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Update 10 | Cool Jobs: Doing real science in virtual worlds

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A new way to relax

For many years, Wim Veling (University of Groningen in the Netherlands) used VR to help patients overcome phobias, or fears. As a psychiatrist, he treats patients with mental-health disorders. In search of scientic evidence Veling started a small experiment to see if virtually swimming with dolphins helped his patients relax. To test this, he had his patients watch the video of the Dolphin Swim Club through a VR headset. At the same time, Veling watches them for signs of stress. He counts how fast his patients’ hearts beat. He also measures whether they’re tensing their muscles and how much they sweat.

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Update 9 | The Blue Whales

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September 15th 2016… Off the coast of Dana Point, California. Meeting for the first time, the incredible amazing Blue Whale. Bigger than any creature ever lived on our planet. A Gentle Giant, we are in awe…



Just a little part of the whale is visible above the surface, here you can see the two blowholes, as all baleen whales have. They can be up to 33 meters, the whale that we met was a young whale and not that long yet.


Exhaling many meters high


About to dive under


And then these beautiful inspiring words;




The biggest heart in the world is inside the blue whale. It weighs more than seven tons.

It’s as big as a room. It is a room, with four chambers. A child could walk around in it, head high,

bending only to step through the valves. The valves are as big as the swinging doors in a saloon.

This house of a heart drives a creature a hundred feet long. When this creature is born it is twenty

feet long and weighs four tons. It is waaaaay bigger than your car. It drinks a hundred gallons

of milk from its mama every day and gains two hundred pounds a day, and when it is seven

or eight years old it endures an unimaginable puberty and then it essentially disappears from

human ken, for next to nothing is known of the mating habits, travel patterns, diet, social life,

language, social structure, diseases, spirituality, wars, stories, despairs, and arts of the blue whale.

There are perhaps ten thousand blue whales in the world, living in every ocean on earth, and of

the largest mammal who ever lived we know nearly nothing. But we know this: the animals

with the largest hearts in the world generally travel in pairs, and their penetrating moaning cries,

their piercing yearning tongue, can be heard underwater for miles and miles.

Mammals and birds have hearts with four chambers. Reptiles and turtles have hearts with

three chambers. Fish have hearts with two chambers. Insects and mollusks have hearts with

one chamber. Worms have hearts with one chamber, although they may have as many as

eleven single-chambered hearts. Unicellular bacteria have no hearts at all; but even they have

fluid eternally in motion, washing from one side of the cell to the other, swirling and whirling.

No living being is without interior liquid motion. We all churn inside.

So much held in a heart in a lifetime. So much held in a heart in a day, an hour, a moment.

We are utterly open with no one, in the end — not mother and father, not wife or husband,

not lover, not child, not friend. We open windows to each but we live alone in the house of

the heart. Perhaps we must. Perhaps we could not bear to be so naked, for fear of a constantly

harrowed heart. When young we think there will come one person who will savor and sustain

us always; when we are older we know this is the dream of a child, that all hearts finally are bruised

and scarred, scored and torn, repaired by time and will, patched by force of character, yet fragile

and rickety forevermore, no matter how ferocious the defense and how many bricks you bring to

the wall. You can brick up your heart as stout and tight and hard and cold and impregnable as

you possibly can and down it comes in an instant, felled by a woman’s second glance, a child’s

apple breath, the shatter of glass in the road, the words “I have something to tell you,” a cat with a

broken spine dragging itself into the forest to die, the brush of your mother’s papery ancient hand

in the thicket of your hair, the memory of your father’s voice early in the morning echoing from

the kitchen where he is making pancakes for his children.


Reprinted from The American Scholar, Volume 73, No. 4, Autumn 2004.

Copyright © 2004 by the author.


Update 8 | Californian Diary

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Californian Diary


So we were in California, invited by professor Skip Rizzo to present the Dolphin Swim Club at the ICDVRat, a coming together of Virtual Reality pioneers, medical scientists, as well as artists, dedicated to help people within the field of healthcare with the aid of science and technology, all in the City of Angels. Someone stated about the question; Does Virtual Reality work for patients in healthcare? To compare it with this question; does a syringe help? The answer was that it really depends what you put in it. Content is queen. For an artist this is of course great inspiration!

