The dredging industry has been the backbone of the Dutch economy for centuries. If canals, harbours and rivers would not be maintained for a few years, the whole country would literally grind to a halt.
Today, dredging happens with oil powered ships, which burn up to 3,000 litres of fuel per hour. However, in earlier times, the Dutch waterways were dredged mostly by hand, using simple but ingenious tools.
Manual dredging was heavy labour, especially when waterways became deeper. Therefore, it was supplemented by animal power, wind power and tidal power. However, in some parts of the Netherlands, people chose a different strategy: they designed a new type of cargo ship that could sail in shallow waterways.
1699 scale model of a scratcher rigged with sails. Credit: Maritiem Digitaal