Postcards from the Edge – A Walk along the Bottom of the Sea
Posted on August 16, 2015
When you visit the Wattenmeer, the Wadden Sea, a Must-Do activity is to take a walk during low tide to another island, or to a sandbank. As exhilarating an outing as that is, one must never overlook the potential danger: sudden fog that can envelope the entire area in a short time and totally disorient a person; the tide-made channels, called Priels, which can be much deeper than they look and have a strong current; or even the incoming tide that can be surprisingly fast in approaching. Therefore, outings on the Wattenmeer are only permitted with a trained guide who has extensive knowledge of the local conditions.
Last summer, Suzi and I took a memorable walk from the island of Föhr to a neighboring island, Amrum. It was a great experience. So since these outings are totally tide-dependent and therefore not scheduled every day, I jumped at the chance of partaking in one when I saw one advertised. It was to lead us 2 km to the Japsand, a sandbank 3.4 km long (north to south) and 1.6 km across (east to west). The highest point lies one meter above the mean high tide and is therefore visible at all times.
The southern part of this sandbank is off limits to people — this is the territory of seals and birds exclusively. The north end is accessible to people, but only with a trained guide.
On the day I was to join the walk to this sandbank, I left my apartment almost an hour ahead of time. It took that long to get to the meeting point. There were about 18 of us, and we met our delightful young leader: although only 19 years old, she was very knowledgable, and she led us on a wonderful walk, stopping often to explain and show us everything that lived in the mud.
Yes, it was mud at first. The walk last year was almost all on firm, hard, sandy ocean bottom. But here we encountered a different kind of Watt: mud, muck, and sea grass that was very slippery.
We had to learn how to walk in this stuff, and several of us held hands in the beginning so we could gain confidence. As far as I could tell, no one slipped and fell, amazing because it really was hard walking as we often sank into this muck up to our ankles.
But our efforts and concentration were rewarded when we felt firmer ground under our feet: we had reached the sandbank. Now it got to be fun.
The day was warm and bright, and we walked across terra firma until we could see open water on the other side.
Here we had about 30 minutes for exploring, walking around, meditating, taking photos, collecting shells …
We could see the island of Amrum.
It was time to leave again. Our leader kept reminding us that the incoming tide wasn’t going to wait for anybody!
Heading back, we had a splendid view of Hallig Hooge, and at one time we could make out all 9 Warften. Here is a partial view.
But again we had to march back through the slippery sea grass and mud.
After making it back to where we started, the payoff: washing our feet under running water, clean water!