However, before spending some days in LA, since we were already in the area , we hung out on the Pacific Ocean, to see if we could meet up with cetacean friends in the rich coastal waters. Out in the harbor town Dana Point we went out with a whale-watching catamaran, and we had the great honor to meet for the first time, the magnificent Blue Whale. The greatest creature ever lived on our planet, ever… (That will be a separate blog next, with some cool pictures, I promise). As well as, Californian Sea-Lions, Mola-Mola, Short-beaked Common Dolphins, Long-beaked Common Dolphins, Coastal Bottle-nose Dolphins, Sea-otters, Pelicans, Elephant Seals, Humming Birds, All kinds of other birds, Rizzo’s Dolphins, (perhaps in honor of our host professor Skip Rizzo), Porpoises and Humpback Whales.



DSC_1392DSC_1374DSC_2087 (1)



Captain Dave, the owner of the whale-watching operation introduced us to his friend Barry Curtis. Both are members of a whale rescue team trying to set free sea life entangled in fishing nets. Barry invited us to join him on his boat the next morning. The mission was to try and find an entangled humpback whale, spotted the day before. On a beautiful sunny, windless September morning we set out from Dana Point to see if we could find the humpback in trouble, and ‘babysit’, keep score of it’s position till further rescue efforts could arrive. Although the conditions were perfect we never found the whale.

DSC_0737DSC_0741DSC_0829 DSC_0844DSC_0769DSC_0810

Barry’s companion is a very special dog, his name is Otter (the dolphin dog) and he is if possible even more passionate about dolphins than we are. So when we couldn’t find the whale, at some point Otter became restless and yes, there they were, lots and lots of Short-beaked Common Dolphins all around in a ‘stampede’. Yes Barry, it’s a wonderful world indeed.

The only thing weighing down this magical day was the thought of the poor humpback soul out there in trouble somewhere. Until a few days later when the news arrived that the whale managed to free itself!!

A very happy ending indeed. So to all our new friends from California, whether Cetacean, Canine or Human, wishing you save travels and free passage to wherever your dreams may lead you.


Dolphin Selfi

Update 7 | A wonderful meet-up in Denmark

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Ever since we started, with the Dolphin Swim Club VR experience, on behalf, or perhaps even requested by the dolphins, our lives have been filled with adventures and sea creatures of all kinds. As well as people with a big heart for the sea, or even simply a heart as big as the ocean.


Friday afternoon, June 10th, spend in the studio of Jewelbox with owner Pepijn Buitenhuis, working on the last bits of the sound design, with only the natural recorded cetacean voices for the 15-minute healing VR version. So now the dolphins are ready to swim into people’s lives and do their thing!

And they are. The medical research on the healing effects of wild dolphins, done by UMCG (Groningen University) has started, as well as they are joining the VR programs in several hospitals and healthcare facilities around Europe and USA. (Cancer Society Oslo, Norway, ‘sHeeren Loo, the Netherlands, UMCG Groningen, the Netherlands, University of Southern California, USA) just to name a few.

Friday evening, after a lovely dinner with Michelle Broens, owner of Praktijk Broens who also started working with the dolphins with her patients, and is planning a program for refugees with us. We set of for a 500 km drive into Denmark, to look for our ‘Ambassador’ dolphins Selfi & Delfi. You can find the the whole magical story about them on our previous posts. The next morning we set out to search for our friends, and found them! Under a bridge like clochards in Nyborg, Denmark. Such a happy reunion it was.We even met up with our friends Ann-Sofi and Clifford whom we met last autumn when Selfi & Delfi were visiting the Kalmarsund…

11 juni 2016 Selfi&Delfi Nyborg - 8 van 21DSC_107211 juni 2016 Selfi&Delfi Nyborg
11 juni 2016 Selfi&Delfi Nyborg - 12 van 21DSC_1053DSC_1051

Safe travels my dear friends.

Save travels to all sentient beings out there in the waters and on the land.

‘the Reunion’  Meet Selfi & Delfi in their underwater home.


