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From Zuiderzee to Markermeer to Gouwzee

The story of the battle against the water - from floods to the Afsluitdijk

The Zuiderzee - a sea which was a cause of both pain and pride for the Netherlands. Before 1932 the Zuiderzee was an enclosed sea. Please note - before that time Amsterdam was situated on the sea. As were Volendam and Marken. Huge floods and disasters were the catalysts to creating the Dutch sense of resolve which led to taking on their greatest  battle ever - that against the sea.

Before 1916: Amsterdam, Marken and Volendam are situated on the sea, namely the Zuiderzee, with a surface measuring about 6,000 square kilometres. Fisheries and other related trades flourish around the Zuiderzee.

1916: The Netherlands are hit by severe floods. Disaster strikes on 13th and 14th January when the water level in the Zuiderzee is raised by a storm flood. At the same time the rivers in the Netherlands are transporting melt water from the frozen hinterland into the Zuiderzee, putting it under pressure. As a result the dykes along the Zuiderzee burst in dozens of places. There is a minimal number of fatalities, but the nation is shocked.

1918: The Zuiderzee Law is passed. The Dutch are ready for this measure because of the flood two years earlier. The sea must be contained, no matter what the consequences are for the fishermen and sailors.

1932: The Netherlands take on the battle against the water, especially its turbulent character. The Afsluitdijk between Den Oever in North-Holland and Zurich in Friesland is completed. This thirty-two- kilometre sea defence heralds the end of the Zuiderzee. The area below the Afsluitdijk receives the new name "het Ijsselmeer". The water becomes brackish instead of salt, which has far-reaching consequences for the fishing communities.

1940: A begin is made in the  drainage and reclamation of land for Flevoland,  the future 12th province of the Netherlands. Before 1940 this region consisted mainly of water.

1953: In the Netherlands this year is synonymous with catastrophic flooding, the "Watersnoodramp".  In the early morning of 1st February a combination of a western storm and a spring tide bring disaster to the south of the Netherlands. The Afsluitdijk withstands her first great test. In the area of South-Holland where 100,000 people were made homeless and 200,000 hectares of land were flooded in 1836, the damage in the  region around the former Zuiderzee remains limited.

1957: The construction of the dyke to Marken. The island Marken becomes a peninsula, connected to the mainland by the Zeedijk. It is no longer necessary for sailors to bring supplies to the island through ice and snow. The tightly-knit community of Marken becomes accessible for the rest of the world.

1976: The Houtribdijk, between Enkhuizen and Lelystad, is completed. Marken and Volendam are no longer on Lake Ijsselmeer but on Lake Markermeer. There are plans for reclamation of more land from Lake Markermeer. In that case , Marken will lose its status as an island and become part of a large reclaimed area.

1986: The Netherlands officially take possession of a 12th province. Flevoland, to the  west of Marken, is completely reclaimed from the water. An ingenious reclamation project provides an extra 1,500 square kilometres of  land for the Netherlands.

2003: An official decision is made not to reclaim land from any part of Lake Markermeer. Marken will remain a peninsula.