Huge storms and devastating floods are not something new. Medieval history shows that human overexploitation and not the climate may be behind many tragedies
At the start of the little Ice Age, the North sea was hit by a series of storm tides. One of the most infamous was “Das Grote Mandrenke” in 1362 – the great drowner of men. However, not only the changing weather conditions caused the hight floods post 1300. Changing patterns of explotation of the marshy regions along the coastline from Denmark to Holland caused the catastrophies.
It began on the 15th of January 1362 but reached its high point on the 16th. This flood caused the destruction of a series of outlying promonteries on the Western Coast of Jutland and Friesland all the way down to Holland.
One victim was the city of Rungholt, which until the beginning of the 20th century used to yield medieval artifacts and debris into the nets of fishermen. During the storm it sank beneath the waves, while the isle of Strand was created.
Surveys conducted in the 20s and 30s, when remains of the city were suddenly exposed, suggest a large population of about 1500 – 2000 persons. It is likely that Rungholt was a major port shipping cattle to the markets in Holland and Flandern. There are no contemporary descriptions of Das Grote Mandrenke and later estimates of the number of deaths were probably highly exaggerated. However, there is no doubt that its memory lingered for a long time. Local myth still has it than whenever a storm brews in the Wadden Sea and the region is threatened with a flood, people sailing through might still hear the bells ringing…
Want to read more about the devastations of flooding in the later Middle Ages? Read about the storms in 1436, 1532 and 1634 and how huge parts of Jutland and Friesland disappeared in the huge waves of the North Sea…