Update 6 | The Dolphins introduce us to wonderful people

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A lot has happened since we got back from the shoot in Egypt. The whole team got busy with first of all the post-production, the website, and meeting wonderful people, pioneers in the world of 360°Virtual Reality, people within healthcare, medical research, animal welfare, research and rescue, environment, education, marketing, the cultural field and journalism. By itself it is great joy to meet all these people passionate to ‘make the world a better place’, by doing what they love. So, here’s the follow-up story with a very grateful heart, to all beings involved and especially the cetaceans of course:

Founder Marijke Sjollema in the talkshow Bynt

Founder Marijke Sjollema in the talkshow Bynt


producer B.Brada and founder M.Sjollema presenting at the Water Alliance

The Embassy of the Cetacean ImagiNation, a non-profit start-up presents: ‘the Dolphin Swim Club’ a healing 360°VR experience. This project is foremost about sharing the joy, playful spirit and beauty of wild dolphins in their home; the free oceans of the world. To meet a dolphin or a whale under water and look into their eye is perhaps one of the most amazing encounters one can have on this planet. It is our dream to share this experience through 360°VR, and so inspire a love for the oceans and all it’s inhabitants.

Schermafbeelding 2016-03-27 om 18.53.40 (1)

The stress reducing and even healing effect (British Medical Journal 2005) from meeting especially dolphins is widely known. All throughout history there are many stories and legends account for just that. In modern medicine these seemingly magical qualities of cetaceans are used in so called; ‘Dolphin assisted therapy’. Unfortunately the facilities offering these programs are keeping dolphins in captivity. Today we know so much more about the amazing intelligence, language and complex societies of cetaceans, that this is clearly a highly undesirable situation. It leads to drastically shortened lives and endless suffering.

So we thought: ‘Lets make a great alternative’, and we did! In 360°Virtual Reality.

Off course wanting to film wild dolphins in the free oceans, does require an element of luck, besides working with the best crew, best location, we made sure that all circumstances were as perfect as possible for the shoot, the dolphins must want to be there. And they did, they showed up and now we are able to have people experience through virtual reality pods of more than 90 spinner and bottlenose dolphins. That is more than we ever dreamt of…

Official medical research | In January 2016 both Dr. Wim Veling of the University Medical Centre Groningen and Professor Skip Rizzo of the University of Southern California decided to start an official medical research in the field of depression, psychoses and anxiety disorders (NL) and autism (USA) by using our VR experience.

360°VR preview | In April we have launched our 360° preview which is now available on our special player. Check out our new website and there you will find the player with the 360°VR preview, suitable for most smartphones! You can order VR Goggles to watch the dolphins with your own smartphone in 360°VR, and you may want to leave a donation to support our efforts, highly appreciated!

A healing 360°VR experience | Several health organizations in the Netherlands have pre-ordered the Dolphin Swim Club under water 360°VR dolphin footage. They want to open up the world of multiple disabled patients, or provide an opportunity to reduce stress within all kinds of healthcare.

The Dolphins start to find their way | Early in May, the Norwegian Cancer Society has decided to use our images for the treatment of patients, age 13 to19, who will undergo bone marrow transplants, in Oslo, to supply a beautiful distraction from life in an isolation room (5-6 weeks).  They want to explore practical implications and whether the use of VR can help children and young adults to cope better with the adverse effects of their treatments.

A ticket to the VRcinema instead of a dolphin show! | Starting May the 4th, our high quality 360°VR preview is shown in Europe’s first VRcinema’s both in Amsterdam and Berlin, for the ‘just fun’ part, as we love to share the joy of the dolphins with everybody. And we think it’s real cool that you can now buy a ticket to the VRmovies instead of a dolphin show!

Dolphins team up with Seals for a clean ocean | Beside the production of several VR-movies, and watching the dolphins find their way into healthcare and delighting viewers everywhere, we do have dreams left. We would love to make waterproof VR-goggles out of waste plastic, taken from the ocean. Because not only cetaceans but all ocean inhabitants would greatly benefit from a clean sea, we teamed up with a Seal Rescue Centre in the Netherlands (Zeehondencentrum Pieterburen) as they are running a program gathering abandoned fishing nets (ghost nets) and other plastics from the Waddenzee (North of The Netherlands). These debris are recycled into a special granulate.

