At 10 places in Denmark, Realdania and the Danish Nature Agency have created new and better access to unique areas of countryside. One of these is Rubjerg Knude, where it’s once again possible to climb to the top of the lighthouse partly buried in the sand.
Rubjerg Knude is the highest point on the west coast of Vendsyssel. The cliff is 60 m high, on top of which is a migrating dune of up to 30 m in height. It has been created by the wind tearing grains of sand from the cliff and blowing them up over the edge of the cliff, where they are then deposited.
When the lighthouse of Rubjerg Knude was built in 1899, the location chosen was the highest point 200 m inland. However, the wind and the sea have gradually eroded the cliff, such that today the lighthouse is only a few metres from the edge of the cliff. The lighthouse wasn’t many years old before problems with sand migration arose. Not only was the lighthouse keeper’s vegetable garden buried by the sand, but the dune on the coastline grew in height, which meant that the ships on the sea could hardly see the light from the lighthouse and couldn’t hear the fog horn at all. It wasn’t possible to keep the migrating sand in check by planting vegetation, as had been done elsewhere along the coast: the powerful forces of nature were simply too strong. Large quantities of loose sand were transported away from in front of the lighthouse, but these efforts proved fruitless and such operations were abandoned in 1968.
The lighthouse then became a sand migration museum, although it eventually had to close as the very same sand began to bury the lighthouse buildings. In recent years the erosion of the coast has become so advanced that the lighthouse is now close to the edge. As a result, the wind has begun to blow the sand away from the lighthouse and
further inland, which means it’s possible to get into the lighthouse once more.
In order to enable the public to see these destructive forces of nature from on high, a new flight of steps has been built inside the lighthouse that provides access to the platform at the top. At the same time, a large prism has been installed, which ensures a fantastic visual experience within the tower, transmitting light into the lighthouse as opposed to out to sea.
The project has created a new and exciting attraction, which does, however, have an expiry date. Within the next 10-15 years it’s expected that the sea will have eroded so much of the cliff that the lighthouse will crash into the sea.
The lighthouse of Rubjerg Knude was initially manned by three men and their families: A light master, an assistant and a keeper. The watch room, which was located within the lighthouse, had to be manned every night, and so the crew worked in shifts. An eye had to be kept on the supply of gas, the lens mechanism’s clockwork had to be rewound every three hours, and if it became foggy, the motors in the machine house had to be started up and operated. The clockwork mechanism for the fog signal had to be wound up and a lookout maintained for ships that might have got into difficulties. Finally, the birds that had flown into the lens housing had to be collected for the Zoological Museum.
The highest point at Rubjerg Knude is approximately 90 metres above sea level. These 90 metres cover approx. 50 metres of actual cliff and approx. 40 metres of dune built up of migrating sand. The formation of the dune has been particularly marked over the past 50 years. This is seen clearly at Rubjerg Knude Fyr, where the dune has at times been just as high as the lighthouse.
On the 15 km-long stretch of coastline from Lønstrup to Løkken you have a unique opportunity to study a cross-section of the history of the landscape. The impressive coastal cliff is called Lønstrup Klint, and the highest and most striking part is Rubjerg Knude.
The lighthouse complex comes under the auspices of the Ministry of the Environment and during the period 1980 to 2002 it was the venue for Vendsyssel Historiske Museum's exhibitions on "Sand and sand migration" and on the history of the lighthouse. The exhibition has now moved to Strandfogedgården, a couple of km further south at the old churchyard.