Atlantis found! Wait, there is another one. No, 12 in total...

September 16, 2017

Frisia could easily claim the title: land of Atlantis. 12 inhabited islands and 244 villages drowned along the old Frisian coast in the past 1,500 years. We bet there are more out there...



Atlantis emerged in the writings of Greek philosopher Plato. That was around 350 BC. 


In two of his dialogues, the "Temaeus" and the "Critas", he mentions the lost city. Atlantis was not only known for its mysterious civilisation, but even more for its cataclysmic destruction some 7,000 years earlier.


Plato told the founders of Atlantis were half god and half human. They were a great naval power. A group of islands formed Atlantis. The islands kept gold, silver, and other precious metals.


Well, to me that sounds Atlantis was Frisian ;-)


However, according to National Geographic Plato's story it is almost certainly false


Then why are we still looking for Atlantis for more than 2,300 years?


If you want our answer for it: "There have been many cities washed away overnight all over the world. Atlantis serves a verbal memorial for all those cities lost. We should look for them to learn from them. Certainly in times of climate change".


Here is an example for you. Enter Jack Sparrow. He attacked with his Black Pearl Port Royale in the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean". Port Royale, or Port Royal, is actually in Jamaica. It really exists.


Port Royal had been held by the Spanish since Columbus first called it “the fairest island eyes have beheld” in 1494. When it came under English power in 1655, it became the pirate capital of the world. Dozens of bars, brothels and gambling houses. Game On!


Port Royal was sitting on a long sandy strip of land, surrounded by sea. In 1692 the earthquake permanently flooded large parts of Port Royal. For the "Sodom of the New World" it was 'Game Over'.


It was also 'rien ne va plus' for captain Jack Sparrow. He was out of job. Since scuba diving tours to the drowned taverns of Port Royal was not a business back in those days, he had to look for a new postion.


If he were a wise man, he would have joined his fellow 'kapers' in Dunkirk and Ostende, in Belgium. Kapers are the European pirates. The word 'kaper' seems to originate from the Frisian word 'kâpia', which means 'to buy'. Yeah right.


From Ostende nothwards, it turns out there were many places similarly situated as Port Royal, on long sandy strips. We count 12 islands in total. All islands were severely threathened by the sea for centuries. All suffered from huge floods, just like Port Royal and Atlantis.


And if the large amount of drowned islands are not enough to claim the title of "land of Atlantis", here is a mind blowing list of 244 villages lost to floods in the coastal area (and counting!). Bizar.


Back to the drowned island, one island was saved by the Frisians. The others were, if not totally washed away by the sea, at least completely uninhabitable. Almost all islands were lost overnight by gigantic floods. One was slowly strangled by the sea.


Here is the, probably incomplete, list. Note: If you know a drowned island along the Frisia Coast, then please let us know!


1. Testerep - partially lost island - Thanks for the tip Jouke Hoekstra.


This island takes us to the most southern part of the old Waddensea and our Frisia Coast Trail hike. It takes us to Ostende, to be precise. Ostende was originally located some hundred meters into the sea. It was the actual east end (this is exactly what Ost-Ende means) of the island Testerep. In the 5th and 6th century Testerep evolved into a 15 kilometer long island due to the sea adding sand to it. Quite a few villages thrived on Testerep, like Mariakerke, Westende, Middelkerke, Walraversijde and Raversijde.


In 992, Flemish counts allowed the Saint-Peter abbey of the city Gent to hurd their sheep on it. 

The sudden end of Testerep is caused by the terrible Saint-Vincentius storm in the night of the 22th of January in 1394. There are no records of casualties, which does not mean there were none.
Do you want to learn more about Testerep? Please find amazing pictures and animations here by the Flemish TV broadcasting Company VRT.



Frisia Coast Trail Stage 1: Zwin, Gent (Belgium)


2. Wulpen - total loss

Wulpen was a island next to Waterdunen, located right in the middle of the Westerschelde. The main place of Wulpen was Sint-Lambert. There were three other places, called Westende, Avenkerke (a.k.a. Brielle) and Runckendorp. St. Lambert had its own hospital. In 1292 it was listed as "Sancte Marie in Wlpis". The Hedensee separated the islands Coezand and Wulpen from each other. After the island flooded it was attached to the island of Wulpen by diking.


From old scriptures it is mentioned that Normans inhabitated the island first. Around the year 690 Willibrord visited the island. He then moved on to Walichrum. Another source dating from 1089 mentions a church on the island Wulpen. In the 13th century a second church surfaces indicating the island was densily populated. Outside the two churches, an abbey and castle were mentioned in the the 12th century.