The waterproof feature will even add another sense to the healing experience and would be very suitable for severely paralyzed patients.

As a non-profit start-up all revenues will flow back into the project for the funding of the research and the development of further under water experiences.

More info about the project on our website: www.thedolphinswimclub.com





Update 5 | A day in the life of a Virtual Reality cameraman

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Stephen Hutton, member of the Dolphin Swim Club, talented filmmaker and free-diver, has made a film diary of a day on board.

We are all in full post-production now, and very soon we will have the films available, so you too can meet the wild dolphins through the AMAZING (forgive our little bragging) VR footage that we were fortunate enough to be able to capture. Dolphin-friendly capturing that is. We’ll keep you posted!

Update 4 | We did it!

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Don’t know where to start really,

Perhaps to state that I am sooooo proud of the whole Dolphin Swim Club team!

The dolphins, the Egyptians, the Dutch, the Belgians, the Swiss, the Germans, and last but not least one Irish Norwegian soul. A true Cetacean-African-European joint venture.

And; we’ve done it!

‘the crew’. photo; Stefan Vogelenzang



With all dedication we stretched ourselves to the limit, and perhaps a bit further. . Especially our free divers Stephen Hutton, Ahmed Ibrahim Hamza and Mohamed Ismael who were diving with the heavy camera rig, until their lungs burst and their muscles collapsed. But most of all we had so much fun during the whole production, to get the dolphins home to you.

Ahmed diving with the rig. photo; M.Sjollema- the Dolphin Swim Club


We managed to capture hours of beautiful moments with the spinner- and occasionally bottlenose dolphins of Sataya Reef. We even managed to records many natural sounds of clicks, squeaks, moaning and singing by the dolphins. It is amazing to listen to their acoustic world, and be part of all their grace and playfulness. Like voices from an undiscovered world. Like the most interesting symphony you will ever hear. Accompanied by amazing footage so you can experience being surrounded by dolphins.

spinnerdolphins photo M.Sjollema- the Dolphin Swim club


Back on dry land we are now busy editing. Image yourself being surrounded by more than 80 dolphins in the studio… the films are going to be even better than we imagined. And we have so much material to choose from that it will take some time to be ready. We’ll keep you posted!

Update 3 | The Dolphin Swim Club goes on!…On our way to more miracles?

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We have some bad news and a lot of good news.

To start with the bad news: we didn’t reach the amount of funding we had hoped for on the site for crowd funding we started a presentation on. However almost all backers from the campaign have continued their support. So that brings us to the good news;

The Dolphin Swim Club goes on! All wondrous events following the inspiration to make a VR production about swimming amongst dolphins convinced us to just go ahead!

And more good news: The two bottlenose dolphins that so magically appeared at the day of the launch of the Dolphin Swim Club at the front of the ‘headquarters’ in the Baltic Sea, are alive and doing well. They are slowly moving, visiting different bays and harbours, still delighting people everywhere with their presence. They now have their own Facebook Page: Kalmarsunds delfiner where you can find out about their whereabouts, and people post their wonderful pictures and films, experiences and questions, as well as some discussions about the best way to interact with them. As of course, dolphins are not native to the Baltic Sea, so it’s new to everyone.

the Dolphin Swim Club

Sundown in Figeholm, Sweden. Two bottlenose dolphin explorers wander into the Baltic Sea, bringing delight to everyone they meet! True ambassadors, cutting a trail where no whale has gone before…

For the team of the Dolphins Swim Club there was a moment of a rather difficult choice. We found ourselves in the middle of this miracle. Every day could be the last one to see them, when they would decide to turn south back to the North Sea. Time spent playing with the dolphins, is always the best. That’s why we love to make the VR-films in the first place, to share the magic. And the dolphins gave us a beautiful wise advice: life is happening here and now!

the Dolphin Swim Club

the Dolphin Swim Club gets splashed!

