How The Netherlands Simulated The Sea Before Computers: The Waterloopbos

How The Netherlands Simulated The Sea Before Computers: The Waterloopbos

There’s an old saying: God may have made the world, but the Dutch made the Netherlands. This is the Maeslant Barrier and it’s one part of the Delta Works, a set of megastructures
that hold back the ocean when high seas threaten
to flood this country. This is one of the world’s
largest movable structures, a pair of 210-meter-long gates
designed to seal off the main shipping route to Rotterdam port
and hold back storm surges. Depending on whose
measurements you believe, somewhere between a fifth and a third
of the Netherlands sits below sea level, a lot of that reclaimed
from the ocean over years through managing marshlands
and moving earth and pumping water. There are areas of the Netherlands
described as “former islands”, and these gates are part
of the enormous system that Dutch engineers built
to keep this country dry. And a couple of hours northeast of here
is where they learned to do it. This is just one part of the 10 square kilometres
of Waterloopbos and it was built when the
only way to simulate water was to use water. It’s now a national monument and nature is taking
back these structures, these experiments. – Waterloop means how the
flow runs through a system, that is Waterloop in Dutch. Over here, we mostly did
what we call model studies, so basically simulating nature
at a certain, smaller scale. The whole area started more or less after the second World War,
so around 1950, when there was a big demand
for model studies related to the Delta Works in the
southwest part of the Netherlands. It was for the Delta Works but we also did many
studies all over the world, studies of the harbour of Libya,
harbours in Tunisia, harbours in the Far East, Hong Kong. The main reason for building
the Waterloopbos here is that we needed a lot of space
for the models because, around 1950, all
the models were outdoor. And another thing is you need water. Where we are standing here is basically
the bottom of the former Zuiderzee. So we are here standing at the level, let’s say, minus two or minus three metres
below mean sea level. Here we have a natural water drop
of about five metres so we just have to open the gate
at that part of the wood and the water will flow
freely through this area. We are standing in what
we call the Delta flume, an enormous rectanglar box, so to say, and now you see more an artist’s
impression of this flume with certain sections cut out and placed
perpendicular to the original flume wall. In this flume, the studies are related
to the design of breakwaters. These breakwaters are enormously costly, in the order of, let’s say,
100 million euros. If you take a section out
of your breakwater and then scale it down
to about one to five, and test it here. I’ve been in meetings where they fight
for every centimetre of the block. Well, if we propose, let’s say,
that the blocks will be one metre, they ask, could not be the block
95 centimetres or 96 centimetre or 97 centimetres
because that is money. Each centimetre you could use
on a block is money and therefore this was one
of the cash cows of Delta Hydraulics, doing these studies,
which are expensive, but still cheap in the
design of a big breakwater. At the moment, the Waterloopbos
is a kind of tourist attraction. The upcoming of the computer,
that was one of the main reasons that this area was left around 2000. We do excursions for tourists to see how we operated
the old, outdoor models and this flume is handed over to the natural monument
organisation about two years ago. So although we left the territory in 2000, this flume was still
operational for about 15 years because you cannot easily replace
this flume to another place. – The Water Act, part of Dutch law,
requires the government to maintain flood defences. And it establishes a
maximum risk that’s allowed. So there are parts of the Netherlands
that, in law, it must take a one-in-10,000-year
weather event to flood. The trouble is that the predictions for
what “one in 10,000 years” involves keep getting worse. Since they were completed in 1997,
the gates of the Maeslant Barrier have only been closed in defence twice, but that’s going to become
more common in future. Flood defences that were
researched here were designed to protect the cities and towns
that people already lived in but with those defences in place,
people kept building and the consequences of
failure keep growing. The Dutch are going to have
to keep making the Netherlands for a long time yet.

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100 thoughts on “How The Netherlands Simulated The Sea Before Computers: The Waterloopbos

  1. I was a control system engineer on the pump stations in New Orleans and the one of my projects was the new GIWW WCC gate/pump station. The gates were modeled after those gates in the Netherlands. I spent a lot of time getting the strain gages working with the PLC/SCADA system to detect stresses/strains on the gate arms.

