The story about Waterloopbos

I used to work here. And do you know that we are sitting on what used to be the seabed here?

A unique piece of woodland

© Visit Flevoland
© Jeroen Bosch

An elderly gent sitting on a bench

I decided to drive to Noordoostpolder on a beautiful spring day. A friend of mine had mentioned a unique piece of woodland there called Waterloopbos. I didn’t really know much else about it, so I was looking forward to a bit of surprise. Admiring the crumbling lengths of walls and the abundance of water, I strolled through the woods until I came to a clearing. This is where I came across a large water basin with a strange, metal construction right in the heart of it. There was an elderly gent sitting on a bench. The space beside him was free, so I plumped myself down, said hello and then started speculating in my mind about what sort of place this could be. I must have spoken my thoughts out loud, because my neighbour on the bench started telling his story… 

A hydraulic engineering laboratory

© Jeroen Bosch
© Manita Brunekreef

On the bottom of the former Zuiderzee

“I used to work here. At one time these woods were a hydraulic engineering laboratory and testing site. That was back in the nineteen fifties. Things looked pretty different in those days; these trees for instance were barely ten years’ old at the time. And you do know that we are sitting on what used to be the seabed here?” I must have looked a bit doubtful. The man started to laugh. “Absolutely true,” he said. “Our bench is on the bottom of the former Zuiderzee here. Take a closer look between the roots of some of the fallen trees later, and you’ll still find seashells in the soil. This polder, Noordoostpolder, was drained and declared dry in 1942. The trees you see here were planted just after the Second World War from around 1946 onwards and the laboratory established about five years after that in the early fifties. A different world…”

IJmuiden’s breakwaters

© Laurens Delderfield
© Jeroen Bosch

Metal construction

I was speechless. Even my daydreaming fantasy could never have come up with this. My curiosity was ignited. “So you know what happened here? And what about that strange metal structure, the one over there?” I asked pointing. “Well, that’s the port of IJmuiden,” my new acquaintance replied. My eyebrows must have shot up even higher and I could tell he was enjoying my amazement. “This is where IJmuiden’s breakwaters were researched, hence the name. And that metal construction is an old wave machine.” Now I was really curious and a range of questions tumbled through my head. The man recognised my confusion and continued warming to his subject. 

we simulated the situation

© Jeroen Bosch
Waterloopbos Marknesse NOP Natuur Architectuur 1

Waterloopbos Marknesse NOP Natuur Architectuur 1

© Visit Flevoland

The wind, waves and treacherous sea

“IJmuiden’s port was constructed in the 19th century. Breakwaters ensure vessels are able to enter a harbour safely. With freight ships becoming larger after the war, it was felt that IJmuiden’s breakwaters were too short. This made it too difficult for mariners to sail ships safely into port. It sometimes looked as if the water wolf did everything it could to make things difficult for the captains,” the man observed with a wink. He continued with his explanation. “The wind, waves and treacherous sea currents combined to make navigating a tricky business for a captain. Sometime in the mid-fifties we were asked to research the optimum length and shape of the breakwaters. Here, at this spot, is where we simulated the situation in the North Sea off IJmuiden to test various lengths and shapes of breakwaters.”

You can still see the results of our research in IJmuiden today.

Water management works

Waterloopbos Marknesse NOP Natuur Architectuur 2

Waterloopbos Marknesse NOP Natuur Architectuur 2

© Visit Flevoland
Waterloopbos Marknesse NOP Natuur Architectuur klein

Waterloopbos Marknesse NOP Natuur Architectuur klein

© Visit Flevoland

Thailand, Libya, Turkey, Nigeria, Denmark

“Right, so that’s why there’s a wave machine in the water,” I exclaimed enthusiastically. “Exactly! There was a whole row of wave machines which when jointly operated would simulate the North Sea waves under any conditions. You can still see the results of our research in IJmuiden today,” my new friend proudly proclaimed. “And that’s just one example. Water management works and projects operating all over the world were tested here in these very polder woods. These of course are only the scale models, for the real things you will need to visit places such as Thailand, Libya, Turkey, Nigeria, Denmark… The list is pretty endless.”