January 24, 2007

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

By Nate Wybenga

Today was our second to last day of class… the time has gone by so fast!  Our excursion led us to the southern part of the country to the province of Zeeland.  There we toured through what is called the delta region.  We focused on the country’s plan for protection from flooding of the North Sea in that region and also looked at several islands.  On our way to our destination, we also drove through a region that is used primarily for growing tulips.  In this region there are greenhouses packed in tight literally as far as we could see!  There is also an auction house in that region that auctions flowers by the truckload and ships them all over the world!  This was a very neat thing to see on our way to our destination.

Our first stop was a very unique storm surge barrier that protects the New Waterway in the Netherlands.  This waterway is very important because Europoort is located on it (one of our previous excursions, on January 17).  The waterway needed a dam to protect the region against flooding, however, the dam could not permanently block the waterway because there is heavy boat traffic in the area.  The dam that the Netherlands constructed is very unique.  It consists of two enormous semi-circular walls that pivot about an enormous ball joint.  When not in use each semi-circular wall sits on either side of the channel and it does not obstruct the flow of traffic.  When the dam is needed for storm surge protection, the two semi-circular walls are then pivoted out into the waterway and sunk, provided protection against flooding.  The pictures at the end of this entry provide a good model of the dam.  Also, here is a link to a terrific graphic that shows the enormous size of these semi-circular dam walls.

After our stop here we traveled across the waterway via a ferry and then headed to the island of Voorne.  We then went to the Haringvliet dam.  This dam is very important because it divides a fresh water body from the North Sea.  There are gates on this dam that are able to raise if need be to allow water out of the fresh body, and also provide protection against flooding when lowered.  We were not able to walk very close to the dam… we got up to a gate that said do not enter (although it was open), so we decided to turn around. 

Next we headed to our last stop, the Eastern Schelde storm surge barrier.  This barrier was incredible!  The dam was divided into 3 large sections spanning several kilometers.  Each section had several sluice gates that allowed the water to flow through the dam.  However, when a storm threatens flooding in that region, massive hydraulic pumps lower the gates and block the flow of water.  At this location we were able to visit a museum that told about the construction of the dam.  We were also able to actually walk underneath the road crossing the dam, inside the dam itself, and then walk outside and view the sluices from very close up. 

We had a long drive home today so we headed home mid afternoon.  Tonight we had our last meeting of the interim as we prepare for tomorrows excursion and the last few days of our course.

 

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A model of the storm surge barrier in the New Waterway

 

 

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Our group walks up to a lookout point for the New Waterway storm surge barrier
(the enormous beam of the dam in the background gives a sense of scale)

 

 

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A fence blocks us from getting closer to the Haringvliet dam :(

 

 

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Close-up view of a sluice on the Eastern Schelde storm surge barrier
with several more sluices far off in the distance

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