  2. The way the Dutch have claimed land from the sea is quite interesting. With rising sea levels hopefully they will be able to continue keeping back Poseidon's wrath.

  3. Stop bringing up climate change propaganda via allusions. When people like you stop flying on planes and live in tiny houses then and only then do I want to hear your thoughts on climate change. Otherwise just shut up about your doomsday cult.

  4. I have always had the utmost admiration for brilliant minds… the doers and builders of the world.
    And this is why I enjoy this awesome channel.
    Thank you!

  5. The US Army Corps of Engineers did the same thing with the Mississippi River in the 1940’s. They made a massive scale model in Mississippi, built in part by German POW’s.

  6. My town just had a freak flood in February 2019. Still alot of homes unoccupied. You should do a story on it Tom. "Townsville, Australia".

  7. It's nice to see someone make a video on a subject such as this w/o invoking the name of the boogeyman "climate change". It's gotten almost creepy how many people feel it's obligatory to mention climate change in everything they do.. It honestly reminds me of religious fanatics who can't make it through a conversation w/o saying Praise the Lord or Allahu Akbar.

  8. Not to mention, if storms are getting more intense and we expect them to continue to get more intense, destruction will become ever more common until we build ever stronger structures.

  9. Hi Tom! It would be cool if you could make a video about the oosterscheldekering. It is very interesting to know why they built it the way it is built, and how i helps maintain the waterlevels. Thank You!

  10. German Engineering: check out this cool car we made

    Dutch Engineering: check out this entire island we made livable with a gigantic movable structure

  11. "have closed twice but that's going to be more common in the future". Based on what Tom? We could be witnessing the start of a new ice age. Scientist's are giving absolutes based on a 150 years of data. Now if it was 150,000 years that's a different matter.

  12. To say that the Dutch took their land from the sea is a understatement they literally live in the seafloor ,as much as a third of the country is reclaimed land and they have to constantly improve it to keep it from going back to the sea! In the modern eco nut society of the world the fact that the European union hasn't tried to destroy their seawalls and reclamation projects is a surprise but it's just a matter of time before some eco nut decides that is exactly what they should be doing!

  13. I need to hire a Dutch engineer to come and sort out my waterlogged back garden!

    I’m so glad you aren’t just another YouTube phone unboxing tech reviewer, I learn so much about the world from you.

  14. You have to redo this episode Tom it is not clear how they do it i tried hard and couldn't understand a bit.

  15. When I worked for the MOD back in the mid-1990s we still did a lot of physical modelling – often 1:10 scale models of buildings and weapons and lots of high speed cameras…

  16. Armchair-scientists: "Rising sea levels aren't real, climate was always changing and humans didn't influence it, hurr durr."

    The dutch: sigh "Let's go for another round, Ocean, just you and me."

  17. If any country is going to survive sea level rise when logically it shouldn't be able to, it'd be the netherlands…

    (imagines Europe 1000 years from now where half of it is underwater but the Netherlands is now an island surrounded by walls.)

  18. The Netherlands must be the only country that's fighting to keep the sea level down as the rest of the world is (obliviously) doing its best to raise it!

  19. I guess my dyslexia kicked in and I read Netherlands as Neanderthals. Was really excited to see some prehistoric simulations, but this was cool too.

  20. Netherlands: We'll spend 100's millions of dollar on flood defense and a big ass gate!
    USA: Nah, too expensive! Will spend 100's of billion dollars fixing flood damage when they happen…and let people build in high flood risk zones!

  21. Somehow youtube has unsubscribed me atleast twice from this channel. Yesterday the vpn vid came into my YouTube ans I noticed I was not subbed anymore. So I resubscribed. And today this one came into my timeline and I once again noticed I was unsubscribed. I can't have fingers that thick?

  22. You must have filmed the maeslantkering in the summer, because it hasn’t been like that weather for the past months.

  23. It‘s a great pity that the Netherlands fail to prosecute sufficiently their case for a dramatic worldwide prioritisation of climate change aversion strategies, policies and laws. Surely in the Western world, few would be in such immediate peril as the Dutch.

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