The Dionysius- or Martiniflood of 1377 destroyed the largest part of the island. The villages of Westende, Avenkerke and Runckendorp were gone forever. According to some sources a village called Remboudsdorpe was lost in 1345. We assume either Runckendorp and Remboudsdorpe were one and the same, or there were 5 villages on Wulpen.


The eastern part of Wulpen survives the flood. Apparently the island is still worhtwhile enough to be luted. In 1436 an English army takes all that is left. Half a century later in October 1513 the sea destroyes the rest of the island. Some sources indicate that in 1516 St. Lambert-Wulpen was the last village of the island that was devastated by the sea. The island of Wulpen itself vanished in the waves during the All Saints' Flood (Allerheiligenvloed) of 1570.


Frisia Coast Trail Stage 1: Zwin, Gent (Belgium)


3. Waterdunen - lost twice

This island was a hard nut to crack for the North Sea. It needed two floods to swallow it. Waterdunen was an island in mouth of the Westerschelde. It has been located in between the islands of Wulpen and Koezand, right in the middle of the sea.


Old tax records show that Waterdunen wasn't a small island. The island paid more tax than for example IJzendijke and Biervliet. According to the sources Waterdunen was swallowed by the sea in 1357. However, the island, or what was left of it, was re-diked. There was even a new parish founded on the island. This "second" Waterdunen vanished at the end of the 15th century in the waves of the North Sea.


Frisia Coast Trail Stage 1: Zwin, Gent (Belgium)


4. Koezand - lost island

North east of Wulpen was the island Koezand, at the south of Walichrum. In between Wulpen and Koezand the island of Waterdunen could be found. In 1244 dikes for protection were built for the island Koezand. A hard battle followed to save the island from the sea. In 1276 the tenants could no more produce the costs of the dike. The rent value was halved.


In the spring of 1344 new dike-builders arrived on the mudflats of Koezand. The initiative was taken by 4 private investors, among which an official of the town of Brugge. The charter describing the endiking of Koezand is the first written source sharing the measurements of sea dikes, 3 meter high (10 feet) and 2 meter width (7 foot). The organisation of the polder governing board was regulated in detail. In the first years there were 28 farmer tenants on Koezand.

Soon the island lost the battle with the sea. A sea arm called the Hedensee separated the islands Koezand and Wulpen from each other. After the island flooded it was attached to the island of Wulpen by diking. Koezand vanished in the waves during the All Saints' Flood (Allerheiligenvloed) of 1570.


Frisia Coast Trail Stage 1: Zwin, Gent (Belgium)


5. Walichrum - partially lost

In the 6th and 7th century, the time the Frisians expanded towards to the south, the current island Walcheren, or Walacria, became inhabited. A wealthy trading place called, Walichrum was situated between the current Domburg and Oostkapelle. Just like Testerep, it originally lied more towards the west, in the sea. It became probably one of the most important trading places in the Frisian, Meroving and Karoling empires. Similar to Port Royal, Walichrum was a kind of Sodom of this part of Europe. It was Willibrordus, Apostle to the Frisians, who brought Walcheren to the attention at the end of the 7th century.


Nevertheless, for centuries Walichrum was a forgotten place. In the 17th and 19th century it was documented on a map of Visscher-Roman (around 1650) as "Verdronken Woninge der Oude Gotthen" (Drowned houses of the old Goths).


As of January 1647 until today impressive and numerous artefacts were found. Two burial sites, two huge stones with the images of the goddess Nehalennia, 330 altars and altar fragments were recovered from sea. This must have been a very wealthy place. Did Finn Folcwaldin perhaps built his Finnsburgh here?


Frisia Coast Trail Stage 1: Zwin, Gent (Belgium)


6. Reimerswaal - lost island 

The origin of Reimerswaal, also known as Rommerswael or Reymerswael, is unknown. It was first mentioned  in 1203, when a citizin of Reimerswaal surfaced in a document. Reimerswaal was one of the three wealthy cities in the area, together with Middelburg and Zierikzee. In 1375 it obtained the offcial rights of a city.


Reimerswael suffered a slow and agonizing death. The first two floods basically marked the beginning of the end. The Saint Felix's flood on Saturday 5th of November 1530 the land around the city was washed away. This day became known as Black Sabbath, or Quade Saterdach. Mother nature did not leave the city time to restore its dikes.


On the 2nd of November in 1532 a flood -name unknown- made Reimerswael to an island. Storms in in 1551, 1555, 1557, 1561 and 1563 made most citizens flee the city for good. It is documented that on March the 20th of 1631 Reijmerswael has been abandoned. Well, by citizens that is. It became a perfect storage location for Spanish prisoners of war. In 1632 the street stones were auctioned. In the early 18th century the sea swallowed the city, or what was left of it. Today, the remains can only be seen by low tide.


