The Moddergat disaster

One of the most notable events in the history of Paesens-Moddergat is the storm disaster which took place in the night of 5-6 March 1883. That night the fishing fleet of Paesens-Moddergat was suddenly caught in the most violent spring storm in living memory. Eighty-three fisherman, both young and old, died in the ice-cold waters North of the Frisian Islands (Wadden Islands).

Of the capsized boats, no crew member remained alive, except for the fishing boat "Nooitgedacht" with registration number WL2. This boat capsized but remained afloat because of air caught in the fore-cabin.   Fortuitously this is where Gerber Basteleur and his sixty-one year old uncle Kornelis Visser found themselves at the time of the capsizing. They fought for their lives for hours with the icy-cold water chest high. Sadly though, Gerber had to witness how his uncle lost conciousness through exhaustion and slowly surrendered his life to the icy water around him.

Twenty-four hours later the boat stranded upside down on a beach on the island Schiermonikoog. Residents heard knocking from inside. After making an opening in the side of the boat, they found a severely weakened Gerben Basteleur. As soon as he had recovered though, Gerben went back to being a fisherman. Of all people and to his great astonishment, it was he who hauled the body of his brother Jan - who had died in the storm - on board, lying amongst the fish in the fishing net.

The fishermen from Paesens-Moddergat where not the only people to have died in the storm that night. Fishing boats went down all along the coast of Groningen and Holland. But nowhere else was hit so hard as Paesens-Moddergat. In the night of the storm 121 Dutch fisherman died, 83 of them from Paesens-Moddergat.

A monument in memory of the eighty-three who died that night in the storm can be seen across from the museum on the sea embankment.