Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Moving Island of Schiermonnikoog

Schiermonnikoog is a small island off the coast of the Netherlands that has been continuously moving to the south and the east, due to the combining effect of tidal current, prevailing wind and the sea. Just 762 years ago the island lay roughly 2 km to the north of its present position, and it had a significantly different shape. If you work out the math, that is 2.62 meters per year, on average.

The island doesn’t actually move. The sea erodes the island at one end and deposits fresh slit on the other causing the island to shift position and assume a slightly different shape each passing day. There is not much to see in the pictures though and my searches for satellite images documenting the movement of the island drew a blank.

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The name ’schiermonnikoog’ is derived from the monks who used to live on the island. "Monnik" means "monk" and "schier" is an archaic word meaning "grey", referring to the colour of the monks' habits. "oog" translates as "island". The name Schiermonnikoog therefore translates as “island of the grey monks.”

The island is small – measuring 16 km by 4 km wide and is the site of the Netherlands' first national park. The only village on the island is also called Schiermonnikoog, and about a thousand people permanently reside on the island. Because the island is small and flat, residents have to take out a special license to keep their own cars and only 200 islanders own cars here, making the few streets the island have virtually car-free.

Tourism is the main source of income on Schiermonnikoog. The island houses a campground, a ferry pier, a tidal harbour for small vessels and approximately 15 hotels and hundreds of vacation houses and apartments. Up to 300,000 people visit the island every year, staying in the 5,500 beds available in holiday homes, apartments and hotels.

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