Zeeland is one of twelve provinces that make up the kingdom of the Netherlands. Located in the southwest of the Netherlands, Zeeland, with nearly 400.000 inhabitants, borders on Belgium and the North Sea. The locals, known as Zeeuwen, have developed various local dialects, collectively referred to as Zeeuws, as well as local traditions.
Zeeland has an intricate relationship with the water it is surrounded by. Geographically speaking Zeeland has transformed tremendously due to its battle with the water. The former islands have, over time, grown together to become the province it is now, while other areas are now inundated. This relationship between land, water and the Zeeuwen is represented in the provincial flag and the coat of arms with the slogan Luctor Et Emergo, ‘I struggle and arise,’ reverberating through every fiber of the province’s mentality.
The most significant moment in this historic struggle was on the night of January 31, 1953. On that winter night, etched in the collective memory of the region, the combination of the spring tide with a northwesterly storm caused the levels in the North Sea to rise, resulting in massive flooding in Zeeland, the adjacent provinces, and areas of the Belgian and British coasts. In Zeeland alone, over 1,800 people lost their lives. The Delta works, built in the 1960s, are, in part, a direct result of this tragedy.
Nowadays the threat of flood has dissipated significantly; modern technology, such as the Delta works, has provided a safe barrier between the Zeeuwen and the water. The province of Zeeland boasts an excellent aquatic sports culture, from wave surfing and wind surfing to sailing and rowing, such as during the annual King of the Channel, during which the UCR Vikings traditionally participate.
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