The Foundation is on Föhr Island

FÖHR – a place to go to

The name Föhr was partly derived from the word “feer”, which means Frisian or green. Today it is assumed that the name is derived from “driving”, a place to “go” to. On Föhr, a variant of Frisian is spoken by around 2,000 inhabitants, especially the villages in the west of the island. This language is called Fering after the island. A Fering is a native of the North Frisian island of Föhr. An important whaling started from Föhr. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Dutch and English Greenland drivers were mostly manned with island friezes. The best-known whalers at the time was “Happy Matthias”. His descendant Dr. med. Matthias Matthiesen is one of the co-founders of Sünjhaid !. At the end of the 18th century, approx. 1000 seafarers, including 150 skippers on the island. The Danish Krone and the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg also benefited from the Föhr captains. The Sloman shipping company, Hamburg’s oldest shipping company, preferred Captains from Föhr Island, whose most prominent representative was the Captain Paul Nickels Paulsen, whose descendant Dr. med. Frederik Paulsen founded as “Health Captain” in 1988 the Ferring Foundation. Dr. med. Carl Häberlin was an other Health Captain on Föhr Island with great influence on the island history as physician and natural historian. He was influential for the development of climotherapy and thalassotherapy in Germany and founded the “Dr.-Carl-Häberlin-Friesenmuseum” in “Wyk auf Föhr”. An other Health Captain from Föhr Island is the Founder of the West-Coast-Collection.

The Qualification of Navigation gave the Ferings a decisive competitive advantage, which is what SÜNJHAID!, The Health Captains School for the health industry builds on.

The Föhr Internet – – and the relevant travel guides provide all the information necessary for a visit to Föhr Island; the timely reservation of the ferry from Dagebühl Mole to Wyk auf Föhr is key:

The Föhr Island Captain Schools

Lecture by Dr. Volkert Faltings on Essenion-Day 2003: Thursday, May 1st, 2003 at the Ferring Foundation in Alkersum auf Föhr on the occasion of the opening of SÜNJHAID! The Health Captains – Think-Tank and Network for the sustainable Future of Health Sciences 2003:

I hardly tell many of you anything new – and if you didn’t know it so far, then you surely already knew that seafaring once played an outstanding role on the North Frisian islands of Föhr, Amrum and Sylt, but also on the neighboring Halligen , which should not come as a surprise due to the country’s amphibious conditions. The topic with which I would like to introduce you today is the “Föhrer navigation schools – a model worth copying”.

Before I go with you inter medias res, let me first take a brief look back at the seafaring history of the North Frisian islands, because without this look back the topic hardly seems understandable to me. Archaeological finds suggest that the North Frisian islands were already immigrated in the 7th and 8th centuries. Century in the area of today’s North Frisian Islands, the so-called Utland, seafarers or better – similar to the Vikings – seafaring farmers were with a large radius of action along the North Sea coast. Fixed trade routes led them far north to the then Scandinavian trading centers, in the south to the mouth of the Rhine and from there to England. Little changed in the high and late middle ages, although we hardly know anything about it. In fact, only individual, mostly Hanseatic sources have survived, in which the North Frisians as buyers, some of them. but also act as a hijacker, but this view of things – at least with regard to the latter – is somewhat one-sided in the end, because in the Hanseatic disputes with the Danish krone the Hanseatic people, especially the Hamburgers, also hijacked what they could get. Experience shows that the bad guy is always the other. We only get more secure news in the 14th and 15th. Century when the North Frisian Islands met us again as herring fishermen near Helgoland. Together with the Dutch, Hamburgers, Jütten and other people from the North Sea, they recreate the immense swarms of herring that accumulated every year at that time in the southern North Sea around Helgoland.

