|Lighthouses of IJmuiden|
Long, a very long time ago, when the animals could still talk, lighthouses already existed. For instance the old Greeks built the very ingenious lighthouse the Pharos. Up to 641 after Christ the Pharos stayed in its original building style. Around 700 the upper part collapsed and around 1100 an earthquake destroyed a large part again. In 1400, after another earthquake, the vestiges also disappeared in the sea. Because of the large historical value, they are trying to salvage this lighthouse.
By Cees Rijkers
Read the Dutch version of this article hereCanal
In 1772, a commission raised the idea to cut through the dunes at Beverwijk thus linking Het IJ with the North Sea. Economically speaking it was no longer justified to sail the VOC ships via Den Helder and Texel across the Zuiderzee (the current IJsselmeer) to Amsterdam . The detour and the obstacles, such as low water and the sand-banks at Pampus, made it unnecessarily expensive.
In 1819 the construction of the canal to Den Helder began. Ships started to use it in 1824. The problem that Het IJ silted up, had not yet been solved and the North Holland canal was no real improvement for the shipping industry. In 1862, it was decided to construct the North Sea Canal and in 1865 they started to cut through the dunes and building the locks at IJmuiden.
Time was no issue and human life was not very important. Expropriating land was also much easier in those days than it would be at present.
A component of the project was also the construction of the Oranjesluizen at Schellingwoude (1872), to lock Het IJ from the Zuiderzee, and the reclamation of Het IJ. In 1876, 11 years later, the new seaway was officially opened by king Willem III; 30 km long, 160 meters wide and 13 meters deep.
Everything had to happen with courage, care and with God's aid. The canal has been dug by hand (spades and wheelbarrows). The excavation workers and their families lived in huts dug in the ground and made of branches, driftwood, mud and straw. To be able to live near the work, they had to dig a new house. Some lived in barns but had to pay high rents. Brawls and alcohol abuse occurred daily amongst the excavation workers.
The coast consisted of dunes only and no natural ports of rocks, like in Norway, existed.
To create a port, two half-round jetties were build with a lighthouse with red and green lights. These jetties are 2600 meters and 2800 meters long, with an opening in the southern jetty to provide access (in and out) to the yacht-basin.
Originally, the Netherlands was one long coast line with occasionally an estuary, like at Katwijk, where the river Rhine flows into the sea. From the Meuse's estuary until the Vlie (Waddenzee) it was one continuous dune range.
The Marsdiep at Den Helder is suspected to become into being around 900. For many centuries there was no port or inlet ships could go. The flat fisherman boats were drawn on the beach. Ships passing the Netherlands stayed away from the coast avoiding sand-banks and shallow hollows. With the help of a lead line they tried to end up safely at the Marsdiep.
Times changed and ports arose: Rotterdam (until recently the largest goods transhipment port in the world), Scheveningen and IJmuiden (with its enormous piers) for the fishing industry.
IJmuiden also operated as a base for the German in the war of 1940-1945. They made an enormous covered dive boat bunker, which is still in use as a storage depot for salt.
Quotation from the Federal newspaper:
Invitation to tender of iron lichthouses for the North Sea Canal.
The minister of Navy notifies interested parties, that on Tuesday the 9th November forthcoming, at eleven o'clock in the morning, in local of the department of Navy in The Hague, for the Griffien of the Provincial Governments and of the duchy of Limburg, as well as in the office of the Inspector concerning the pilotage etc. at Willemsoord and the Commissioner of the pilots in Amsterdam.
Four days prior to the day of the invitation to tender information can be obtained, of so desired, at the Architect at the service of the pilotage etc. right here.
To this Specifications the General Conditions for Public Navy work are applicable, where they do not contradict the provisions as described in this Specifications.
Interested parties can obtain further information of Specifications with Drawing from the Secretary of the Department of Navy, against payment of 40 pennies per copy.
The Hague, 21 October 1875
Construction of both lighthouses
Therefore on 30 August 1877 followed the invitation to tender the construction of two cast iron lighthouses and on 7 September the contract was signed by the director of iron foundry Schretlen & Co. in Leiden.
Iron lighthouses. Hundreds of cast iron plates screwed together form the conical towers. Not only the walls, but also the steps, doors and windows were made of cast iron.
