An hour’s sail from Danish Gudhjem (God’s home) harbor to the group of islands known as Ertholmene (Pea islands), we arrive at the largest ones which are Christiansø and Fresdriksø. A naval base was constructed here in about 1684, but today only fishermen and their families live in this “Danish fortress in the sea”.
It makes an interesting place to visit. The islands are quite rocky, with castle towers, batteries and cannon, all serving as reminders of the past. Their isolated setting and car-free environment make them attractive to birdlife, particularly cider-ducks, which breed all over the island.
Outpost for the Danish navy
This is Denmark’s easternmost point with a population of 84. The archipelago have a total of 39 hectares. Fishermen from Bornholm have used Ertholmene for temporary shelter since the Middle Ages. The first permanent settlement was the result of the Danish-Swedish conflicts in the late 17th century. As Denmark needed a naval base in the central Baltic Sea, a fort was built on Christiansø and Frederiksø in 1684 which served as an outpost for the Danish Navy until 1855. Christiansø Church originally served the garrison. The population peaked at the census in 1810 which showed 829 inhabitants. They were soldiers and were there because of the Gunboat War (Wikipedia).
Related: Denmark’s Sunshine Island
Since 1725, the islands were used as a place of banishment for life time prisoners as for example Doctor Dampe, who was a prisoner here from 1826 to 1841 accused of “high treason and lese-majesty”. Ertholmene are owned by the Danish Ministry of Defence and the houses, which can only be hired, are domicile for the residents. Every year, about 40,000 guests visit the islands!
Related: Sun Over Danish Gudhjem
Danish fortress in the sea
Christiansø is a unique place. You cannot find such a special group of islands anywhere else in Denmark. The old fortress of King Christian V has not changed and the islands have their own circadian rhythm and the rugged nature of the unique landscape offers an unrivalled experience. Here you’re given a sense of the special atmosphere and peace.
The Danish Fortress in the Sea, written by Tor Kjolberg