Here is a list 117 (!) villages lost to floods in Zeeland.


Frisia Coast Trail Stage 1: Zwin, Gent (Belgium)


7. Wieringen - lost and found island


Wieringen was first mentioned in the 8th century. It was referenced as "Wiron" or "pagus Wirense" in Latin. It appeared in a list of property and was owned by the monastery at Fulda. Probably the name came from Old Frisian wîr = "height". From 1200 it was also named Wieringen.



The island got separated by water from the mainland around 1200. That was due to a disastrous All Saints' Flood (1170). A large amount of villages shows the wealth of Wieringen, like Westerland, Oosterland, Stroe, Hyppolytushoef, Den Oever. 


In 1996 Viking silver treasure was found in a pasture at the hamlet of Westerklief. How about that, Jack Sparrow?


By draining, dikes and landfill between 1924 and 1932, the island 'grew' back to the mainland. Still today, you can walk the entire former coastal route.


Frisia Coast Trail Stage 3: IJ, Velsen (the Netherlands)



8. Griend - pretty lost


The island Griend is actually regarded as a hallig. All halligen are islands, but not all islands are halligen. A hallig submerges partially during floods.


The island Griend is also known as Gryn. In the Middle Ages gates and a wall protected two churches, an abbey and dozens of houses. It marked a thriving city. It even had two man made canals, which helped commerce, but probably weakened the city and killed the island after all.


On the 14th of December 1287 the settlement was almost completely destroyed after the Saint Lucia's flood. After centuries of abandonment it became inhabited again by a few farmers in the eighteenth century. Nevertheless, the Griend coninuously eroded. Around 1800, all of its inhabitants had abandoned the island.


Frisia Coast Trail Stage 4: Vlie, Wieringen (the Netherlands)



9. Moenkenlangenoe - somewhat lost


Monnikenlangenoog was between 12 to 15 km long. One village existed on the island. During the summers, it was used for animal farming. In the 14th century, the island was the property of two abbeys. One located in Rottum, the other one located in Kloosterburen, both on the mainland.



Between 1400 and 1570, Monnikenlangenoog broke into two new islands. One is the current island of Rottumeroog. The other one was called Bosch. Rottumeroog still remains today, but Bosch has disappeared.

Frisia Coast Trail Stage 5: Lauwers, Moddergat (the Netherlands)



10. Bosch - total loss


Little is known about the island Bosch. On some old maps the village, called Corresand of Koresand, is mentioned. So little is known about Corresant, that some even speculate it was an island of its own.


The All Saints flood washed the island largely away in 1570. All dunes and buildings were destroyed. It became uninhabitable.


Btw, don't confuse this flood with the one from 1170 which carries the same name. That one threatened Wieringen, remember?


Around 1630, tidal dynamics made the island Bosch even grow a bit, as sand accumulated. That is when one family lived on the island. However, the Christmas Flood of 1717 washed to island away for good.


Frisia Coast Trail Stage 5: Lauwers, Moddergat (the Netherlands)




11. Heffesandt - total loss


Similar to Bosch, even less is known about the island Heffesandt. The name derives from Old Frisian. The word 'hef' refers to 'sea'.


The Abbey of Aduard in Groningen had fishing rights in the waters around Heffesandt. Later it also obtained the rights to own the island as a whole. In 1535, the abbey gave away those rights.

From studying archives, it became clear that the island was lost in the same flood as Bosch, the All Saints flood in 1570.


Frisia Coast Trail Stage 5: Lauwers, Moddergat (the Netherlands)




12. Rungholt- total loss


Rungholt's exact location remains still unclear. But it is widely accepted that Rungholt did in fact exist. Rungholt was a trading town of Frisia at the island Strand in North Friesland. Strand is a hallig, just like the Griend. Rungholt might have contained up to 500 houses, with about 3,000 people. 

The thriving and wealthy town of Rungholt disappeared overnight in the year AD 1362. On 14 January 1362 a very destructive hurricane hit Rungholt. The storm hit the town of Rungholt at 17:00 hours and two hours later the flood reached its height.


The flood was called the 'Great Drowning of Men' or 'Saint Marcellus’ Flood'. It took huge chunks of fertile land and cattle. The flood took some tens of thousands of human lives in total.

Humans were partially to blame here, like with the Griend hallig. For the commercial salt exploitation they had digged the peat away and exposed the remaining peat to the grasp of the sea.


Compared to the other lost islands, a lot of research has been done on Rungholt. For that reason we have dedicated a special blog post about Rungholt. The post contains more details and a link to a great video about Rungholt. Highly recommended!


Frisia Coast Trail Stage 8: Eider, Husum (Germany)



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