Cultural Entities 


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1. Overview




Salt marsh islands, neighbouring entities Pellworm, Nordstrand, Südergosharde, Nordergosharde, Bökingharde, Amrum, Föhr


The still extant 10 Hallig islands vary from 7 ha (Habel) to 956 ha (Langeness), the summarized salt marsh area is 2 274 ha, dispersed over a mud flat area of roughly 20 x 30 km, also comprising the entity of Pellworm.

Location - map:

Wadden Sea Area of North Frisia, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany

Origin of name:

Frisian name for salt marsh and, later, salt marsh islands without embankments with early modern origin, meaning unknown, whereas origin of names of single islands are known, like Hooge from high land, Langeness from long nose or Oland from old land

Relationship/similarities with other cultural entities:

Dwelling mounds on salt marshes were in use everywhere along the Wadden Sea coast, but separate, other inhabited salt marsh islands (Ockholm, Galmsbüll, Fahretoft, etc.) only existed in the Bökingharde and the northern part of the Nordergosharde

Characteristic elements and ensembles:

Remains of medieval settlement in adjacent mud flats

2. Geology and geography

2.1 General
The Pleistocene basis in the underground had been eroded away by the transgression of the North Sea since the end of the ice age and was subsequently topped by layers of sediments and turfpeat. Marsh land and bogs covered the area in early and high medieval times. A barrier of sand banks and islands in the west separated this land from the open North Sea. This protection was gradually destroyed from the 11h century on. Insular salt marshes occupying large parts of the area were known as Strand from the end of the 12th century on. The Hallig islands consist of salt marshes which have formed by continuous sedimentation and erosion through over the centuries on top of remaining bits of older salt marshes, which have survived the catastrophic storm surge of 1362. The remains of the moraine core protrude higher underneath the Hallig and the marsh islands than below the adjacent mud flats and tidal inlets providing a stable basis. The layers of turfpeat underneath the medieval marsh surface reached thicknesses from of several tens of centimetres in the west to several meters in the east. Most of it was cut away by humans during medieval times. Only the salt marsh of Nordstrandischmoor has piled on top of remains of the ancient bogs.

2.2 Present landscape
Today, the large tidal inlets of Norderaue, Süderaue, Norderhever and Heverstrom together with numerous smaller tidal canals intersect a vast space of mud flats, spotted by the stains of the partially dry land of the Hallig islands and the embanked marsh island of Pellworm. The largest of the tidal inlets cut more than 20m deep into the ground more than 20m deep whereas the salt marshes stand raise up to 2m high. The landscape of the Hallig islands is dominated by the dwelling mounds with houses and few protective trees on top, which can be seen from afar. Smaller tidal inlets and often artificial canals intersect the surface. Modern, straight and asphalted roads connect the mounds. Small harbours at the shore side provide the connection to the main land. Today, Aall of the Hallig islands are today protected against further erosion by stones enforcements along the edges, yet still subject to frequent and regular flooding. Dams connect Nordstrandischmoor, Hamburger Hallig, Oland and Langeness to the main land. Habel, Südfall, Norderoog are not inhabited anymore and are part of the Wadden Sea national park. Their surface is still very uneven and much more intersected by tidal inlets. The newly gained salt marshes, especially at the western side of Oland, distinguish notably from the irregular old salt marshes by its regular canals, dividing the new land into square fields intersected by parallel ditches. The whole of the Hamburger Hallig has a similar appearance.