In the specifications it had been stipulated that one fourth of the moulded work had to be ready by 1 February 1878 for shipment and that the two towers had to be assembled within six months. The total contract price for both lighthouses amounted to 71,950 guilders and the installation of the towers cost another 77,200 guilders.
The traditional profiles of the lighthouses of IJmuiden are unique.
The form strongly resembles the narrow pillar of a stone bridge: an impression reinforced by the seven plate edges at the bottom, which loo as if they are constructed from granite or sand stone. You are looking at a ‘block-system’ of approximately two meters high and, typical for the these lighthouses, a 'life belt' around their waist, to realise the transition from broad to small. This construction is obviously more complicated than building with bricks, which are all even in size. However, the advantage of iron lighthouses is that they are not as heavy. Other advantages of cast iron are: no delays during movements of the tides, lower transport costs, faster construction time.
The lighthouses of IJmuiden were build within a year, whereas the construction time of the lighthouse in Haamstede (1840) took three years (stone).
In IJmuiden they speak of the inner lighthouse and the outer lighthouse. The inner lighthouse stands inland and the outer lighthouse stands at sea. Around 1909 the outer lighthouse had to be lowered for navigation reasons. The channel needed to be made wider and deeper, as a result of which you get a different light line. From sea the lighthouse lights must be seen in one line, in order to sail safely.
Reducing the height of the lighthouse was simply a matter of unbolting the upper three layers, load them on a freight boat and sail to Vlieland (Vlieland did not have a lighthouse anymore, the (stone) lighthouse had been demolished) and bolt the layers together again on the existing stone foundation of the old lighthouse.
It is not commonly known that the half lighthouse of Vlieland comes originally from IJmuiden.
Besides reducing its height, in 1966 the low lighthouse was moved about 40 meters. Lifted, put on rollers and rolled to its new position and placed on a new base. Its old 'head' stands as a monument on the North side of the North Sea Canal, just past the ferry.
The old lady received a new 'head', drastically rejuvenated, shining across the sea to safely guide the ships into the port of IJmuiden.
The best monitored lighthouse of the Netherlands is the low light of IJmuiden. For years 35 cats of all sorts have been living around the lighthouse. It started with one stray cat and slowly increased. Eventually the animal protection interfered. Each day they feed the cats and give them something extra on public holidays. The cats are being sterilized to control further extension of the colony. From the Semafor, next to the lighthouse, one keeps an eye out for mischief, animal maltreatment and destruction.
The lighthouses are approximately 640 meters and 1060 meters away from the locks.
The top of a lighthouse swings about 50 to 60 cm in a heavy storm; the lightbeams, however, must remain horizontal. To accomplish this, the light unit had been mounted on a table floating in mercury (not very healthy). Using weights attached to a cable the lights were turned around like the hands of a clock. One of the tasks of the lighthouse keeper was to pull up the weights every evening in readiness for the night.
The annual salary in 1879
Harsman and Berry van der Horst were two of the first three lighthouse keepers. They were appointed in 1879 by the government on an annual salary of 350 guilders, plus free accomodation, all together worth 400 guilders. Not exactly a fortune for the Van der Horst family with its fourteen children. Fortunately a lot has changed in the 127 years of the existences of the lighthouses.
For the appointment Van der Horst also had to pay administration costs of 10.21 guilders, which was more than one week remunerations.
With the two other lighthouse keepers he was alsways on duty, day and night (Saturdays, Sunday, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Easter).
One lighthouse keeper always had to attend to the lamps, one slept in the lighthouse and number three had time off. Hard work, much cleaning to remove fumagine and condensation.
On two storeys of the lighthouses two bed sites and two cases of two meters high have been built. The frames are made from fir wood and the partitions and bed sites from pine.
We hope that our lighthouses will last another 127 years with their trusted lightbeams over nocturnal IJmuiden. They are a land-mark for passing ships and a safe indicator for people on the bridge of our ships on their way to distant countries and for those returning and our fisherman fleet.
Source of information:
Archive Cees Rijkers
Editors Hofgeest en Jutter
attn: Frizo Huizinga
photographs copyright Cees Rijkers