January 4, 2013

0446 NETHERLANDS (Netherlands / Flevoland) - Schokland and Surroundings (UNESCO WHS)

The former island Schokland, in Zuiderzee, in the northwest of the Netherlands, is a symbol of the traditional Dutch struggle against the water. Traces of this battle can be seen everywhere on and around the island. This area has alternated between being sea and dry land, peninsula and island, peat and polder. The former island, which lost this status in 1942, still stands out as an elongated gently sloping back against the flat surrounding landscape of the Northeast polder.

In the beginning of the Middle Ages the area surrounding the present-day Schokland was a marshy wilderness. People didn't live here, but from around 1000 A.D., clearing of the land was started to make it more accessible, and before the end of the 14th century the whole area was made suitable for cultivation. Owing to the drainage, the peat began to dry up and shrink, causing the ground level to sink down, and the North Sea had invaded the land between the provinces of Noord-Holland and Friesland, creating a large inland lake, the Zuiderzee. Until about 1450 A.D., Schokland was still connected to the mainland, but eventually it became an island.

Some 650 people managed to make their living on Schokland on three artificial dwelling mounds, called Emmeloord, Middelbuurt and Zuidert. Due to the lack of space, the small wooden houses stood close together. In the 16th and 17th centuries there was enough suitable soil for farming and cattle breeding. About 1700 A.D. the island had become so small that farming was impossible. Gradually fishing became the staple food source, being used a type of boat called Schokker. In the 19th century the fishing trade diminished, and many of the islanders became dependent on the national treasury or on charity. Further, the disastrous storms of 1825 had shown that the population wasn't safe. As a result, King Willem III signed an Act of Government that ordered the complete evacuation of Schokland, which started in 1859.

Considering that "Schokland and its surroundings is an outstanding example of the prehistoric and historic occupation of a typical wetland, especially in relation to the reclamation and occupation of peat areas" UNESCO included Schokland and Surroundings on its list of World Heritage Sites in 1995.

About the stamp, one of the two presented by Netherlands for the theme Visit..., chosen for Europa Stamps 2012, I wrote here.

Schokland - Wikipedia
Schokland - Schokland official website

Sender: Annemieke Reinderink (direct swap)
Sent from Haarlo (Netherlands), on 16.09.2012

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