1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Frisian Islands

FRISIAN ISLANDS, a chain of islands, lying from 3 to 20 m. from the mainland, and stretching from the Zuider Zee E. and N. as far as Jutland, along the coasts of Holland and Germany. They are divided into three groups:—(1) The West Frisian, (2) the East Frisian, and (3) the North Frisian.

The chain of the Frisian Islands marks the outer fringe of the former continental coast-line, and is separated from the mainland by shallows, known as Wadden or Watten, answering to the maria vadosa of the Romans. Notwithstanding the protection afforded by sand-dunes and earthen embankments backed by stones and timber, the Frisian Islands are slowly but surely crumbling away under the persistent attacks of storm and flood, and the old Frisian proverb “de nich will diken mut wiken” (“who will not build dikes must go away”) still holds good. Many of the Frisian legends and folk-songs deal with the submerged villages and hamlets, which lie buried beneath the treacherous waters of the Wadden. Heinrich Heine made use of these legends in his Nordseebilder, composed during a visit to Norderney in 1825. The Prussian and Dutch governments annually expend large sums for the protection of the islands, and in some cases the erosion on the seaward side is counterbalanced by the accretion of land on the inner side, fine sandy beaches being formed well suited for sea-bathing, which attracts many visitors in summer. The inhabitants of these islands support themselves by seafaring, pilotage, grazing of cattle and sheep, fishing and a little agriculture, chiefly potato-growing.

The islands, though well lighted, are dangerous to navigation, and a glance at a wreck chart will show the entire chain to be densely dotted. One of the most remarkable disasters was the loss of H.M.S. “La Lutine,” 32 guns, which was wrecked off Vlieland in October 1799, only one hand being saved, who died before reaching England. “La Lutine,” which had been captured from the French by Admiral Duncan, was carrying a large quantity of bullion and specie, which was underwritten at Lloyd’s. The Dutch government claimed the wreck and granted one-third of the salvage to bullion-fishers. Occasional recoveries were made of small quantities which led to repeated disputes and discussions, until eventually the king of the Netherlands ceded to Great Britain, for Lloyd’s, half the remainder of the wreck. A Dutch salvage company, which began operations in August 1857, recovered £99,893 in the course of two years, but it was estimated that some £1,175,000 are still unaccounted for. The ship’s rudder, which was recovered in 1859, has been fashioned into a chair and a table, now in the possession of Lloyd’s.

The West Frisian Islands belong to the kingdom of the Netherlands, and embrace Texel or Tessel (71 sq. m.), Vlieland (19 sq. m.), Terschelling (41 sq. m.), Ameland (23 sq. m.), Schiermonnikoog (19 sq. m.), as well as the much smaller islands of Boschplaat and Rottum, which are practically West Frisian. uninhabited. The northern end of Texel is called Eierland, or “island of eggs,” in reference to the large number of sea-birds’ eggs which are found there. It was joined to Texel by a sand-dike in 1629–1630, and is now undistinguishable from the main island. Texel was already separated from the mainland in the 8th century, but remained a Frisian province and countship, which once extended as far as Alkmaar in North Holland, until it came into the possession of the counts of Holland. The island was occupied by British troops from August to December 1799. The village of Oude Schild has a harbour. The island of Terschelling once formed a separate lordship, but was sold to the states of Holland. The principal village of West-Terschelling has a harbour. As early as the beginning of the 9th century Ameland was a lordship of the influential family of Cammingha who held immediately of the emperor, and in recognition of their independence the Amelanders were in 1369 declared to be neutral in the fighting between Holland and Friesland, while Cromwell made the same declaration in 1654 with respect to the war between England and the United Netherlands. The castle of the Camminghas in the village of Ballum remained standing till 1810, and finally disappeared in 1829 after four centuries. This island is joined to the mainland of Friesland by a stone dike constructed in 1873 for the purpose of promoting the deposit of mud. The island of Schiermonnikoog has a village and a lighthouse. Rottum was once the property of the ancient abbey at Rottum, 8 m. N. of Groningen, of which there are slight remains.