Tidal stream with dwelling mound in background on Hamburger Hallig. © ALSH

3. Landscape and settlement history 

3.1 Prehistoric and Medieval Times

Some finds testify first human settlement in the area for the Young Stone Age of around 2300 BC, but continuity can only be expected from Viking Age Times on. Traces of settlement west of Hooge are dated as early as the 8th century. The North Frisian Wadden Sea of this time consisted of a large expanse of marshes and bogs, cut off by the direct influence of the North Sea by sand barriers further west than the modern sand banks. However, aYet, a temporary intrusion of the sea must have caused the development of salt turfpeat along a line leading from Hooge along Nordmarsch-Langeness and Oland into the Bökingharde. Pits as traces of exploitation of salt turfpeat can still be seen along this strip in the mud flats. Other parallel ditches in the mud flats and underneath the Hallig surface display the common practice of turfpeat cutting in order to reach the underlying fertile clay. The turfpeat was then disposed of in the ditches. These structures were intersected into rectangular areas by low embankments spotted with dwelling mounds for the farms. Other mounds were larger or combined several single mounds into a village mound. Especially the mud flats north of Habel bore ample signs of this high medieval landscape. These dwelling mounds were only raised from the late 12th century on as reaction of an increasing influence from the open sea as the protective sand barriers yielded more and more. These settlements oriented along tidal inlets, which seemed to distribute them rather randomly. It was only then, when the area of legendary Rungholt south-west of Südfall became inhabited. At this time the expansive marshland area was already intersected into islands by tidal inlets, the largest of which was called the Iisland of Strand, covering most of the area of the Hallig and the marsh islands, while the locations of others remain unknown.
The first embankments to protect against the rising sea can also be assigned to the 12th century, proving that the early dwelling mounds in the area were already protected by dikes, unlike today. When in 1362 the catastrophic flood of the Grode Mandtränke stroke the area, it destroyed Rungholt and large parts of the embanked marsh land, leaving behind a multitude of Hallig islands and remnants of the older marshes.
Subsequently, the salt marshes of the Hallig islands were raised on top of the destroyed cultivated land by sedimentation through frequent flooding. Other parts, like the island of so-called Alt-Nordstrand or Strand was were embanked again. The continuing loss of unprotected land often afforded mounds to be re-built more inland. Most of the mounds on the Hallig islands thus virtually moved with a newly heaped mound while the ancestor was left to the waves. This process can even be tracked today as vestiges of predecessors of some of the existing mounds still show in the adjacent mud flats. Land use of the time and till today was has been mostly restricted to mowing and cattle as well as and sheep breeding due to the recurrent flooding. However, some small polders for agriculture of probably late medieval origin, still exist on Hooge and Langeness adjacent to dwelling mounds like Hanswarft, and are now largely buried under the clay brought in throughout the centuries. The land was used as common which had to be divided each spring anew among the inhabitants in order to make up for the loss of salt marshes during the cold season and thus remained undivided by ditches.

3.2 Early Modern Times
The storm surge of 1634 marked another important event in the landscape history of the Wadden Sea area of North Frisia when the old island of Alt-Nordstrand was lost to the waves and only few remaining bits of the marshland could be embanked again in the ensuing years. Besides the marsh islands of Pellworm and Nordstrand, it was a vestige of medieval raised bogs that survived, heightened by accumulated clay, as Hallig island of Nordstrandischmoor. The belfry of the church, which survived the catastrophe, crumbled later, but the remarkable cemetery with its horizontal tombstones is still abiding there today. During the following centuries, the small islands further decreased in size by the constant break up of salt marshes along the unprotected edges. Further dwelling mounds, erected on the comparatively high soil along the edges of the Halligen, had to be abandoned and rebuilt farther inland. The same procedure even applied to churches, like the one on Gröde of late 18th century origin, which is allegedly already the 7th reconstruction. Therefore, the churches were simple hall constructions without belfriesy, which was were often added as detached frame still to be seen on Oland and Langeness. The farms were built in the style typical for the region, threathendthreatened by storm surges, the so-called Uthlande style. Due to the numerous heavy floods, even in modern times, only few have survived, especially on Langeness, like Haus Tadsen from the 18th century hosting a museum today.
The number of Halligen of those times itself was much greater than today. The Beenshallig, for instance, south of Gröde, had disappeared by the end of the 19th century.

Former Hallig island of Beenshallig south of Gröde at the end of the 19th century and present shoreline for comparison. © LVermA-SH

Besides the decreasing size also the shape of the Hallig islands had changed considerably. At the end of the 18th century, Gröde and Appelland, today unified, were then two totally separate islands, the latter already uninhabited, but with a still extant dwelling mound. Two older mounds were visible in the mud flats west of Neuwarft on Gröde. Wide tidal canals separated the Halligen of Nordmarsch, Langeness and Butwehl, which are still extant, even though much narrower. The connection to the mainland was provideds by boats fastened to small moles at larger tidal inlets on which’s high banks the mounds were piled-up. Habitation, as earlier, was only possible on dwelling mounds and fresh water had to be procured by deep pools dug into the mounds, the Fethinge, and embanked areas at the foot of the mounds, Scheetels, connected to the Fethinge. Especially the former have survived modernisation in comparatively large number, like on the abandoned Pohnswarft on Hooge, but also between modern houses as on Ketelswarft on Langeness, where also traces of Scheetels remained. Pools protected by ring dikes provided fresh water even outside the dwelling mounds and are also still extant on some occasions especially on Hooge.

