Doggerland: an Atlantis (of sorts) of the North Sea
May 14, 2019 7:59 PM   Subscribe

Scientists are mapping an underwater region (The Guardian) that connected Britain to Scandinavia and continental Europe (National Geographic), about the size of the Netherlands. Called Doggerland*, the submerged "former heart of Europe" is touted as a northern Atlantis (CBS News), though little is known of the human habitation of the region, even though the sunken area was identified in the early 20th century. Interest intensified in 1931 when a fishing trawler operating east of the Wash dragged up a barbed antler point (Norfolk Heritage).

*Per Wikipedia, Doggerland was named in the 1990s, after the Dogger Bank, which in turn was named after the 17th century Dutch fishing boats called doggers (no doggos involved, sorry).

Marine experts, scientists and archaeologists have spent the past 15 years meticulously mapping thousands of kilometres under water (BBC News) in the hope of unearthing lost prehistoric tribes.

Other explorations have included 10 sediment cores taken by an offshore wind-farm developer from the North Sea, which contained ancient deposits of peat. This organic material can form only in marshes on land. (Live Science)
Those cores are now being studied for clues about the flooded region. This research includes studies of ancient pollen grains and other microscopic fossils contained in the peat samples, which would reveal details of the landscape and climate of Doggerland before it sank.
Hidden Histories: Doggerland (YouTube, 6:30)

Previously: What if Doggerland had survived? | Doggerland || Related: The Fall and Rise of Zealandia.
posted by filthy light thief (21 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
 
to put the depth (or lack thereof) of the North Sea in perspective, the larger wrecks from the Battle of Jutland are resting at depths less than half their length!
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 8:17 PM on May 14 [14 favorites]


(also the location - more-or-less - of Conan's homeland of Cimmeria in Robert E. Howard's sword-and-sorcery stories)
posted by misterbee at 8:18 PM on May 14 [5 favorites]


It always fascinates me to think that this wasn't so long ago, that when Göbekli Tepe in Anatolia was active Doggerland was above the waves and you could've walked from Londinium-to-be to Parisius-to-be.
posted by XMLicious at 8:47 PM on May 14 [14 favorites]


This is neat. I just listened to presentation by Don Henson on Recording Archeology about archeology and narrative, discussing two novels set in prehistory involving people from Doggerland, Margaret Elphinstone's The Gathering Night and Stephen Baxter's Stone Spring. And then I come MeFi and find this.

(Both authors evidently thought it would be cute to drop some modern Basque names into their novels, which I find really annoying. But, OK, never mind.)
posted by nangar at 10:44 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]




Here are some back-of-the-envelope calculations on how much it would cost to raise Doggerland again. Not surprisingly, the short answer is "too much".
posted by Harald74 at 11:50 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of a bit from Jacques Brel's "Mon Père Disait."

C'est le vent du Nord
Qu'a fait craquer la terre
Entre Zeebruges et l'Angleterre
Et Londres n'est plus
Comme avant le déluge
Le poing de Bruges
Narguant la mer
Londres n'est plus
Que le faubourg de Bruges
Perdu en mer


(It's the North wind that cracked the Earth between Zeebruges and England. And London is no longer, as it was before the Flood, the fist of Bruges, taunting the sea. London is nothing but a suburb of Bruges, lost at sea.)
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:18 AM on May 15 [7 favorites]


The relative shallowness of the North Sea means that it may be capable of reasonably economic siting of offshore wind farms There have been a couple of plans to site major offshore wind farms there, this one is reported on Wikipedia as being as big as 4.8GW (actually 4 x 1.2GW each). There was previously a plan under development to install 6 x 1.2GW there for a total 7.2GW. To give some context, the largest offshore wind farm in the world currently is 659MW.
posted by biffa at 2:18 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]


We remember.
posted by bouvin at 2:29 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]


The relative shallowness of the North Sea means that it may be capable of reasonably economic siting of offshore wind farms

If you look out of the window on a flight between Britain and Scandinavia, you are pretty much guaranteed to see arrays of white windmills on the sea off Denmark. There's a lot of them.
posted by acb at 2:56 AM on May 15


Here are some back-of-the-envelope calculations on how much it would cost to raise Doggerland again. Not surprisingly, the short answer is "too much".

Though if future technological advances bring down the cost of civil engineering, the shallow depths could lend themselves to the building of artificial islands and long bridges. High-speed rail from Norfolk to the Netherlands to Denmark, anyone?
posted by acb at 2:58 AM on May 15


If you look out of the window on a flight between Britain and Scandinavia, you are pretty much guaranteed to see arrays of white windmills on the sea off Denmark. There's a lot of them.
The world's biggest offshore wind farm, in the North Sea off Hornsea in Yorkshire.

Most of the time, if you stand on the shoreline anywhere in England, you'll be able to see windmills off the coast. I saw some off Blackpool the other week, and Southport a few weeks before that. We don't have much sun, but we have a lot of wind!

