Schokland: old stories on new land


De Misthoorn: retired foghorn and listed building

Atop the mound, the Misthoorn blushes in a soft orange. The rising sun casts the stones of the tiny square building in a peachy light and inside the shadows of the window panes are reflected on the bare stone floor. A long line of white-tipped bollards leads to … indeed, to what or where?

In times past, the Misthoorn contained a compressor that loudly released air through a horn on the roof. To alarm ships of the nearby coast.

In times past, islanders danced on the narrow wooden planks between the bollards.

But times past are gone, and besides some visitor information boards, the Misthoorn is now a vacant space. Is there still dancing? Maybe once a year, when the descendants have their gathering in one of the villages to which the former islanders were evacuated.

Sunrise in the former harbour of Oud-Emmeloord

Harbour piers embrace a small body of water, and two lampposts stand guard. The sun cracks through the silver lining of the clouds and evaporates the low mist above the polder landscape. Slowly, a large shed made of vibrated concrete comes into sight.

In times past, the Zuiderzee’s waves bashed the island. Harbour lights piloted ships into the Oud-Emmeloord harbour: “Come on in. This is a safe place.”

But times past are gone and the sea has been impoldered. New land was won; tractors replaced ships. A flooded pit, new bollards and icebreakers give visitors an impression of what this place must have looked like in times past.

The lighthouse, once a safe haven for skippers on the Zuiderzee

The lighthouse now stands high on iron legs on a patch of grass. Its head in the clouds, but its beacon eyes have died out.  

In times past, when a storm was raging, many times a night, the lighthouse keeper would go up to put oil on the open fire that lit the harbour light to keep it burning, to prevent ships from crashing on the coast.

But times past are gone. The island became land and the mighty symbol of the Zuiderzee history was dismantled. But now a new one has arisen and the island history is once again in plain sight.

Middelbuurt, with the Dutch Reformed church and reconstructed Schokland cottages.

Take a closer look and you’ll see that nothing is as it seems. There is no sea, but a pool in a flooded field, reflecting the wooden Schokland cottages.

In times past, 650 people inhabited the island. Roman Catholics and Protestants, strictly segregated. Living on the island, fishermen, skippers and farmers all tried to keep their heads above water.

But times past are gone. King Willem III had the last islanders evacuated from the island. And Schokland became the first Unesco World Heritage Site in the Netherlands.