Impressive Feats of Engineering #6: The Dutch Delta Works

There have been many majorly impressive feats of engineering throughout history, but perhaps the most acclaimed should be those feats that save countless lives. Engineers are the ‘problem solvers’ of the world, and as such they’re frequently called upon to tackle pressing or hazardous issues. Many notable life-saving feats of engineering might be extremely welcome in the areas where they are being used, but the world at large recognises them to a lesser extent. So it is with the Dutch Delta Works. Good thing that our series is here to set the record straight! Read on to find out more…

Delta Dutch

The Need for a Sea Defence

Historically, the estuaries of the rivers Rhine, Scheldt and Meuse have been prone to flooding for centuries, and people who live in the localities around these waters have usually had to co-exist with these problems as best they can. However, back in 1953, a major flood in Holland was responsible for the deaths of approximately 1,800 people, and it became clear that a sea defence system could no longer be avoided. The obvious solution was to block the Antwerp and Rotterdam estuaries and minimise water in the dyke systems; a simple concept, perhaps, but far more complex in reality.

The Construction Process

Fundamentally, the entire coastline of the area needed to be adjusted to attempt this feat, and the fact that this project was embraced is all the more amazing given the fact that parts of it are designed to combat a one-in-ten-thousand year surge. In Britain, the Thames barrier can claim to be equipped for a one-in-one-thousand year emergency, but the scale of the Dutch undertaking is off the scale. What’s more, the amendments need to be ongoing, as rising sea levels are still expected.

Delta Dutch 2

Until the climax of the Second World War, no action was taken, but once this obstacle was cleared a number of estuaries were dammed, major flood risk areas were shielded in ‘ring areas’, the lengths of some dykes were reduced and others were even turned into freshwater lakes. It took 50 years of construction for the works to be declared as finished, although actually another decade or more was needed to truly draw a line under the project. A long old haul, but well worth the time and effort.

Engineering is undoubtedly at its best when it’s serving in a life-saving capacity like this, but that’s not to say that the ordinary and everyday technical problems that it solves are unimportant. Power transmission solutions from manufacturers like Boschert do this on a daily basis, and at Motion Drives and Controls we’re ideally placed to provide a broad range of these devices. If you’d like to find out more, please contact us now by calling 01926 411 544 or email sales@motion.uk.com.