January 15, 2007

Monday, January 15, 2007

By Nate Wybenga

Today we explored the North Sea dune region and the water reclamation of Lake Haarlem.  The sand dunes are a special region in the Netherlands because they look nothing like the flat land of the majority of the rest of the country.  The city of Amsterdam uses the water that is stored underneath the dunes for drinking water.  This morning we had the wonderful opportunity to go to the water filtration plant that supplies Amsterdam with drinking water as well as tour around the plant’s dune region.  The dune region is a beautiful and secluded, and has a lot of wildlife.  We even saw deer alongside the road.

After lunch by the North Sea, we went to the Lake Haarlem polder.  A polder, if you have read previous entries, is an area of land that was at one point water but was drained by the Netherlands and is used for farming as well as other things.  Most of the polders that we have already visited were drained and “reclaimed” in the 17th century.  All of the previous polders we visited were relatively small, and were able to be drained by windmills. 

The Lake Haarlem polder is 70 square miles!  Because it was an incredibly large lake, windmill power would not be an efficient way to drain the lake.  So, this lake was drained in the mid 1800’s using steam power, a well-advanced technology for that time.  The lake required 3 steam-powered pumps to drain and this afternoon we visited the only pump that is still standing, the Cruquius pumping station.  Although the pump is not in use anymore, hydraulics run the pumping devices gave us a good idea of how that technology worked.  The pump itself is very large, and it was so neat to see it still in nearly perfect and operable condition.

The Lake Haarlem polder is very significant not only because of its size but also because of its importance to the Netherlands.  Among the agriculture that takes place in the polder, many international businesses and industries are located in the Lake Haarlem polder, and Schipol airport (the airport we flew into) is even located in the polder.  We drove for a while on the ring dike around the Lake Haarlem polder, and then headed home for the evening.

Our group at the dunes


A view from the outside of the pump


The steam pump (inside the circular building)

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