National Geographic : 1946 Dec
Mending Dikes in the Netherlands Lawrence Earl from Black Star Theirs Is a Heritage of Skill in Building and Repairing Holland's Dikes Dike workers on Walcheren Island, off the southwest coast of the Netherlands, cover metal hoops with rope. These will seal the joints of huge pipes which wash sand into mounds that support the dike (pages 800, 804). Vitally situated on the Schelde estuary in the Province of Zeeland, Walcheren guards the approach to the port of Antwerp. On October 3, 1944, the RAF blasted the island's German defenses to facilitate British Commando landings. Water rushing through the bomb-torn sea wall inundated three-fourths of the island's 80 square miles. Some families clung to damp farmhouses; others fled to buildings on high ground. Long accustomed to fighting floods, the islanders stoically lived up to the motto of their Province: "I struggle and I arise." In August, 1945, America sent pumps, Britain lent engineers, and Switzerland shipped supplies. Racing against the onset of winter storms, technicians and laborers could work only at low tide. When waters were at their highest, some parts of Walcheren were more than six feet under the sea. Storms often ruined the new dikes before they were completed. The salt water poisoned the surface of Walcheren's rich soil. When the land is com pletely drained, it will take at least four years to restore the soil's productivity. The last gap in dikes surround ing the island was closed on January 1, 1946.