The demand for this “gold of the sea”, as the herring was sometimes called, was almost inexhaustible. The North Frisians cooked the salt needed to preserve the herring from the peat beneath the salt marshes. North Frisian merchants not only transported the salt, but also the salted herring in their flavors to the Rhine or to southern Norway. The North Frisian fishermen as well as the salt boilers and merchants became prosperous. However, it came to an abrupt end in the mid-16th century when the schools of herring in the fishing grounds off Helgoland suddenly stopped due to a cause that has not yet been clarified – although overfishing, as we unfortunately experience it again and again today, was not the cause at that time can. As a result, the economy in Germany soon went downhill. Suddenly North Frisia could no longer feed his children. A way out of this obviously natural economic crisis should emerge soon. English, but above all Dutch explorers, who explored the Arctic at the end of the 16th century in search of a north passage to East Asia that was then still possible, reported massive amounts of whales in the waters around Greenland and Spitsbergen, so that after 1611 among the then seafaring nations used a veritable run on the world’s largest mammal, the whale. From then on, English, Dutch, Danish, then also Spanish and Hanseatic fishing ships chased in ever increasing numbers after the Arctic gold, the Waltran. Within a short time, this raw material became the fluorescent of the future, with which the street lamps in Hamburg, London, Amsterdam or Paris were soon lit. Later the whales’ whiskers, the so-called whalebone, also gave good yields. The Basques were considered specialists in whaling from time immemorial and it is therefore not surprising that the Dutch whaling companies preferred Basque harpooners and bacon cutters in their ship crews. North Frisian sailors may have played only a minor role in the lower batches of the whaling hierarchy in this initial phase.

With the raw material tran, the coveted fluorescent material that burned so much brighter and more sustainably than the rapeseed oil previously used, immense assets could be accumulated within a few years. It is therefore easy to imagine that with the ever increasing international competition it did not take long for the first rivalries to break out between the whaling companies. The resulting political dissonance between France and the Dutch general states resulted in the French crown, for severe punishment, banning their Basque subjects from hiring on ships from their main Dutch competitors.

The beneficiaries of this type of protectionism, which was completely ineffective, were the North Frisian sailors who were able to close the gaps left by the Basques without any problems. The old connections of the island friesians to the Dutch, which had developed during the common period of herring fishing before Helgoland, had apparently not been forgotten. However, the Dutch also learned nothing from this process: Despite the bad experiences that the French competition had had with the ban on departure for their Basque seafarers, the Dutch tried their Hanseatic competitors out of the race the same way a generation later, in 1664 throw: They also prohibited their seafarers from hiring on Hanseatic whalers. The beneficiaries – as you can already guess – were the island’s North Frisian whalers, who immediately pushed into the resulting shortage of personnel. As a rule, the Dutch whaling companies occupied the post of commander and other high-ranking ship officers with compatriots in the 17th century. The Hanseatic and some English shipping companies did not do this – possibly due to a lack of suitable candidates. In increasing numbers, the island’s North Frisian whalers rose to the top of the team hierarchy by employing a Frisian commander, a Frisian helmsman or harpooner on the fishing vessels almost everywhere. During the high period of whaling around 1750, Föhr had approx. 5,500 inhabitants, of which approx. 1,600 sailors alone, i.e. Almost a third of the total population was at sea during the summer months, including 150 skippers, 74 helmsmen, 150 harpooners and 7 ship doctors, i.e. again almost a quarter of the Föhrer seafarers occupied one of the lucrative positions of a ship’s officer when leaving.

If you consider that around 3,900 seafarers a year exported to Dutch whalers, of which almost half are foreigners, of whom well over 90% are North Frisians, you can see the enormous economic importance of whaling for them then had an insular population. It was not irrelevant whether you consider yourself a simple sailor or a commander or at least a helmsman or harpooner, i.e. as a ship’s officer, as the following comparison shows. According to this, a cook’s mate earned around 3,500 euros in current currency every season when he returned home successfully, an old seaman at least 7,000 euros, while a whaling commander earned 28,000 euros or almost four times as much. It is no wonder, then, that anyone who was qualified to do so had to strive early into the hierarchy of ship officers. In fact around 1550 a Greenland commander came to 30 whalers on Föhr. This is an unusual – almost unbelievable – high proportion compared to the Dutch or Hanseatic conditions, and the question is how this can be done.

