Fort island Pampus
Fort Island Pampus was built between 1887 and 1897. The fort on an artificial island in the middle of the IJmeer was once part of the Defence Line of Amsterdam, a 135-kilometer-long system of fortifications that defended the city by means of flooding.
Even before the island Pampus was built as part of the Defence Line, the shallows – then known as Pampus sandbank – held a significant place in Dutch life. Trading ships from the Dutch East Indies loaded with spices, tea and silk would anchor off Pampus, because they often were too heavily loaded to sail over the shallows into the port of Amsterdam. Here the crew would wait until either the goods would be landed or the ship would be lifted higher out of the water by so-called ‘ship camels’ – flotation tanks – so she could sail into port.
The ship camel was invented in 1690 to allow large ships of the line to cross shallow banks that isolated the harbour of Amsterdam from the open sea. The camel was mostly used in the Dutch Golden Age for accessing the shallow waters at Pampus, which were unreachable for large merchant ships.
When the Defence Line of Amsterdam was built at the end of the 19th century, the fortress island Pampus was constructed. The first stage of the building was to lay down a work platform where the centre of the fort would stand. The vast quantities of material were delivered by ship out of Amsterdam. A German Company built the steel gun turrets.
How the island of Pampus was constructed
The specification of 10th July 1889 stipulated that there were to be eight test piles driven with a total length of a 110 metres, and 3860 piles, probably of pinewood, each pile 11 metres long, to support the fort. According to the drawing above, a copy of the original piling plan, there should be 3852.
Under each turret were 117 piles. What strikes you about the drawing is that there are no supports shown under the counterscarp wall and the dry moat. The circumference of the piles at one metre from the top of each pile and to be not less than 0.85 metres under the bark, and at the point of the pile, not less than 0.4 metres.
A few dimensions: (NAP = Normal Amsterdam Level - Dutch Ordnance Datum)
|Length of island||205m||Length of Main building||86m|
|Breath of island||164m||Breatchc of Main building||36.8m|
|Ht of slope, north side||+6.5m NAP||Length of dry moat||245m|
|Ht of slope, south side||+5.45m NAP||Breath of dry moat||8.20m|
|Ht of top of cupolas||+11.02m NAP||Thickness of roof (middle)||6m|
|Ht of roof in middle||+9m NAP||Thickness of northern wall||14m|
|Ht of poternes||+3m||Height of lightning||+13.34m NAP|
|Ht of fog bell||+12m NAP||Height of chimney||+12m NAP|
When Fort Pampus was originally built, it was armed with four Krupp 250 mm guns that fired a shell for a range of 8 km. It included other positions for various guns such as the 57 mm quick firing guns or the M90 Gardner machine guns. There was enough space for 200 men that where in the building while defending the country from the enemy in the First World War. Aerial warfare made the fortress obsolete; still, the world wars did not go by unnoticed.
Although Pampus was built under the orders of the Dutch Ministry of War it was never used in any wartime actions. The fort was manned during the First World War and in peacetime only the Fort Watcher lived on the island. Fort Island Pampus was closed in 1933.
A deserted and plundered fortress
During the Hunger Winter of 1944/45 it was very cold and the lake froze over so the island became reachable over the ice and the people from Amsterdam stripped all the wood off the island to burn for warmth. Before then the Germans, who occupied the island for a while, stripped all the metal from the island for their war industry. The fort then fell into ruin. In 1962 the island was occupied for a time by students. The remains of their visit can still be seen in the many slogans and wall paintings they left behind.
The start of the Charity
At the end of the 1980’s five people from Muiden decided that the deterioration of the island had to stop. On 20th February 1990 the island was eventually sold by the Netherland’s State to the Charity. The restoration could begin. With a large volunteer workforce the fort was freed from all the rubbish, rubble and undergrowth.
Pampus is visited yearly by many tourists. Pampus has now grown into a tourist attraction. Fort Island Pampus would not be what it is today without the help of the many hands. Thanks to the years-long input from volunteers, the fort has become a valuable monument. These volunteers have made their place in history. Pampus opened on the 8th of July 2011 as the first National Visitors Centre of the Defence Line of Amsterdam.
Sights of Pampus