The East Frisian Islands (German: Ostfriesische Inseln, West Frisian: Eastfryske eilannen, Saterland Frisian: Aastefräiske Ailounds) are a chain of islands in the North Sea, off the coast of East Frisia in Lower Saxony, Germany. The islands extend for some 90 kilometres (56 mi) from west to east between the mouths of the Ems and Jade / Weser rivers and lie about 3.5 to 10 km offshore. Between the islands and the mainland are extensive mudflats, known locally as Watten, which form part of the Wadden Sea. In front of the islands are Germany's territorial waters, which occupy a much larger area than the islands themselves. The islands, the surrounding mudflats and the territorial waters (The Küstenmeer vor den ostfriesischen Inseln nature reserve) form a close ecological relationship. The island group makes up about 5% of the Lower Saxony Wadden Sea National Park.

East Frisian Islands
Native name:
Ostfriesische Inseln
LocationWadden Sea
Total islands12
Major islandsBorkum, Norderney
StateLower Saxony
Ethnic groupsGermans, Frisians

The largest island by surface area is Borkum, located at the western end of the chain; the other six inhabited islands are from west to east: Juist, Norderney with the largest town in the islands, Baltrum, Langeoog, Spiekeroog and Wangerooge. There are also four other small, uninhabited islands: Lütje Hörn east of Borkum, Memmert and Kachelotplate southwest of Juist, Minsener Oog, a dredged island southeast of Wangerooge, and Mellum at the eastern end of the island chain which, following the boundary revision by the Federal Office for Nature Conservation, no longer belongs to the East Frisian Islands, but to the mudflats of the Elbe-Weser Triangle (Watten im Elbe-Weser-Dreieck).

Overview of the islands and sand flats edit

The chain of the East Frisian Islands off the coast of Lower Saxony

The following table contains basic information about the islands and sand flats (Sandplaten). The uninhabited and unparished sand flats are highlighted in yellow.

Coat of arms Island/Sand flat Municipality District Area
in km² (2004[1]/05[2])
Distance to the mainland
in km (2004)[1]
as at: 31 December 2008
Population density
per km²
  Borkum Town of Borkum Leer 30.74[2] 10.5 5,186 169
Kachelotplate not municipalised no data uninhabited
Lütje Hörn Island of Lütje Hörn¹ Leer 0.1[1] 12.5 uninhabited
Memmert North Sea island of Memmert¹ Aurich 4.3[1] 13 uninhabited
  Juist Juist Aurich 16.43[2] 8 1,696 103
  Norderney Town of Norderney Aurich 26.29[2] 3 5,810 221
  Baltrum Baltrum Aurich 6.5[2] 4.5 488 75
  Langeoog Langeoog Wittmund 19.67[2] 5 1,953 99
  Spiekeroog Spiekeroog Wittmund 18.25[2] 6.5 781 43
  Wangerooge Wangerooge Friesland 7.94[2] 6,5 923 116
Minsener Oog
artificially dredged
Butjadingen² Wesermarsch 2.2[1] 3.5 uninhabited
Mellum³ Butjadingen² Wesermarsch 4.9[1] 6 uninhabited
East Frisian Islands 134.35[2] 16,837 129
¹ unparished area
² former parish of Langwarden, which was incorporated in 1974 into Butjadingen (today the Gemarkung of Langwarden)
³ east of the outer Jade, after the boundary revision by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation no longer part of the East Frisian Islands, but belongs to the mudflats in the Elbe-Weser Triangle Watten im Elbe-Weser-Dreieck.[3]

Norderney is the remaining part of Buise, which was almost entirely engulfed by the sea in the 17th century. Lütje Hörn east of Borkum is in constant danger of being washed away. In 2003 the German Coastal Defence (NLWK) announced that the sandbank Kachelotplate can now be called an island too, because it is no longer regularly flooded by high tide. However, it is not larger than 2 km² and will remain unsettled. Kachelotplate is located north of the mouth of the Ems river.

Most of the islands do not allow cars. The exceptions are Borkum and Norderney, which are also the most crowded islands. There are no bridges connecting the mainland with the islands. Each island is accessible by ferry.

Borkum and Norderney, the Nazi labour camps on Alderney, were named after the islands.

The islands and the surrounding sea are part of the Lower Saxony Wadden Sea National Park.

Effects of storms and currents edit

Aerial view of Wangerooge

Even though today they are established islands, some of them continue to be in motion. On the East Frisian island of Juist for example, since the year 1650 there are five different proven sites for the church, as the spot for rebuilding the church had to keep pace with the ever-moving island. At times, Juist even consisted of two islands, which eventually grew back together. The neighbouring island of Wangerooge in the last 300 years has moved a distance equivalent to its own length to the east, its church tower, destroyed at the outbreak of World War I apparently moving from east to west.[4]

In this process, land is slowly eroded on the western coasts, while sediments are deposited on the eastern coasts. As a result, western coasts are increasingly protected by human action. The canals between the islands serve as passages for the tides, so that in these places the scouring action of current prevents the islands gradually joining one to another.

In popular culture edit

A German invasion fleet masses in the Frisian Islands in the pre-World War I invasion thriller Riddle of the Sands.

German students memorize the names of the seven inhabited islands by using a mnemonic device:

Welcher Seemann liegt bei Nanni im Bett? ("Which seaman lies with Nanni in bed?")
Wangerooge, Spiekeroog, Langeoog, Baltrum, Norderney, Juist, Borkum (east to west)

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d e f Rolf Niedringhaus; Volker Haeseler; Peter Janiesch (2008), Die Flora und Fauna der East Frisian Islands – Einführung in das Projekt "Biodiversität im Nationalpark Niedersächsisches Wattenmeer" (in German), vol. 11, Schriftenreihe Nationalpark Niedersächsisches Wattenmeer
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "NLS-Online Tabelle Z0010001 Bodenfläche nach Art der geplanten Nutzung". Landesbetrieb für Statistik und Kommunikationstechnologie Niedersachsen (LSKN). 2005-01-01. Retrieved 2009-04-23.
  3. ^ "Watten im Elbe-Weser-Dreieck, Jadebusen". Bundesamt für Naturschutz. Archived from the original on 2011-09-16. Retrieved 2009-12-02.
  4. ^ "Germany's High Seas Fleet in the World War". War Times Journal. Retrieved 2007-09-30.

External links edit

53°44′N 7°25′E / 53.733°N 7.417°E / 53.733; 7.417