Our final day in Holland, we toured Delta Works. At least 26% of the country lies below sea level, so flooding there is a constant concern. There is a video that explains the catastrophe which lead to the creation of the Delta Works. There was a large flood in 1953 which breached the dikes and resulted in over 1,800 deaths. The short version of the solution that is Delta Works is this: lessen the amount of seashore to be kept from flooding via a combination of dams, sluices, locks, dykes, levees, and storm surge barriers.
We were able to tour the storm surge barrier at Oosterscheldekering (try saying THAT 5 times fast). This is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. It was pretty amazing to see some of the machinery and equipment they made specifically to be able to build the storm surge barrier in addition to understanding how the barrier itself functions.
The design of the storm surge barrier is intended to minimize the negative impact on the environment. The water flows in and out of the barriers with the changes of the tides on most days. The water does rush in and out very quickly during the tidal changes. Our tour guide was explaining that some of the seals and dolphins there can get incredibly fat. They wait just inside the barrier and as fish come racing in on the tide, the predators can eat their fill just by stationing themselves in the right place and opening their mouths. So… it’s not perfect, but it’s better than a permanent dam might have been. I’m sure the well-fed mammals aren’t complaining!
In addition to the tours, videos, and interactive displays inside the museum to teach you about how the water management works, there are also lots of other fun activities available. We attended a presentation on seals (so cute!) and a sea lion (so huge!) and got to “meet” the animals.
Laine and I walked through a display on whales. All 4 of us stood inside a hurricane machine to see what it would feel like to have that much wind blowing at us. Todd and I rode down the enormous water slide.
And finally, we repeatedly played outside at the water playground. There we were able to experiment with opening and closing dams, use an Archimedes screw to pump water uphill, and spin a large water wheel to move water by running on a drum with our feet.
We came home from the fantastic weekend with a definite plan to return to The Netherlands as soon as possible. I still want to go to Efteling, eat some stroop wafels, and spend a day or two in Amsterdam.