So instead of managing the crowd funding project from behind a desk we were out playing with the dolphins! Such an adventure! In the process we’ve been meeting wonderful people as well. We’ve been out paddling canoes with strangers, we’ve been dining and sleeping in the house of strangers and we’ve been handed coffee, homemade cookies and apple-pie by strangers. We had very special and wonderful conversations with such interesting and talented people, and many strangers soon became new friends.

Marijke Sjollema ballet in Figeholm

ballet in Figeholm, Sweden

All of us so fully aware of this magical times that the two dolphins brought upon us.

This sense of urgency to fully live life. Like flying out to Stockholm in the evening to be in a morning talk show for national television. Getting up at 4.30, being interviewed about swimming with them, then to take the first flight back to rush to the bay for another paddling tour. Just for the chance to float in the sea, in the dark, listening to the wonderful puffing sounds of the dolphins breathing and swimming nearby. To see a shimmer of a fin, lighten up in a moonbeam.

Marijke Sjollema swimming with Selfi and Delfi in Pataholm, Sweden on the 21th of september 2015.

Selfi and Delfi and Marijke Sjollema in Pataholm, Sweden on the 21th of september 2015.

By swimming as the first person (Marijke) ever with dolphins in the Baltic (probably), and by making under water footage used by Swedish Television (Benno), we managed to get a chance to talk about the Dolphin Swim Club in both Sweden and the Netherlands. This proved to be helpful in order to find a bit of additional funding for our dream, beside the crowd funding project. Other dolphin-lovers offered to donate their time and skills in order to realize the Dolphin Swim Club movies. This is really helpful in order to lower the production costs a bit as well.

The final realization of such a complex production, remains however a costly business and we still haven’t our total funding together. Nevertheless we did decide to take a leap of faith and to go ahead.

the Dolphin swim Club

DSC_0575 (1) Dolphinmagic in Pataholm,Sweden


Imagine you are a child and live in a little coastal village in Sweden. One wondrous day two bottlenose dolphins visit your harbour and give this splashing show. The faces of these children, and adults alike actually, they inspired us so much. Thinking about meeting the gaze of the dolphins under water earlier that day, I made a silent promise to all.


Pataholm, Sweden




one of the dolphins meets a dog

one of the dolphins meets a dog


When dolphins can travel thousands of miles into unknown waters to show up for the opening of the Dolphin Swim Club, we ourselves must certainly cover the whole distance.

How cool would it be to have this experience of dolphin magic available right in your smartphone or computer? Go swimming with the dolphins wherever you are.

In the meantime we have interviewed specialists about using our footage for research in the treatment of patients. In the fields of autism, depression, childbirth, and also post-traumatic stress disorder. The reactions are very positive, so there is a good chance that the dolphin-magic may also work in these directions. And it is also in this area that we have found additional funding.

On www.thedolphinswimclub.com we have just opened up a web-shop where you may pre-order, and find the same products as presented on the crowd funding site. The date of delivery will still be around the end of the year.

spinnerdolfijnen in Rode Zee

Our dear friends, and movie stars*


We have booked a boat for the beginning of December (6/13) to make the footage. The owners of the boat have supported the project as well with a generous offer and we will be 7 days at a unique location to capture the life and joy of wild and free dolphins. Due to their gift we have now 4 extra places on board available, in two duo shared cabins. Is swimming with dolphins your dream? Now there is a special opportunity! We invite you to share this unique experience of swimming with spinner and sometimes bottlenose-dolphins in the clear aqua-blue tropical waters of the Red Sea. As well as sea turtle’s, all kinds of colorful fish and amazing coral reefs. Apart from the film crew there will be a snorkeling/diving guide and a marine biologist on board. And not all that unimportant a great chef who will cook all our meals! There are several decks on board, so there is always space available to sit and relax after spending hours with the dolphins, or take a mid-day rest.

A apart from that you will probably have the greatest time ever, you will also help us to realize the footage for the Dolphin swim Club.

We are so much looking forward to start to next chapter of this project, which has been so full of magic so far.

Thanks everyone so far for all your support! I leave here with this very warm feeling of gratitude.