Last but not least, Frisian chroniclers have pointed out this fact in the past – not without pride – and especially in the times of the 1,000 years, which thankfully only lasted 12 years, racial – today one would say genetic – reasons have been tried. The tall, hard Friesian family, steeled by a dangerous, deprivation-rich life on and with the sea, was in a centuries-long selection process, in which only the racially strong had been predestined, quasi due to its inheritance typical of him, the leading positions in the then European To take whaling. The Aryan race has also established itself in this area as an example. Of course, this is nothing but a tense racial ideology or in other words sheer nonsense! The explanation is much less spectacular, if not less interesting. At the time, whaling was a tough, dirty business, full of dangers, and it was also badly paid if you were just a simple sailor. He could hardly feed a strong family with it, and in fact numerous families of such simple whalers often lived at the poverty line. Wealth, on the other hand, could only be acquired in whaling if it was possible to move into the position of a ship’s officer, preferably understandably in the position of a commander, but this required extensive knowledge of mathematics, navigation and astronomy, not to mention maritime skill. Understandably, such knowledge could only impart thorough and, above all, professional nautical training.

Those affected came to this insight early on and as early as the 17th century we found the first evidence of navigation schools on Föhr. Until then, navigation schools had only been found in the large harbor towns far from the islands on the Schleswig-Holstein west coast off the North Frisian Wadden Sea. A visit to these schools would hardly have been possible for the majority of North Frisian seafarers, not only for geographical reasons, but for financial reasons alone. This shortcoming could only be overcome by helping people to help themselves. The promoter of this self-help was – perhaps surprising to outsiders at first – not a specialist but a pastor at the St. Laurentii Church in Süderende on Föhr. We are talking about Richardus Petri, who was born in Dagebüll in 1597 as the son of the pastor there and who had served as pastor in the parish of St. Laurentii in the west of the island of Föhr for almost 6 decades from 1620 to his death in 1678. It is said that soon after taking office Petrus Richardi taught sailors of his community in the helmsman’s science. This is remarkable in that the spiritual lord himself never led a ship, let alone ever went on a long sea voyage. However, the tendency to become a helmsman may not have come about by chance. Richardus came – as I said – from Dagebüll, which at that time was still an un-dyed Hallig and was mainly inhabited by boatmen who, in their small coastal sailors, operated the shipping trade along the North Sea between Holland and southern Norway. Among these boatmen, the bright pastor’s son would have come into contact with nautical questions at an early age – and who knows, maybe he would have liked to become a captain himself if his father had just let him go.

There is no question that Richardus Petri must have acquired extensive knowledge of helmsmen’s knowledge, and that he imparted it to the seafarers in his community, likewise, but overall, we know little about the whole process. Probably one of the most famous, or at least the most successful, whalers of his time, namely Matz Peters from Matthias or Matthias Petersen from Oldsum, also called “Happy Matthias”, was one of his students. However, we do not know the organization of Richardus Petri’s navigation school; here we are also dependent on guesswork. School operations will certainly only have taken place in the autumn and winter months, when the sailors had returned from Arctic whaling to their home villages. There was also no special school building, yes, even the school was probably not operated according to fixed rules. Rather, the navigation students of different ages and in changing composition and in a rather relaxed rhythm probably met at the pastor’s house in the pastorate in Süderende, where they received thorough instruction in mathematics. Later navigational students such as the well-known Jens Jacob Eschels, whose name entered today’s Jens-Jacob-Eschels-Street in Nieblum, wrote in his memoirs about 1774:

