Almost an Island
August 31, 2016 2:04 AM   Subscribe

Hallig Hooge is a tiny German island in the North Sea. It's been occupied since 1593 and it's quite pretty. Lots of German tourists come visit for the day (video of Hooge). The Germans call it a Hallig instead of an island though, because unlike an island, it floods (2 minute video) every time there is a very high tide.

The floods happen about 3-5 times a year. They used to happen more often, but they built a "summer dike" that keeps out the summer high tides. The dike doesn't keep out the winter storm surges though. When the water comes over the dike, the locals call it "land under" (video in German). The locals build everything on man-made hills, so when "land under" happens, they don't get wet.
posted by colfax (17 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Cool post! Will add this to places on the North Sea coast I want to visit.
posted by tinkletown at 2:41 AM on August 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

Looks beautifful. I wonder if someone has tobround up those cows and bring them to high ground before a flood, or if happens slowly enough that the cows just retreat to high ground on their own?

I once visited Lindisfarne, on the British side of the North Sea. I've been longing to go back ever since. At low tide you can drive there acros a causeway, but at high tide the causeway is flooded and Lindisfarne becomes an island. (Apparently flooded cars have to be pulled off the causeway on a regular basis despite many warnings and the road being closed a few hours in advance of high tide.) Lindisfarne also has a beautiful ruined monastery which is close to 1200 years old, and a castle on a rocky outcrop that looks like something from a high fantasy novel.

The scenery and the decorative cows are, not surprisingly, similar to these pictures of Hallig Hooge.

I wonder what becomes of these places with rising sea levels due to climate change? How much longer will they be around?
posted by OnceUponATime at 3:38 AM on August 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

From the first link: "According to one tale, the bells of Rungholt, a town that sank in the 1362 storm tide, can be heard during a full moon - rung by Ekke-Nekkepenn, a goblin who lives at the bottom of the North Sea."

Geez, colfax, way to bury the lede!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:19 AM on August 31, 2016 [9 favorites]

I have a friend who did her year of civil service (between high school and college) on Hooge, and here are some things she's told me:

The German government thinks that the Halligs are very important for protecting the German coast, so the government gave Hallig Hooge the money to build the summer dike, and the government pays people from Hooge to maintain the dike.

There are 10 Halligs in total with varying numbers of Warften and inhabitants (Warften is the German word for the man-made hills people live on). One of the Halligs is small enough that there's only a single house. The government hires one or two people to live there year-round and be caretakers of the Hallig. I think a boat comes to them once every couple of months to drop off provisions, and the two people have a motorboat that they can take to Hooge. Currently the position is held by a young couple.

One of the other Halligs is called Langeness. It's long and skinny and that there is a narrow-gauge railroad with an open cart that connects it to the mainland at low tide. The postman uses it to deliver the mail.

The people of Hooge didn't have a church for a long time. In 1634, there was a huge storm and some of the settlements on nearby Halligs were destroyed. The benches and an altar from a destroyed church on a nearby Hallig washed up on Hooge, and the Hoogers used those pieces to build a church on Hooge.

I think the cows and other animals get brought in by the owners when a storm threatens, because they don't want to take any chances.
posted by colfax at 5:00 AM on August 31, 2016 [14 favorites]

In Frisia (northern Netherlands), the mounds for houses were called a terp; ancient settlements had them, before the area was more systematically drained.

the picture on wikipedia is from Hooge.
posted by jb at 5:50 AM on August 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

I forgot:

There are a lot of canals on Hooge and there used to be very few bridges. So apparently the locals used to pole vault over the canals instead.
posted by colfax at 5:59 AM on August 31, 2016 [5 favorites]

That's interesting. I was quite near during my summer holidays, and if I'd known I'd probably made a detour to check them out.

One interesting thing I did see though was this very odd shipwreck off the Danish west coast. It looked like a crashed spaceship or something, and I had to pull out some serious Google-fu to identify it when I got home again.
posted by Harald74 at 6:21 AM on August 31, 2016

Do you live on a hill landunder?
When the waters rise (perhaps with thunder)?
Can you feel, can you feel, can you feel tide plunder?
You'd better run, you'd better wear shoe covers.
posted by xingcat at 6:25 AM on August 31, 2016 [8 favorites]

Ooh, this has triggered my wanderlust. (To be fair, it doesn't take much.)
posted by Kitteh at 6:53 AM on August 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

Live on land that floods in Germany, everyone remarks how charming and traditional. Live on land that floods in Louisiana, get scorned for being so stupid and poor.

Not sure if this says more about Germany or the US.
posted by Nelson at 7:14 AM on August 31, 2016 [6 favorites]

Live on land that floods in Louisiana, get scorned for being so stupid and poor.

Are people actually doing this? I haven't seen it.
posted by longdaysjourney at 7:48 AM on August 31, 2016

Live on land that floods in Germany, everyone remarks how charming and traditional. Live on land that floods in Louisiana, get scorned for being so stupid and poor.

In true German fashion their floods are routine and predictable.
posted by GuyZero at 7:59 AM on August 31, 2016 [10 favorites]

Generally in northern Europe, land close to the sea was the first to be settled, both because water transportation was the easiest for of transportation (not so different from the settlement of Louisiana, of course. except apart from in the Netherlands, there's only ever really one channel on a northern European river, and see point 2 for the settlement of the Netherlands), but also because tree coverage tends to be much lower near water, and tree clearance was a major obstacle to settling land.

But cities and ports were only built on intersections of waterways, and the parts in between never had particularly intense settlement, hence it's traditional. I have ideas about why Louisiana's settled differently (if it's not too much of a derail), but I'll leave that to people who know The Delta (Mississippi, not Meuse).
posted by ambrosen at 8:07 AM on August 31, 2016

Live on land that floods in Germany, everyone remarks how charming and traditional. Live on land that floods in Louisiana, get scorned for being so stupid and poor.

Yeah, but the Germans build their houses on mounds so the floods don't cause any damage.

Also, the flooding issue in Louisiana is there in part because we're artificially preventing the Mississippi from swinging back into the Atchafalaya.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:33 AM on August 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

The way we live on the Mississippi is far from traditional and definitely not sustainable. If you're interested, the environmental history is fascinating.
posted by jb at 9:04 AM on August 31, 2016

Don't forget that these coastlines (also the Danish Vadehavet) are remnants of the once great Doggerland. These lands, these liminal spaces, are fragments of once-inhabited land. I find the North Sea coastline and the almost-islands so utterly poignant.
posted by kariebookish at 11:31 AM on August 31, 2016 [4 favorites]

Some thousand years ago all of the Frisian territory and Holland used to be like this - in a constant struggle with the sea. The first settlers built their own dwelling hills. They're very visible in the open and flat landscape, some 1200 of them in Friesland and Groningen.

Hegebeintum is a beautiful example. Check out the height map. If you scroll a bit north, the dike lights up in a bright yellow and the seashore is green, higher than land. There's also the blue patches of former lakes, and if you have a keen eye, you can see the sandy shores of silted creeks in a subtle yellower shade of green.

The Waddensea islands and the surrounding area is beautiful
posted by Psychnic at 1:45 PM on August 31, 2016 [4 favorites]

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