Seeking solid ground – or was that sludge? – in the depths...

300-500 metric tons of sludge. That’s how much ooze project manager Claus Førby-Danielsen expects to dredge up from the bed of the southern half of the University Park pond, which is currently being cleaned up. The goal of the project is to purify the water and restore the pond to its original depth.

[Translate to English:] 'Solidum petit in profundis' er mottoet for Aarhus Universitet. Det betyder: Søger i dybet den faste grund.

[If you’ve been wondering what’s going on down by the southern half of the University Park pond, here’s the explanation: All the sludge that has been building up on the pond bed over the years is being cleared. And that’s what makes the water murky. 

“We expect we’ll be hauling 300-500 tons of sludge away before we’re done,” explained project manager Claus Førby-Danielsen, who’s the project manager from AU Finance and Estates Projects and Development. He also told us that the project will cost about 600,000 kroner. 

The landscaping company Danjord A/S is doing the work, and we put on our rubber boots to get close enough to see what’s emerged from the slime. Almost all the water has been drained from the lake since work began on October 1st. And some interesting things have come to light – more on that later.

As far as project manager Claus Førby-Danielsen knows, this is the first time the southernmost pond has been dredged. The northern half of the pond – site of the annual Regatta – was dredged 15-16 years ago.

“700 tons of sludge were driven away to a reservoir that used to be down by the Port of Aarhus. But we also found bikes, shopping carts and red soldiers at the bottom of the pond.”

Red soldiers?!

“Yeah, that’s what they’re called,” Claus Førby-Danielsen chuckled. “Those red poles with black bases that are used in road blocks.”

But he and his team also found something they hadn’t expected when they dredged the northern half of the pond almost two decades ago.

“We found tombstones. I believe it was three or four of them. We drove them away early one morning, and I mean early. In fact, I think it was 4 am. We wanted to be sure no one saw.”

But I’ve heard of tombstones being reused before...

“Yes, but these still had inscriptions on them. I suppose they thought it didn’t matter, since they were going to be submerged. But we replaced them with unhewn stone.”

Claus Førby-Danielsen explained that this time, the work around the lake would continue until the end of November.

This is what it looks like right now under the little wooden bridge between the northern and southern halves of the University Park pond; a barrier has been set up between the two sides of the pond. The barrier will be removed when the work is complete so that fish can swim freely in the whole pond.   

Despite the thick layer of sludge, there was plenty of life in the lake.  

The dredging of the southern half of the pond has already seen some casualties.

But one creature’s death is another creature’s bread, to paraphrase an old Danish saying. 

And everything it’s been possible to catch has been caught and released in the northern end of the pond. 

Despite strenuous efforts, however, they didn’t succeed in catching the last carp yesterday. And not for lack of helpful suggestions from passersby. Martin Bøje from Danjord got stuck in the ooze a number of times trying to reach the carp with his net. And he finally gave up. Almost. Here he’s throwing rocks in an attempt to chase the carp out of the spot where it seems to have gotten stuck.

Now we’re on the subject of Bread 


Hvad Skovsøen gemte (What the forest lake hid) is the title of a detective novel by Palle Rosenkrantz that came out in 1903. Rosenkrantz is considered the first author of a Danish crime novel, and now – 117 years later – a TV camera crew is filming the detective series ‘Hvide Sande’ on the shore of the University Park pond. But you won’t see any corpses dragged out of the ooze in the University Park pond when the series runs on TV2 this spring – the scenes shot on Wednesday are set in Germany.

And back to what the University Park pond hid:

 “Signs explaining why we’re dredging the lake will be put up at the end of this week or the beginning of next week,” promised project manager Claus Førby-Danielsen.