“I went to the helmsman’s school this winter, in the evening from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m., because during the day the teacher Nickels W Vermögens, who had also gone to sea at a young age and was now doing watchmaking, had no time. Each student had his three calculating stones [d.s. Slates], they had to be counted every evening. The other day it was written from the blackboards in my helmsman’s book. I calculated the first two books of Claas Hendriksen Gietermaker in 35 evenings and paid a shilling for every evening and afterwards did the same for 25 shillings a day, so that my learning to navigate me only 60 shillings or one Speciestaler cost. “

So far Jens Jacob Eschels. Imagine that today, you would commission a 16-year-old student to do a fairly extensive mathematical exercise and exercise book in 35 lessons, voluntarily, of course, in the evening, first in Kladde and then transfer it again in plain text to the helmsman’s book. But that’s not all: let’s do the whole thing again in 25 hours. An outcry would go through the ranks of educated and self-proclaimed educators. However, the pupils at that time mastered their profession after such an ox tour! And so that no misunderstanding arises: These were tasks that today hardly a high school student dared to take in the mathematics advanced course as a high school diploma. Any high school examination board would have to reject these tasks as too difficult, although today the most modern tabular compendia and above all a calculator are available. The schoolchildren at the time must have had their pocket calculator in their heads, because without the ability to calculate quickly and reliably in their heads, they would hardly have been able to master the often complex calculation processes of the tasks.

As we can see, this lesson must have been a kind of crash course that could be repeated and refreshed in the following years if necessary. There were only a few textbooks in today’s sense. Of particular note is the work by Claas Hendriksen Gietermaker, “Schatkamer der Stuurlieden”, which has become known far beyond Holland and has been used. The Föhrer Nanning Arians (föhr. Nahmen Arfsten) wrote the textbook “Schat-Kammer, Konst der Stuur-Lieden” in 1743, based on Gietermaker, which has been preserved by hand in Dutch. In general, the textbooks rarely circulated in printed form, but only in copies that the pupil either created himself or copied from a predecessor. The language of the early textbooks is almost entirely Dutch, because Dutch is the language of the then continental seafaring, like it is English for the pilots today. The lessons themselves were probably in Frisian. German played only a subordinate role for the island friezes of the time, at most appeared in the church as Luther German and was otherwise not understood by many, especially women and children. Another textbook written by a Föhrer named Ocke Tückis called “Besteckbuch” was still in use by the Föhrer navigation students after 1800.

Not to be forgotten are also the works of Föhrers Hinrich Braren from Oldsum, who in the 19th century shaped entire generations of students at the seafaring school he headed in Tönning an der Eider and whose pedagogical skills are praised in the textbooks still known today. What is striking about all these textbooks is that they are very practice-oriented – which is often denied in today’s textbooks (greetings from Pisa) – and above all they were based on the final helmsman examination. Whole exam sessions are played through in alternation of questions and answers and were probably also used to internalize them by memorizing them. In this context, I would like to refer to the frequently expressed view that practically every Frisian is a born mathematician who has practically inherited arithmetic as a spiritual inheritance. This opinion communis haunted by the literature of the 19th and 20th centuries, for example in Storm’s novella “The Schimmelreiter”, in which Storm portrays the main character, the dike count Hauke Haien, as a frieze with arithmetic and algebra. Even a classmate of mine was once told by our former French teacher: “Frisians can do arithmetic, but nothing else!” Even the Frisians themselves carry this opinion smugly and proudly, but sometimes also apologetically, like a Frisian mother recently did Sextaner on the occasion of a parents’ evening, who, in response to my quiet accusations that her daughter had a somewhat absurd idea of German orthography, shrugged in Frisian, replied: “We can enjoy the rain!” The view is that Friesians are born computers, of course just a topos much-used cliché that those who use it are only too happy to believe in, although the nonsense of the cliché has long been proven statistically.