Large tidal stream and dwelling mounds on Hallig Hooge. © ALSH

Farms were connected by footpaths on the higher banks of tidal canals or the edges of the islands, which crossed the numerous tidal inlets via movable wooden bridges. These features have totally disappeared today. A considerable wealth was gained from the early 17th till the end of the 18th century by some of the inhabitants through seafaring and whaling, whereas their wivfes had to stay on the islands in order to care for the animals. Some splendid vestiges like the Königspesel on Hooge, a richly ornamented room for special occasions, tell of these times. Others fell into poverty as the constant loss of land bereft them of their share of the land, which was not at all equally divided amongst the islanders. The collection of wild plants and birds eggs used to be, besides fishing and stock breeding, an important means of subsistence for many of the inhabitants up into the 20th century.

3.3 Modern Times
Another storm tide marked the beginning of the modern time in the Halligen area. This so-called Hallig -flood of 1825 destroyed 90% of the old farmsteads on their mounds, leaving Südfall, where all people died, uninhabited, except for the short episode of the so–called Hallig duchess in the early 20th century. It was around that time when the importance of the slowly vanishing Hallig islands as wave breaker in front of the mainland marshes received recognition, but it took till the end of the century, when the area belonged to the new German state, to start with the protection of the Hallig shores with stones. This measure finally managed to stop the loss of salt marshes but at the same time brought an end to the characteristic transitional zone between mud flats and salt marshes, where both had merged gradually into each other. Since then the size of the Hallig islands has more or less stayed the same. The wide mouths of large tidal canals, which cut through the patches of salt marshes, were blocked by sluices during the ensuing decades, leading to sedimentation of tidal inlets, some now not more than meandering ditches. Thus, the small harbours belonging to each dwelling mound before had to be substituted by common harbours behind the new sluices, as on Gröde, or in small, protected bays, as on Oland.

Hallig island of Nordstrandischmoor, developed on peat of the medieval island of Strand. © ALSH

From around 1900, Oland and Langeness, later also Hamburger Hallig and Nordstrandischmoor, became connected to the mainland by dams causeways on which narrow gauge railways have run since the 1920ies. This offered better accessibility and has also led to further accumulation of salt marshes.

Narrow gauge railways which connects Oland and Langeness to the mainland since the 1920ies. © ALSH

The secured shoreline also finished a process during which some Hallig islands had grown together gradually. Langeness, Nordmarsch and Buthwehl, before separated by rather wide channels, were combined into one large island, as well as Gröde and the salt marshes of Appelland.

.The division of Langeness into separate islands was still visible at the end of the 19th century © LVermA-SH

The 1930ies also saw an end put to the traditional way of sharing the land between the inhabitants every year. As the size of the islands didn’t not decline any morefurther, this seemed unnecessary. Many ditches were dug on Hooge by massive support of labour under the early Nazi regime in order to divide the land, whereas on the other islands these structures remained scarce as the shift to land devisiondivision took place later. Only on Gröde the traditional land use has been retained till today. Land reclamation measures around the islands have, at some places as Oland and Nordstrandischmoor, led to new salt marshes in the west. This land is characterised by its regular structure, originating in groynes, the parallel fences and embankments reaching into the mud flats and made in order to promote sedimentation, as well as the parallel ditches dug into the new salt marshes to accelerate drainage.

