Fingering a New Dike

Sunday, August 3rd, 2008

Whatever happened to the Zuiderzee?

Literally the “South Sea,” this was a characteristic geographic feature of Holland that many of you may have caught mention of when reading about Rembrandt, say, or about the Dutch East India Company (or, for that matter, the Dutch West India Company), whose ships generally set sail from Amsterdam through the Zuiderzee on their way to found/supply/exploit the various Dutch colonies in the world.

But you don’t hear about the Zuiderzee nowadays, and that’s for a good reason: it was eliminated back in 1933. No, that big body of water lying in the middle of the Netherlands did not just dry up, but in that year it was rather cut off from the North Sea and turned into basically a big lake by a modern and uniquely Dutch engineering marvel, the Afsluitdijk, or “Closure Dike,” spanning 32 km/20 miles from the provinces of North Holland in the West to Friesland in the East. The Zuiderzee was at that point renamed the IJsselmeer (after the IJssel, the main river to run into it) and slowly but surely turned into a fresh-water lake. (more…)

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