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A couple of km south of Lønstrup, Mother Nature has created a scene that is unique to the area. A gigantic migrating dune has almost completely buried Rubjerg Fyr and ancillary buildings within a period of just 10 years.
Ironically, this was the site of the sand migration museum until the sand had caused so many problems at the end of the last century that a decision was made to move the museum.
The lighthouse will disappear in 15-20 years
The lighthouse is threatened by the sea, which is patiently eroding the area from the west. The average rate of erosion is a couple of meters a year, and with the remaining 20-30 meters that lie between the sea and the lighthouse, it is not hard to predict that the lighthouse will probably disappear in the 2020s.
This dramatic fate could not have been predicted when the lighthouse was built in 1900 on the highest point, approximately 60 meters above sea level. With more than 200 meters out to the coastal cliff and with only modest signs of sand migration, you can hardly blame the builders for not being able to predict the subsequent problems.
The vegetable garden was buried by sand
The problems began only a few years after the lighthouse was put into service. The buildings created shelter for the fine sand which was blown up from the steep cliff, and before long dunes had been formed between the lighthouse and the sea. The lighthouse master's vegetable garden was buried by sand and the well quickly filled up.
In order to moderate the sand migration, wild rye was planted in the dunes, but this simply resulted in the dune increasing in volume. The more planting that went on, the bigger the dune became. Within just a few decades, the sand had become so high that it was impossible to see the lighthouse from the sea.
Couldn't hear the foghorn
As early as the 1920s it became necessary to remove large quantities of sand, and by the beginning of the 1950s the dune had grown so high that ships could no longer hear the fog warning signal.
At one time there were discussions as to whether to increase the height of the lighthouse, but these were abandoned, and on 1 August 1968 the lighthouse was switched off for the final time.
The lighthouse is 23 m high and was equipped from the start with its own gasworks for illumination and operation of the foghorn. It was believed that light from a greasy gas produced from oil had a better ability to penetrate thick fog. The light could be seen at a distance of up to 42 km.
In 1906 the gas was replaced by petroleum, and in 1934 a contract was concluded with the electricity generating plant at Liver Mølle for the supply of electricity.
The lighthouse was originally manned by a lighthouse master, an assistant and a light keeper. The work was often very tough, not least during the first few years of gas operations. In stormy weather the personnel had to keep an eye on ships in distress. The birds that had flown into the lens housing had to be delivered to the Zoologisk Museum. Equipment had to be maintained, the buildings painted outside and inside, and sand kept from the doorstep.
Coastal erosion means that the cliff is moving further and further inland, and the sand dune is constantly changing. In 1992 the struggle against the sand was abandoned and the sand is now able to erode the lighthouse buildings unhindered.
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.