An examination at the local high school, in which the achievements of Frisian students in mathematics, German and English over the past 30 years were compared with the corresponding achievements of the other non-Frisian students, clearly demonstrated: the scores of the Frisians in mathematics were in no way above the average of other pupils, on the contrary, they were even slightly worse. However, the Frisians were significantly better than their non-Frisian schoolmates in English, which, however, is not surprising to me as a linguist: this is where the Frisians’ bilingual skills come in. A bilingual child is usually superior to a monolingual – with a view to language mobility – which is of course an enormous advantage when learning a foreign language. Most Europeans were bilingual or even multilingual before the development of the European nation states and were only made monolingual by the national school program in the course of the 19th century, in the case of the Frisians some of them. forcibly; In retrospect, it was, of course, an infinitely foolish stupidity caused by national blindness, like so much that arose from the idea of the European nation-state. But let’s go back to navigation lessons! But where did the outstanding mathematical skills of the North Frisian seafarers come from, which were praised everywhere? In my opinion, due to seafaring and the associated regional navigation schools, a certain mathematical tradition developed among the island friezes over several centuries. Mathematics enjoyed and still enjoys a higher status in the cultural consciousness of these people than anywhere else. I am even ready to say: it is part of its Frisian identity. This has nothing to do with genetically determined imprinting!

The large influx that these privately organized Föhrer seafaring schools had for themselves also had a very tangible reason: The tuition hardly exceeded the running costs for fuel and light, and some of the navigation instructors did not even charge this fee. Jens Jacob Eschels, already quoted, testifies that his lessons cost him just one special thaler per year, who at that time was equivalent to 25 kg of rye. or about 8 kg of butter. Indeed, this is not a particularly large amount. This is where the spirit of Richardus Petris, the founder of the Föhr navigation lessons, comes through, who is said to have given his lessons free of charge, but with the proviso that those who would later become commanders or helmsmen are also free of charge should try to pass on their navigation skills to the following youth, which then happened. In almost every larger town on Föhr there were these private navigation schools, sometimes even several, which in the winter were held by experienced commanders or other ship officers in their parlor, not infrequently also by the local village school teachers who took care of them with the low school fees to improve the small teacher salary. Some of these teachers were only interested in the fuel they had brought with them, because they were scarce and expensive on Föhr at the time. The catchment area of the Föhrer navigation schools was considerable; In winter not only the Föhr sailors came to school, but also pupils from the neighboring islands of Sylt and Amrum, even from distant Halligen and the villages of the North Frisian mainland, mostly in the teachers’ houses for food and drinks Lodging fees were accommodated.

This shows that the Föhrer navigation schools enjoyed an excellent reputation among the North Frisian seafarers, which means that the level of education of these schools must have been high. In my opinion, however, it was the organization system of the private navigation schools that was decisive for their success, and that was: Help through self-help, carried out by competent practitioners who passed on their knowledge to their students in a practical manner, and all in an almost private, family atmosphere in the good room of the teacher – and on top of that almost free. The latter circumstance in particular made it possible for under-educated pupils to receive qualified instruction if they only had the intellectual prerequisites. The attendance of the navigation lessons was therefore not dependent on the father’s wallet as in the state maritime schools of the large port cities. Only in this way can it be explained that a remarkably large number of Föhrer commanders come from the poorest of circumstances, but thanks to their well-founded training they were able to quickly gain the prestigious position of a whaling commander or merchant ship captain, including two of my immediate ancestors, namely Dietrich Roeloffs and Früd Faltings, who could never have done this without attending a Föhrer seafaring school for financial reasons alone.

This also explains the unusually high percentage of skippers and officers, which we have already described above. It is crucial that these private schools could function for such a long time that, for example, the commanders, as the intellectual and economic elite of a seafaring society, were at ease to deal with the “lower people” – in quotes – and not remain among them the rather closed social structures of the indigenous insular population, which can still be called egalitarian to this day. The wealthy commander, some of whom were multimillionaires by today’s standards, hardly differed in appearance, habit, and language from a normal sailor. He was certainly treated with respect, but usually not with submissive submissiveness, and a simple sailor – even a ship’s boy – would never have thought of addressing and talking to the high lords differently than by his first name. Even today, there is no greater faux pas among the Föhringers than “letting your material or intellectual superiority hang out,” as one often puts it. The result would be silent disregard and mocking looks.

