Afsluitdijk (Enclosing Dam) across the IJsselmeer (The former Zuiderzee)

Afsluitdijk (Enclosing Dam) across the IJsselmeer (The former Zuiderzee)

From the 13th to the 20th century, the Zuiderzee (now IJsselmeer) penetrated The Netherlands and occupied some 2,000 square miles (5,000 square km); it was separated from the North Sea by an arc of former sandflats that are now the West Frisian Islands.

The Afsluitdijk (English: Enclosure Dam, Frisian: Ofslútdyk) is a major causeway in the Netherlands, constructed between 1927 and 1933 and running from Den Oever on Wieringen in North Holland province, to the village of Zurich (mun. Wûnseradiel) in Friesland province, over a length of 32 km (20 miles) and a width of 90 m, at an initial height of 7.25 m above sea-level.

It is a fundamental part of the larger Zuiderzee Works, damming off the Zuiderzee, a salt water inlet of the North Sea and turning it into the fresh water lake of the IJsselmeer.

In 1920 work was begun on the Zuiderzee project, of which the IJsselmeer Dam (Afsluitdijk), begun in 1927, was a part. It was formed from the southern part of the former Zuiderzee by the building of a dam (Afsluitdijk; completed 1932) separating the IJsselmeer from both the Waddenzee (the northern part of the former Zuiderzee) and the North Sea.
Afsluitdijk (Enclosing Dam) across the IJsselmeer (The former Zuiderzee)
Afsluitdijk (Enclosing Dam) across the IJsselmeer (The former Zuiderzee): Afsluitdijk with the North Sea on the left and the IJsselmeer on the right
It was on 28th May 1932 that in the presence of Queen Wilhelmina the final gap was closed between the Zuiderzee and the Wadden Sea / North Sea. The south side of the Afsluitdijk was named IJsselmeer . Finally the provence North-Holland was connected to the provence Friesland. Many of the often weak dykes around the lake were less of a risk during storms, like the great storm of 1916. Sea water became sweet water.

Drainage was improving for all the areas surrounding the IJsselmeer (The former Zuiderzee), due to control over the level of the water. The man behind the Zuiderzee project was the engineer Cornelis Lely. He delivered his proposal for the project in 1891, but died in 1929 so did not live to see the completion of the Afsluitdijk. Already in 1667 Hendrik Stevin, son of Simon, proposed to close the gaps between the Wadden Islands and the main land. His plan was not taken seriously and technology was not advanced enough then. Eight proposals in total were sent to the government on the subject.

Before closing the Dyk, the polder named the Wieringermeer needed to become dry land. It would take until 1934 before this polder would be ready for cultivation. In 1945, during German occupation, this polder again was flooded. Now the Noord-Oostpolder ( 48000 ha ) and Flevoland ( 97000 ha ) have been cultivated. There has been the intention to create the Markerwaard, the final polder, situated just south of the Afsluitdijk. But strong objections from environmental organisations, watersport lovers and many individuals has erupted against creating land where there is now water. The monument on the Afsluitdijk carries the text:
Een volk dat leeft bouwt aan zijn toekomst. ( A people that live, build for their future )

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Also read: The Afsluitdijk: Impoldering of the Zuyder Zee

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