The old joke goes that they should harness the hot air from the House of Commons during Brexit debates to solve the world's energy needs.
posted by winterhill at 3:22 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]


And then there's Time Song, a memoir-inflected essay on Doggerland by poet Julia Blackburn. It's out in the UK and will be published in the US in August.
posted by Morpeth at 4:17 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]


There's also a recent novel, Doggerland, which is set in the world of offshore wind.
posted by biffa at 4:32 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


If you look out of the window on a flight between Britain and Scandinavia, you are pretty much guaranteed to see arrays of white windmills on the sea off Denmark. There's a lot of them.

Denmark has some offshore wind and had the first offshore windfarm in the world, back in the 1990s, but most of the offshore windfarms in the North Sea now will be UK connected machines, they are installed right out into the UK's Economic zone rather than being within territorial waters. Something like 40% of global offshore wind is in UK farms, making up for the onshore dearth we are currently experiencing. The world record for largest offshore farm only went to the Walney extension last year, with it now shifting again (technically next year is it?) it gives a good idea of the big developments underway.

Most of the time, if you stand on the shoreline anywhere in England, you'll be able to see windmills off the coast.

I live in Cornwall, which is one place you can't! As someone who researches in renewable energy policy I was pretty flabbergasted to drive along the North Wales coast road and see how many wind turbines are out there now. Basically they are pretty solid from Anglesey to Liverpool. We might eventually see some offshore here if the next big thing happens, floating offshore wind, with large-scale turbines on floating platforms, left out in all weathers to enable exploitation of water depths greater than 60m.
posted by biffa at 6:05 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]


I wonder how much of our history is underwater. Early Homo sapiens migrations from Africa seem to have mostly hugged the coasts. Once having crossed from Siberia into North America, people seem to have reached southern South America very quickly, suggesting they did the same thing. Simple weirs are evidently pretty easy to make. How far back does this go?
posted by nangar at 7:07 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]




Harald74: "Here are some back-of-the-envelope calculations on how much it would cost to raise Doggerland again. Not surprisingly, the short answer is "too much"."

Never too much for Brexit Plan "D"!
posted by chavenet at 8:50 AM on May 15


Doggerland is alluded to in Edward Rutherfurd's novel Sarum, in a way that I found particularly poignant.

Like almost all of Rutherfurd's novels, it traces the course of history by following the paths of a few families in a specific part of the world - starting at some far distant time in the past and introducing us to the first couple families in the first chapter, telling a story about them in that time frame; then jumping ahead a couple hundred years or so in the next chapter, talking about the current family members in that new historic period and maybe introducing another family, then the next chapter after that is another time jump, and on and on. There are some connections between the generations in each family or some references to prior events that get alluded to in each chapter, but each chapter is its own story.

In Sarum they start off with a Neolithic family who's been living in what is now northern Britain, but hunting's been getting slim. So the father has an idea - he's heard ancestral tales of bigger and much more fertile hunting ground further to the south and east, and leads the family on a journey there. He is of course thinking of the land bridge connecting the British Isles to Europe, but because he's relying on generations-old knowledge, he has no way of knowing - until he gets to the shores of Dover - that the seas have already risen and the English channel has filled in. He and his family eventually head west along the coast and settle in the area around Avon.

But the father is so shook by what happened that he composes an epilogue to the stories he'd heard about the land bridge; he envisions it as a sudden catastrophic flood that must have happened, and talks about the waters rushing in and covering over all of the trees and birds and oxen and deer and boar and everything else that was once in those woods he had been told would be hunting ground, and faithfully recites that as oral history to his children for the rest of his life. Then in the next chapter, set about a thousand years later, there's a reference to another character singing that as a folk song, and in the following chapter there's another reference to that song as a lullaby about a mystical land under the sea; and then it drops from the story entirely.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:34 AM on May 15 [10 favorites]


Is this the future? Dutch plan vast windfarm island in North Sea.

I have seen some cynicism in the sector as to whether this is worthwhile or doable or not, or what form it will take (I'm thinking it might be less pretty...). Clearly there will be a need for some sort of substation set up but that is currently done by putting in an extra pylon with enough sea clearance and putting a substation on that. I went to a presentation on the big Doggerland windfarm proposal a while back which did play up having enough connection capacity. it was pretty interesting as despite the fact that there is expected to be a lot more interconnection (ie international electricity connections) in the North Sea area the expected capacity of those subsea cables is so far below what is needed to connect up a 4.8GW or even 7.2GW windfarm that it didn't even make it worthwhile to just hook up the cable from the windfarm with the passing interconnector. The article is talking about connecting up to 30GW of wind, which would require a serious solution to getting it to shore. It would be interesting to hear more about whether they plan enough cable capacity to pump 30GW to each of the countries mentioned in the article as necessary. 30GW plus £1.5bn for connections is a lot of investment so suggests multiple developers - if it happens it will also need some interesting regulation and contracting to keep it legit within the scope of the European energy market.
posted by biffa at 12:14 PM on May 15


About 16⅓ minutes into this Deutsche Welle documentary on alternative energy there's discussion of constructing an artificial island in the North Sea as a platform for servicing new surrounding wind farms.
posted by XMLicious at 3:30 AM on May 22


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