Sand Engine

We agreed to meet at eight thirty at hotel Atlantic on the boulevard of Kijkduin. That sounds like summer but this September 11th we face storm clouds and the threat of rain. Dutch weather, we remark cheerfully. But we would have loved some Dutch sunshine. We have two ‘actors’ today; Erwin Hemelop who, in service of the natural heritage trust of the province, is the manager of the sand engine and and Timon Pekkeriet who, as Delft University student Civil Engineering, worked for two hours in the information centre around the sand engine. Timon is late, so we start with coffee in the hotel. We hope that it will get a bit brighter in the mean time as well. Erwin is dressed in all his regalia, which is a green uniform. From under his jacked sticks his baton. In his inner pocket pepper spray and handcuffs. ‘fortunately I have never used them’. Erwin manages a large number of natural heritage sites along the coast of the province. Every day he drives around and monitors the normalities and abnormalities. When Timon arrives we discuss one more time what we expect from both men. The sand engine is a showcase of Dutch creativity, an experiment to broaden and reinforce the coast. Sand that is brought in and dumped into sea to be spread by natural forces of wind and water on and over the coast. That is how we protect ourselves against the constant erosion of the coast and the rising sea level. Timon will explain the principles of the sand engine for the item that we will record today. Erwin shows us the scenery and tells about the first streaks of vegetation, the recreation that starts to develop and the finds he makes in the dredged sands. In the back of his car lies an enormous mammoth tooth, from the times that the North Sea was still a tundra and we experienced an ice age. Talking about climate change! Around ten o’clock we drive in Erwins vehicle on the beach. It storms. The kite surfers on the inner lake of the sand engine fly through the sky. On a deserted space installs Thom the camera as much as possible in the shelter of the car. Timon kneels in front of the lens and tells; ‘20 million cubic meters of sand is dredged up about 40 kilometres from the coast and deposit here in front of the coast of Kijkduin. That is a row of sand trucks from here to Shanghai.’ ‘ And why is it called a ‘sand engine’ Timon, it is not an engine right? ‘It is, one who runs on wind and water. That is how the sand slowly spreads along the coast. But the process is much faster than we expected. This first year three times more sand than predicted moved to the coast. So if it will takes twenty years like we expected…? It is an experiment, a very exciting experiment, where people from all over the world are interested in. When the interview is over, a worried Thom says: ‘we’ve got to stop.’ His camera creaks from the sand and a steady drizzle sets in. It is too much for the material to handle. We drive back to the boulevard and decide to wait for a day with better weather. Friday, Monday, who knows? Timon takes the bus back to Delft. Erwin continuous on his inspection. ‘Leave the tooth in the car’ I shout against the wind. The three of us buy surf boots in the harbour. Entering the sports shop is a relief. In about two weeks we will climb the coral reefs of Kiribati in the Pacific. Apparently surf boots are the best protection against the sharp edges of the coral you can have. Anne-Marie Boer

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