Marijke Sjollema












Update 2 | The magic goes on

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The magic goes on…..

Don’t know where to start really…..The two bottlenose dolphins that showed up in front of the ‘headquarters’ of the Dolphin Swim Club, on the launching day of the project here on the other side of the Kalmarsund in Sweden, became national news! On the evening of Monday the 21st of September, in the poring rain, but with calm sea I went in to swim with them! When I looked up after spending almost two hours in the water, I saw a stunning rainbow over the island of Öland, where we live. Swimming with dolphins, in the Baltic Sea? Where they are not native, it is truly a miracle, and I feel so blessed to have once more enjoyed their company. That is why we started this project, to share this experience, just to have a taste through Virtual Reality.

Here in Sweden everybody is pretty exited about it, more and more people are gathering in the harbour, and it is an absolute joy to watch how the dolphins enchant all!

Since it is probably the first time anyone has been swimming amongst dolphins in the Baltic Sea, there have been interviews for Swedish television, radio and newspapers.

It is all in Swedish, but just to share a bit about all the truly magic events here…




Update 1| About the magic of dolphins…

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Allow me to share a little bit more about the strange and magic circumstances around ‘the birth’ of the Dolphin Swim Club. All spring and summer we have been dreaming, talking and working hard to plan. Countless mails between Sweden, the Netherlands, and the rest of the world.

This is the ‘headquarters’ of the Dolphin swim Club, a boathouse at the Baltic coast on the

Swedish island Öland.



And all that time there have been sightings of bottlenose dolphins in the Baltic, which is very, very, very unusual… only porpoises are native to the Baltic, and even they are rare.

The Ocean played a role, because of special winds and tides, and an enormous amount of fresh, salt water could come in, last winter.

At first there was a lone dolphin, playing and interacting with people in boats, canoes, and little harbours. Bringing excitement and delight everywhere.

Slowly making her way North, up till the Islands around Stockholm. There this wild dolphin swam for days in front of the Swedish aquarium Kolmården, where the captive dolphins live. She was even in front of the house of their research leader Mats Amundin.

You can follow the journey on www.valar.se

The media gave the dolphin the name; ‘Vilse’ (Lost), which is rather unfortunately chosen, because I have the strong feeling that there was nothing lost nor erratic about it this very courageous and heroic journey.

A few weeks later the ocean played a role again, it receded, water levels were unusual low. A bit of ocean bottom at the coast became visible, and, now the really sad part;…. the body of this very courageous dolphin revealed herself, close to the Dolphin Swim Club. In this way we found out that she was a female.

Just that weekend, Ian Graham, well known author and organizer of dolphin retreats!  visited us.

Since we all consider dolphins as our relatives, we went to the place she was found and put some tears and flowers on that spot.

Honouring her courage, and trying to understand her journey, and what she clearly wanted to share with us all, humans.

Dolphins seem to master the art of living in peace, harmony and joy. I am sure that they weep too, for every child, woman and man that has been sinking into their world in the Mediterranean Sea lately.

Two days later we went back early in the morning, and just behind the flowers, the ocean had floated in a pair of diving-goggles…

© Marijke Sjollema

We took that as a clear calling from the cetacean consciousness, an encouragement to go on with the Dolphin Swim Club. All the more in honour of the lonely dolphin who undertook such a brave journey into the unknown.

Last weekend, at the time of the launching of the Dolphin Swim Club, another dolphin sighting came in the news; A pair of bottlenose dolphins have been filmed just North of Stockholm, jumping and frolicking about for over 3 hours!

And yesterday, as I was writing this story, these two showed up in front of the ‘headquarters’ of the Dolphin Swim Club!!!!! Again, bottlenose dolphins are not native to the Baltic Sea. This is by all means a wondrous event….



As I stated that I am the co-founder of the Dolphin Swim Club, apart from working together with a great team, including my beloved husband, I meant it as to state that it is in partnership with the Dolphins.

They seem to feel the same way…

The dolphins are inviting you to become part of their world.
And dear reader; can you think of a better name for ‘Vilse, (Lost)?
Even when she is in spirit now…

May you all safely navigate your oceans,
Marijke Sjollema