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About the Zuiderzee

A historic story about the Zuiderzee

This is a remarkable story about the fight against the water. It is a piece of water which embodies both the pride and pain of the Netherlands. Until 1932, the Zuiderzee was an inland sea. Fun fact: before that time, we used to talk about Amsterdam aan Zee, Volendam aan Zee, and Marken aan Zee. Large flooding and disasters would ready the Dutch for the biggest battle they ever thought: the battle against the water.

Before 1916

Amsterdam, Marken, Volendam and Monnickendam are coastal towns on the Zuiderzee, which is about 6,000 square kilometers in surface. On the bank of the Zuiderzee, fishing and trade communities arise. This area is nowadays called the Old Harbors.


Flooding disaster hits the Netherlands. On January 13 and 14, fate strikes. A storm surge raises the water level in the Zuiderzee, while excessive melt water in the main rivers of the Netherlands also ends up in the same Zuiderzee. The result is breaking of the levees in a dozen of places at the Zuiderzee. The death toll is limited, but fear has struck deep.


The Zuiderzee-bill is passed. The results of the Flooding Disaster two years before have readied the Dutch: the sea has to be contained, no matter the consequences for fishermen and seamen.


The Netherlands take on the battle with the water, particularly the turbulent sea. The Afsluitdijk between Den Oever (Noord-Holland) and Zurich (Friesland) is completed. The 32-kilometer sea wall spells the end of the Zuiderzee. The area below the Afsluitdijk is called the IJselmeer. The water is brackish, instead of salty. This has big consequences for the fishing community.


A start is made with the draining and impoldering of the future twelfth province of the Netherlands: Flevoland. Before 1940, almost the entire area consists solely of water.


This year is synonymous for ‘De Watersnoodramp’. A combination of a western storm and spring tide causes a disaster in the south of the Netherlands in the night January 31 to February 1. The Afsluitdijk passes its first major test. In the south of the Netherlands 1836 people die, 100,000 people lost their homes, and 200,000-hectare land is flooded, but in the area of the former Zuiderzee, damage is limited to a minimum.


The construction of the levee to Marken. The island of Marken is turned into a peninsula, connected to the main land by the Zeedijk. Provisioning by ice sailors in winter is no longer necessary. The tight community of Marker becomes more accessible to outsiders.


The Houtribdijk between Enkhuizen and Lelystad is finished. Marken and Volendam are no longer on the IJselmeer, but on the Markermeer. The intention is to gain more land in the Markermeer. Marken will lose its island status, and become part of a larger, depoldered area.


The Netherlands officially get their twelfth province. Flevoland, to the west of Marken, has been entirely “gained“ on the water. An ingenious project of impoldering leads to 1,500 square kilometers of extra land in the Netherlands.


It is officially decided that no more parts of the Markermeer will be drained. Marken will remain a peninsula.


The area around the Gouwzee consists of the authentic villages of Marken, Volendam, and Monnickendam. Fishing is still big in this area, but tourism is also a large source of income. The ferry service of Volendam Marken Express makes a visit to the triangle around the Gouwzee a real experience.

Read more information about the history of Volendam Marken Express.

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