4. Modern development and planning

4.1 Land use
The focus of land use has shifted very much from cattle breeding to nature and coastal protection in recent decades. All of the small and uninhabited Hallig islands, like Südfall, Hamburger Hallig and Norderoog are bird sanctuaries with only an observation ward, inhabited during the warm summer saison. Only Süderoog is used for organic agriculture, even though it is also part of the national park.
The decline of local agriculture is mostly due to high costs of transport and good income gained by tourism. The extensive stock breeding has always depended largely on animals from the mainland, which are brought to the Hallig islands only for grazing during the summer. This is still the case, with different varying ratios of self-owned to external-owned cattle between the islands. Damages by birds and storm floods to the pastures are being reimbursed to the farmers. Fishery for self supply is still possible on limited scale. Land owners also receive money as contractors to nature protection for pastures left unused.
During the last round about 150 years the importance of the Hallig islands for coastal protection has increased steadily. They are important as vanguard for the mainland in order to lessen the impact of storm surges. Therefore many islanders are at least partially employed by the state for coastal protection works like maintaining the concrete protection of the shores and land reclamation measures. Summer dikes around the whole islands have reduced the number of times the islands are flooded annually, sometimes e.g. to 2-3 times on Hooge due to its high embankmentduring the year as with the high embankment around Hooge. Since 1976, the dwelling mounds have been extended and sourrounded by a ring dike for protection against the increasing flood level, which has also risen because of large embankment projects like Beltringharder Koog in front of the mainland marshes. Traditional highteningheightening of the mounds was not possible anymore without disassembling the houses. This process hasn’t been finished yet and the mound of Mittelritt/Lorenzwarft on Hooge is currently under construction.
The unique traces of medieval and early modern settlement in the mud flats, which have been revealed over the last decades are now about to become disguised again by increasing sedimentation in these areas.

4.2 Settlement development
The storm surge of 1962 has left many houses, especially on Hooge, in ruins. They had to be substituted by modern constructions, which have a central, supporting frame of concrete and a shelter in. the attic. The islands have received fresh water and power connections with the mainland only in the years after 1953. Naturally, the space for building is restricted to the dwelling mounds and cannot be extended. Those buildings, which haven’t not been substituted by modern ones, are have often been much altered significantly and made suitableadapted forto the recent purposesrequirements. Therefore the actual building structure is mostly influenced by tourism and, still, protection against storm floods. Three small museums exist on Langeness, while Hooge has two, together with a cinema, which giviprovidesng an impressions of the storm surges. The focus of tourism differs strongly from island to island. Hooge is the most touristic of all Hallig islands with the highest rate of daily visitors, while Langeness, the largest of these islands, has put more emphasis on long term tourism.

4.3 Industry and energy
Wind power generators are not allowed in this entity. No industry has ever set foot on the Hallig islands up to now nor is it planned that it will to do so, in the future.

4.4 Infrastructure
The traffic between the Hallig islands and the mainland is either done performed by via ferries, mostly from the harbours of Schlüttsiel and Dagebüll, or by via narrow gauge railways to those islands, that are connected by a dam. The marine connection to the larger Hallig islands like Langeness and Hooge is tide independent due to long moles reaching out to tidal canals, while the other islands can only be reached at high tide. The railways are only accessible at low tide. New roads had to be built to cope with the use of cars, now paved and fitted with fixed bridges. These roads are running straight across the islands, disregarding the traditional courses on high banks, which often leaves them submerged in the cold seasons for a longer time.

5. Legal and Spatial Planning Aspects

The Wadden Sea area around the Halligen and all of the uninhabited Halligen and Süderoog are part of the Wadden Sea national park of Schleswig-Holstein, which, in principle, aims for a natural landscape without human made aspects. . The major part of the mud flats around the Hallig islands is archaeological protection area. The Hallig islands of Hooge, Langeness and Oland are also focus area for tourism, requiring specific co-ordination of touristic building measures with the aim to keep still existing free spaces on the dwelling mounds. Further more, Hamburger Hallig is nature protection area, Nordstrandischmoor, Gröde, Hooge, Langeneß and Oland are also areas of international significance for bird protection according to the Ramsar convention and Natura 2000. Hooge is rated suitable as landscape protection area. A recent discussion about the extension of the biospheric reservation of the Wadden Sea to the Hallig islands has even led to a common application of the islanders for this extension eventually, taking account of the resistance and reluctance of many inhabitants. A model of the landscape framework plan for the Hallig islands is focusing strongly on the natural aspects of landscape, yet calling it cultural landscape.


