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.

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

  1. 2:47 Typical Dutchies:
    can't we do it spending less money?

    Imagine being an engineer in the Netherlands like:
    you have to explain why you want to spend a euro on some tiny component…
    Though if you have the choice between a cheap component and a component that's sure to work, and you're just building one prototype: you choose the one that's sure to work, since checking if the cheap component works costs time and time=money 😛

  2. Archeologists will be flabbergasted when they rediscover the remains of this structure about 1000 years in the future and can't figure out its purpose.

  3. There are some many bad puns to be made here as a dutch person.
    But i wont bother you with them, just scroll along.

  4. As a former kid who loved digging little rivers in the sand at the beach and running water through them (and who still enjoys playing with, and simply watching, the snowmelt making small seasonal streams along roadsides and through the woods), this seems like it would have been a dream job, and something that computers, while making objectively better and easier, also completely ruined.

  5. I understand that with this move the Dutch made a great achievement to increase their national land, but it is also sad looking at it now in ecological terms… The country had probably some of the largest marshland environments in Europe and all that was devastated so that humans could claim those areas for themselves. A whole ecosystem was destroyed.

  6. In tropical regions only mangroves, some specially adapted bushes and vines, and some palm species are the only ones capable of withstanding living near the coast line because the ground and the water have too much salt. How did all that Dutch land become usable once drained? Wouldn't it have had too much salt in the soil? We are talking miles and miles 'inland' once the barrier was made as far as into the sea as possible. I mean, you may say "the rain has rinsed it away over years", but 'rinsed", when the rain has to flow going under sea level with no exit in the newly enclosed land means that they must have had to pump a lot of salty water over decades until the ground had flushed all that. Is that what happened?

  7. It's extremely cringy to watch this Dutch person, like, that is very bad English and not how the general population speaks English!

  8. Such an idiotic European idea. We'll designate this as a historical site, but we will do jack and all to preserve it. We'll just let it all rot away naturally…

  9. I legit misread the title and spent the whole video thinking "yes, yes, but what about the neanderthals?"

    It's been a long day…

  10. My country! Yes, the Dutch are well known for our skills in water management. We're not usually that patriotic, but in this instance, I'm quite proud of our skills.

  11. Tom try and visit Cyberbunker while you are in NL. Would be interesting if you can have a tour etc although the chances are very slim.

  12. I read Neanderthals instead of the Netherlands. I was two minutes in when I realized it had nothing to do with some insane revelation about our hominid cousins…

  13. The Dutchies are going to do quite well out of any future ocean level rises: "Saaay, that's a nice coastal city you've got there. For a small ongoing fee, we'll protect it from the ocean for you."

  14. I hope I'm not the only person by now to have realised that for a while that his videos have been filmed in 720p so look jerky in 1080p.

  15. There are 2 things in this world that I cannot stand: people who are intolerant of other cultures,
    and 1-in-10000-year floods.

  16. If “quantum supremacy” is now when we have quantum computers surpassing regular computers, what was it called when traditional computers surpassed physical models like this?

  17. It would have been nice if you had went into more detail about what we were seeing in the ruins. But, maybe that's too much for your 'Built for Science' series.

  18. The oceans are rising ! How can this be ?! The ice caps melting ? Greenhouse gases ?
    Nope just the Dutch kicking the ocean off there property.

  19. 3:58 – BS. No one on earth has reliable weather records for more than maybe 3,000 years; claiming you can design for a one in 10,000 year event is nothing other than BS.

  20. "each x is worth Y." When? When it was built? In post inflation/today's money? Is that simply the material costs or labor included? What about upkeep and overhead? What about return on investment through tourism? When One says X is worth Y I assume at that point they have 0 credibility.

  21. Could you explain to me what supertasks are? I watched Vsauce's video on it but I didnt quite get it and would like to know more about it

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