With the exception of Wangeroog, which belongs to the grand duchy of Oldenburg, the East Frisian Islands belong to Prussia. They comprise Borkum (121/2 sq. m.), with two lighthouses and connected by steamer with Emden and Leer; Memmert; Juist (21/4 sq. m.), with two East
lifeboat stations, and connected by steamer with Norddeich and Greetsiel; Norderney (51/2 sq. m.); Baltrum, with a lifeboat station; Langeoog (8 sq. m.), connected by steamer with the adjacent islands, and with Bensersiel on the mainland; Spiekeroog (4 sq. m.), with a tramway for conveyance to the bathing beach, and connected by steamer with Carolinenziel; and Wangeroog (2 sq. m.), with a lighthouse and lifeboat station. All these islands are visited for sea-bathing. In the beginning of the 18th century Wangeroog comprised eight times its present area. Borkum and Juist are two surviving fragments of the original island of Borkum (computed at 380 sq. m.), known to Drusus as Fabaria, and to Pliny as Burchana, which was rent asunder by the sea in 1170. Neuwerk and Scharhörn, situated off the mouth of the Elbe, are islands belonging to the state of Hamburg. Neuwerk, containing some marshland protected by dikes, has two lighthouses and a lifeboat station. At low water it can be reached from Duhnen by carriage.

About the year 1250 the area of the North Frisian Islands was estimated at 1065 sq. m.; by 1850 this had diminished to only 105 sq. m. This group embraces the islands of Nordstrand (171/4 sq. m.), which up to 1634 formed one larger island with the adjoining Pohnshallig and North Frisian. Nordstrandisch-Moor; Pellworm (161/4 sq. m.), protected by a circle of dikes and connected by steamer with Husum on the mainland; Amrum (101/2 sq. m.); Föhr (32 sq. m.); Sylt (38 sq. m.); Röm (16 sq. m.), with several villages, the principal of which is Kirkeby; Fanö (21 sq. m.); and Heligoland (1/4 sq. m.). With the exception of Fanö, which is Danish, all these islands belong to Prussia. In the North Frisian group there are also several smaller islands called Halligen. These rise generally only a few feet above the level of the sea, and are crowned by a single house standing on an artificial mound and protected by a surrounding dike or embankment.

Bibliography.—Staring, De Bodem van Nederland (1856); Blink, Nederland en zijne Bewoners (1892); P. H. Witkamp, Aardrijkskundig Woordenboek van Nederland (1895); P. W. J. Teding van Berkhout, De Landaanwinning op de Friesche Wadden (1869); J. de Vries and T. Focken, Ostfriesland (1881); Dr D. F. Buitenrust Hettema, Fryske Bybleteek (Utrecht, 1895); Dr Eugen Traeger, Die Halligen der Nordsee (Stuttgart, 1892); also Globus, vol. lxxviii. (1900), No. 15; P. Axelsen, in Deut. Rundschau für Geog. u. Statistik (1898); Christian Jensen, Vom Dünenstrand der Nordsee und vom Wattenmeer (Schleswig, 1901), which contains a bibliography; Osterloh, Wangeroog und sein Seebad (Emden, 1884); Zwickert, Führer durch das Nordseebad Wangeroog (Oldenburg, 1894); Nellner, Die Nordseeinsel Spiekeroog (Emden, 1884); Tongers, Die Nordseeinsel Langeoog (2nd ed., Norden, 1892); Meier, Die Nordseeinsel Borkum (10th ed., Emden, 1894); Herquet, Die Insel Borkum, &c. (Emden, 1886); Scherz, Die Nordseeinsel Juist (2nd ed., Norden, 1893); von Bertouch, Vor 40 Jahren: Natur und Kultur auf der Insel Nordstrand (Weimar, 1891); W. G. Black, Heligoland and the Islands of the North Sea (Glasgow, 1888).