6. Vulnerabilities

Much of the unique situation of the Hallig islands with their shifting and soft borders between salt marsh and mud flats, as well as their large, intersecting tidal inlets and major parts of the traditional culture have been lost through modernisation and coastal protection, especially during the last decades. Thus, at the Hanswarft on Hooge, one of the rare freshwater collection systems, a so-called Scheetels, vanished only recently due to an extension of the mound. Still in certain danger are elements of the indigenous local history which are in competition with buildings and infrastructure for the limited space on the dwelling mounds. This pressure was largely put up by the increased focus on tourism, which, in itself, has also changed the landscape with infrastructural measures, especially on Hooge, the island with the highest rate of daily visitors. These tourism-oriented actions, even if integrating cultural aspects, are often not sufficiently co-ordinated with respective experts. Cultural heritage still has only relatively low priority on the Halligen, contrasting its importance for tourism. No integrated development and tourism concept thus exists, also incorporating integrating cultural heritage. An important attempt in the 1980ties was unfortunately dumped, which included, for instance, proposals for adapting modern buildings with little effort to traditional styles. More Increasing daily tourism canould expel visitors looking for tranquillity. Historic landscape elements within the area of the national park Wadden Sea may be threatened by extinction by measurements in order to create a purely natural environment.

7. Potentials

The Hallig islands with their repeatedly flooded salt marshes are still an area of a unique and impressive cultural landscape, certainly an asset. The difficult accessibility via water, track or, sometimes, mud flats, turn out to beis positive for those visitors seeking secluded recreation and relaxation. Thus, the Hallig islands, especially the smaller ones, have already a high percentage of regulars. This should naturally lead to more sustainable, integrated forms of tourism, partially already practised, as the limit for capacity growth for sustainable tourism is has already been reached. Respective concepts, also taking account of the cultural historic assets of the area as part of high quality tourist offers, are therefore necessary, as a study of 2004 already underlines. The local use of local products, e.g. in gastronomy, and its commercialisation still bears potential for growth and can strengthen traditional forms of land use, which are in return important for the the local picturelocal landscape. The Hallig foundation was constituted in 1990 in order to promote local cultural heritage and is therefore important for integrated concepts. The idea of a political association to co-ordinate local development can further this process. Besides nature trails, a culture trail can also strongly contribute to the reception of landscape. An involvement of experts is recommended in this respect.

8. Sources

Author: Matthias Maluck

General literature:
Vollmer, et. al. (eds.) 2001. Landscape and Cultural Heritage in the Wadden Sea Region – Project Report. Wadden Sea Ecosystem No. 12. Common Wadden Sea Secretariat. Wilhelmshaven, Germany.
Innenministerium des Landes Schleswig-Holstein (eds.) 2004. Regionalplan für den Planungsraum V, Amendment File.
Ministerium für Umwelt, Natur und Forsten des Landes Schleswig-Holstein (eds.) 2002. Landschaftsrahmenplan für den Planungsraum V. Kiel.
Kunz, Panten. Die Köge Nordfrieslands (Bredstedt 1997)
Bantelmann, A, et. al. (ed.). Das große Nordfrieslandbuch (Bredstedt 2000)
Gemeinsames Wattenmeer Sekretariat (ed.) 2005. Das Wattenmeer. Theiss Verlag Stuttgart.
M. Müller-Wille, B. Higelke, etc. (eds.), Norderhever-Projekt, Offa 66 (Neumünster 1988)
Albert Bantelmann, Rolf Kuschert, Albert Panten, Thomas Steensen. Geschichte Nordfrieslands. (Heide 1996)
Albert Bantelmann: Nordfriesland in vorgeschichtlicher Zeit. (Bräist/Bredstedt 2003))
Chamber of agriculture Schleswig-Holstein, Machbarkeitsstudie zur Entwicklung der Halliglandwirtschaft für die Halligen Gröde, Hooge, Langeneß, Nordstrandischmoor und Oland (2002)
Katrin Augsburg,B. Eisenstein, Max Triphaus. Weiterentwicklung der touristischen Organisationsstrukturen der Nordfriesischen Halligen (Study ordered by Stiftung Nordfriesische Halligen) (2004)
U. Harth. Der Untergang der Halligen (Hamburg 1992)
M. Petersen. Die Halligen (Neumünster 1981)

Archaeological monument record of Schleswig-Holstein and gis mapping
Lancewad data base and gis maps
Royal Prussian ordnance survey of 1879