What happened to the private “Föhr Navigation Schools”? 

When at the beginning of the 19th century, in the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein, but also in the Kingdom of Denmark, to which the western part of the island and Amrum was subordinate, a completed helmsman’s examination became mandatory for a later captain’s career, this had no effect on these schools. But on the contrary! For many, attending private navigation lessons was the essential prerequisite for a successful helmsman exam at a state maritime school in Altona, Copenhagen and elsewhere. That only changed when one day, more precisely, on July 19, 1864, the island was occupied by Austrian troops in the course of the German-Danish war to liberate us, as they claimed or perhaps actually meant, and subsequently the Duchy of Schleswig was annexed by Prussia on January 12, 1867. From then on, the private maritime schools on Foehr were over. Private navigation lessons did not fit into the state-controlled school system of the Prussians and, for the officials responsible who banned the Föhr navigation schools, was probably not compatible with their understanding of the state at the time, according to which such sovereign tasks could only be operated and controlled by the state. Of course, there were also completely different interests behind it. Even before the war, Bismarck had stated in conversation with his military about the aims of this impending confrontation with Denmark, among other things, that the conquest of the Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein would also involve the port cities on the North and Baltic Seas and above all the seafarers based there would go without whom he thought it would not be possible to build up a navy, at least not as quickly as he planned and hoped for.

For this reason, of course, it was important to keep these seamanships in the hands of the state, and understandably the private maritime schools stood in the way. However, the Prussians were backfired by the fact that mass emigration to the United States began among the North Frisian seafarers when it became apparent that the Prussians had envisaged a three-year military service on the ships of Her Majesty the King of Prussia, which she did all the more angry that they had previously enjoyed exemption from military service under the Danish administration. The new gentlemen acknowledged this rural exodus with decades of reprisals. Seafarers who returned to the territory of Prussia without previously voluntarily serving in the navy were, if they were still Prussian citizens, detained or, if they had accepted American citizenship, expelled and given a permanent entry ban. As a result, the seafarers, many of whom were in principle willing to return, caught up with their wives and brides in the United States, which, contrary to what the Prussian authorities hoped for, only intensified the wave of emigration. When the responsible authorities finally understood their elementary error and took countermeasures in Wyk with a state maritime school in 1872, it was too late. Confidence in the new state leadership had been lost after the previous experiences and it is reported that the Föhrer also did not like the stiff official tone in this school. They were used to it differently from the captain’s quarters of the private Föhr seafaring schools, where things were more familiar, if not less serious. The state school was closed after only a few years.

Let’s go back to Richardus Petri at the end of my presentation! Even if little is known about his work as a navigation teacher, his name still stands for a unique model of initiative and responsibility, which covers an entire island and the people living on it over several centuries, both culturally and economically, yes, actually in all Areas of public life, promoted and inspired, without the need of the help of the state. Unfortunately, the outstanding performance of this man, the scope of which he was probably not even aware of, has often been forgotten today, although this model could be useful in our day and age, in which there is increasing talk again of help for self-help and initiative is. In the recent past, however, there has been no lack of attempts to save Richardus Petri from the above-mentioned oblivion, among other things by suggesting that a Föhrer school be named after him, which would undoubtedly have been quite appropriate, but this attempt failed the persistent ignorance of upstream authorities who have a say in such matters. This ignorance will not change after my decades of experience with such instances, because – to slightly change a biblical quotation – “the official ignorance lasts forever!” Thank you for your attention!” Prof. Dr. Volkert Faltings

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