Visual explanations


Model at Pieterburen, Netherlands. Image: Eelco Bruinsma
Polluting activities, a tank with nasty liquid appears on the scene

Visualizations are great. Especially models, whether real, or virtual. This showcase at the seal rehabilitation and research centre in Pieterburen, Netherlands, is a fine example. The model sets out to capture the source of the pollution that threatens the seals in the Waddenzee [Wikipedia definition:  The Wadden Sea is the name for a body of water and its associated coastal wetlands lying between a section of the coast of northwestern continental Europe and the North Sea.]. At least, the way it was perceived and pictured in the seventies of the 20th century. In that sense the showcase is slightly outdated now, and the global threat to the environment, and hence the Wadden Sea, has obtained a different dimension.

In a way the model is reassuring, because it shows us a type of pollution that can easily be managed. A little petrochemical plant, near a small harbor with a cute and pittoresque draw bridge. Some people pottering around in a rather harmless looking factory which now would fall under the protection of monument law as industrial heritage. The water is drab, oily and green, ready to work it’s way north along the Dutch coast, heading for the seals that are basking in the morning sun on their sandbanks, unaware of the threat.

Ominous steel containers with dangerous toxic oily stuff!

Still, this visual explanation worked well and was clearly tuned to the visitors of the centre, … then. A more realistic representation of the Rotterdam Botlek area would not have had much added value. And it surely would have needed a much bigger showcase.

Pittoresque, but highly polluted harbour
Pittoresque, but highly polluted harbour

In itself, for those who remember Thunderbirds (1.0 that is) these images can invoke the thrill of anticipation. Big prolonged explosions, a highly toxic chemical compound that is threatening to spill into the harbour, the high-pitched sound of the engines of Thunderbirds 1 and 2 hovering over the area while Mr Tracy is co-ordinating the mission on Thunderbird Island with majestic calm.


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