For centuries, people living in what is now the Netherlands have used various strategies to control the water levels in this low-lying country. The alteration of this landscape continues as residents work to improve farmland and protect inhabited areas from flooding.
Beginning in 1932, Dutch engineers created a series of dikes to drain water from an inlet of the North Sea. The reclaimed land increased the land area of the Netherlands that could be used for agriculture.
These images illustrate the progress of the Netherlands' diking and draining of the IJsselmeer region. The IJsselmeer is a lake on the coast of the Netherlands. (This lake, or meer, is named after the IJssel River and is pronounced EYE-ssel-mare.) In the satellite images, water appears blue-black, and vegetation appears red. Highly reflective areas like pavement or bare soil appear light blue or blue-green. Amsterdam can be seen in the lower left of the images.
Until 1932, this area was the Zuiderzee (pronounced ZIGH-dr-zee and meaning Southern Sea), simply a saltwater inlet of the North Sea. By 1968, the Dutch had transformed 1,979 km2 of the Zuiderzee into blocks of usable land, called polders. Here is how that typically happened:
The first of the five polders (Wieringermeer, in the northwest) was actually diked directly from the sea, not from the IJsselmeer. It was dry two years before the mouth of the Zuiderzee was closed off.
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