Zuider Zee

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The Zuiderzee (English pronunciation: /ˌzaɪdər ˈzeɪ/; Dutch: Zuiderzee, Dutch: [ˈzœydərzeː]; old spelling Zuyderzee) was a shallow bay of the North Sea in the northwest of the Netherlands, extending about 100 km (60 miles) inland and at most 50 km (30 miles) wide, with an overall depth of about 4 to 5 metres (13-16 feet) and a coastline of about 300 km (200 miles). It covered 5,000 km² (2,000 square miles). Its name means "southern sea" in Dutch, indicating that the origin of the name can be found in Friesland to the north of the Zuiderzee (also see North Sea). In the 20th century the majority of the Zuiderzee was closed off from the North Sea (leaving the mouth of the inlet to become part of the Wadden Sea) and the salt water inlet changed into a fresh water lake called the IJsselmeer (IJssel-lake) after the river that drains into it. The river IJssel is an estuary branch of the river Rhine (Dutch: Rijn).


History and disasters

In classical times there was already a body of water in this location, called Lacus Flevo ("Flevo Lake") by Roman authors. It was much smaller than its later forms and its connection to the main sea was much narrower; it may have been a complex of lakes and marshes and channels, rather than one lake. Over time these lakes gradually eroded their soft peat shores and spread (a process known as waterwolf). Some part of this area of water was later called the Vlie; it probably flowed into the sea through what is now the Vliestroom channel between the islands of Vlieland and Terschelling. The Marsdiep was once a river (fluvium Maresdeop) which may have been a distributary of the Vlie. During the early Middle Ages this began to change as rising sea levels and storms started to eat away at the coastal areas which consisted mainly of peatlands. In this period the inlet was referred to as the Almere, indicating it was still more of a lake, but the mouth and size of the inlet were much widened in the 12th century and especially after a disastrous flood in 1282 [1] broke through the barrier dunes near Texel. The disaster was the making of the little village of Amsterdam, for seagoing traffic could now make it a rendezvous for the Baltic trade. The even more massive St. Lucia's flood occurred 14 December 1287, when the seawalls broke during a storm, killing approximately 50,000 to 80,000 people in the fifth largest flood in recorded history. The name "Zuiderzee" came into general usage around this period.

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