families for the weekend.

After the potluck Saturday evening we went to our host families homes and settled in.  English is a language that is taught to everyone in school, and most people are at least somewhat fluent, so it was not at all difficult to communicate with our families.  Many of the host families lived near each other, and there were 2 students for each host family.  Later on in the evening we participated in their annual New Year’s celebration at the church with 60 or so people from the community.

On Sunday morning we woke up bright and early for morning church.  The church service was in a format very similar to what we would consider “traditional” services back home.  Although the service is normally entirely in Dutch, the Pastor did a very nice job of incorporating some English to engage us Americans in the service.  After the service, we went home and relaxed with our host families.

The church normally also has a service in the afternoon.  Because this service would be entirely in Dutch, most of our host families offered for us to do something else.  The family that I stayed with and their neighbors who were also hosting some of us went into Groningen and walked around downtown. 

On Sunday evening my host, Neeltje, lead an English bible study for the youth of the church.  She and the rest of the group did a very good job at communicating almost entirely in a language that they never have bible study in, but it was very generous of them be willing to speak in English.

We then met up with the entire group again on Monday morning.  After taking some group pictures, we left Aduard for Monday’s “field trip”. 

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