In 1973, drillings were carried out in the subsurface at Nørre Tvismark, close to Rømø dyke. Rocks were not found until after drilling 51 meters into the Rømø subsurface, and these were deposited during the Ice Age. Everything above this level was sand thrown up by the sea over thousands of years. Around 9,000 years ago the coast probably followed a line from Blåvandhuk in the north to the German island of Sild in the south. 1,000 years later, the sea washed over the low-lying heathland and formed large sand banks which slowly developed into the island barriers of Fanø, Mandø and Rømø. Since then, tidal waters, storm surge and the wind have caused Rømø to grow towards the west, while the Wadden Sea has extended behind the island.
The islanders and the sand
The first people probably settled on Rømø around 1200, when the King and the diocese of Ribe jointly owned the island. Later, fishing villages, quays and farms came to Rømø.
The Wadden Sea created fertile soil along the eastern coast of Rømø, but agriculture was plagued by sand-drifts in the 1600s and 1700s because sheep and livestock were free to wander the island and graze the sparse vegetation. In many places on Rømø today, you can still see the so-called “fields of foam” where islanders have shovelled free their houses or farms from the drifting sand. The fields are often slightly sunken and framed with narrow dykes built of the sand-drift.
Rømø in its heyday
Many of the men on Rømø joined whaling expeditions to the polar oceans near eastern Greenland and Svalbard over a period of about 200 years from 1660 to 1860. Most sailed with German and Dutch ships, and many earned a lot of money as captains, officers or harpooners. The captains were known as kommadører (commanders), and there are still impressive kommadører-houses on Rømø, where owners were not afraid to show-off their newly earned wealth.
The heyday of whaling peaked around 1770, when it is said around 40 kommadører or retired kommadører lived on Rømø. Sometimes the whalers would bring back the massive jaw-bones of the whales and use them instead of timber. There is still a fence made in 1772 of whalebone in Juvre.