A Lighthouse Devoured: The story of Rubjerg Knude Fyr

9:00:00 AM


Hiking through the wind-swept deserts of... Denmark?
I first heard of Rubjerg Knude Fyr (fyr being the Danish word for lighthouse) from Danish coworkers long before I moved to Denmark.  One day one of them shared the story with me of how he proposed to his wife at a church that was slowly being buried by a moving sand dune, and I thought it was fascinating.  And strange.  Denmark is the land of Vikings, not sand dunes.

But, apparently I was wrong.


This conversation led to a longer conversation about moving sand dunes in Denmark, and to Rubjerg Knude, a lighthouse on the west coast of Denmark that was also being engulfed by a large sand dune.  By then I knew that I had to see this phenomena myself to really believe it.  So, shortly after I moved to Denmark, this was one of the first places I visited.  It was even more exciting and beautiful than I imagined. I have to visit it nearly every time we are in Denmark.  It's desolation and stark beauty never cease to amaze me.

Construction of the lighthouse began in 1899 and it lit up the night sky for the first time on December 27, 1900.  At the time it sat nearly 700 feet inland and 200 feet above sea level, and there were no sand dunes to be seen around the cliff, so you can't fault the people for thinking it would be safe.  But, overtime the wind blew and the sand shifted, and at times the light coming from the lighthouse could not be seen from the sea.  Efforts were made to halt the sand dunes, but the wind was too strong and the sand kept piling up around the lighthouse.  Finally, it ceased operating as a lighthouse in 1968, and for the next few decades the buildings were used as a coffee shop and museum.  However, the shifting sands posed too much of a danger, and so the lighthouse was completely abandoned in 2002.

The lighthouse has become a popular visitors attraction because of the ever changing scenery. These two pictures show just how much the sand dune can shift in a relatively short period of time.  The first picture was taken in September of 2006 and the second in July of 2013:





I have to admit that I get a little excited every time I see the lighthouse as we approach from the road.  It seemingly emerges from the sand like the last remnants of a lost civilization.  The landscape is both beautiful and harsh.  


These two pictures were taken on my first visit to the lighthouse in 2004:



This next set of pictures were taken on our second visit in September of 2006:






Did you notice how the buildings that were nearly completely buried in the pictures from 2004 have now reemerged just two years later?  And yes, the wind blows that strong all the time.

These next two are some of my favorite.  They are of my daughter and her Bedstefar (Peter's step-dad).  They remind me of a scene from Star Wars on the planet Tatooine.  
  


This last set of pictures are from our most recent trip in July of 2013. 









As you can see, the outbuildings have been removed and the sand dunes have once again rearranged themselves.  

And that little speck waaay down at the bottom of the dune is Emma.


I look forward to going back in another year or two to see what changes have taken place.

Today, Rubjerg Knude sits atop the cliff, awaiting it's fate.  With an average erosion rate of about 5 feet per year, and only about 60 feet left of sand between the lighthouse and the sea, it is predicated that the sea will consume the lighthouse in about 10 years or so.  It's a sad ending for such a beautiful structure.


If you would like to see Rubjerg Knud from the air, please take a moment to watch this video from YouTube, not taken by me.




Thank you for taking this brief tour with me, and if you ever find yourself in the norther part of Denmark with a day to spare, I highly recommend visiting this beautiful lighthouse before it vanishes into the sea.

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