05 January 2013

Fallen star of the Danube - The ephemeral Tündér Island

In the Szentendre Danue, opposite the Luppa Island, there was a small island, which praises the work of Hungarian water construction and river regulation works. It praises it, because few similarly effective regulatory objects were built in the neighborhood. The Tündér (means Fairy in english) Island cross dam and some other works in less than 50 years made disappear a whole river branch together with its islands.
Do you see the 4 islands? In the middle, the entrance of the Fairy Island’s branch.

Since one entry on the Luppa Island I have been planning to write about the shooting star of the Danube, the Tündér Island. The final push was given by a comment:
“I have read here very good posts on the Lup(p)a Island, the One Tree Island, but not yet about the Tündér Island and the legendary Stone 5, which also are in the neighborhood. I think they are also worth a mass.
    The Tündér Island, as you can see in the first photo, used to be an island. 7-8 years ago it was a good smooth-water creek, where we could hold acceleration trainings with canoa, and you could turn in it in an arc. By now it has been filled up, and plants have occupied the water surface so much, that in 2012 I could just pass with my side-boat outrigger. The little outlet channel at the end is accessible only at mid-water, but once you could paddle in it even much more to the north.
    Stone 5 is a concept for any riverman starting from the Római beach or any other canoa-kayak club. This is the first and perhaps the most beautiful place in the Szentendre river branch where one can tie up, swim, play football, or even put up a tent and make fire. Sometimes you can even meet grazing sheep. According to old people, it used to be a steep slope, but the Soviet soldiers smoothed it to practice here with tanks. They also say this was necessary to pass to the other side under the water. [...]"

The history of the Tündér Island began sometimes in the 1930s, when some sandbars appeared above the water in the enlarged riverbed of the Luppa Island. This enlarged bed can be seen on the old 10 Forints banknote (with the portrait of Sándor Petőfi), where next to the Luppa you can also see the famous One Tree Island. To help you understand what happened in the Tündér Island in the past decades, I have composed an animation from Vituki and military history aerial photos as well as from a water sport and Second Military Survey section.

The three, originally separate sandbars began to being composed into a single island in the 1950s. Next to the three bars, the sharp-eyed can also notice a fourth one on the pictures of 1953, 1955, 1962. As if the small One Tree Island moved into the branch of the Tündér Island, being united the latest by 1962 to the forest-covered island core. I wonder if that tree still exist?…

Between 1958 and 1962 they built the cross dam mentioned in the introduction. The purpose of its building was the same as in the case of the other islands: shipping required more water in the main branch. The Szentendre branch has only 1/3 of the total Nagymaros discharge, so here they really need every drop of the Danube to carry an excursion boat to Szentendre, Leányfalu or Dunabogdány.

The Tündér (Fairy) Island (below) on a postcard from the '60s

In consequence of the cross dam, silting immediately began, even though the Tündér Island lays in a concave river section. First a small triangular forest grew up in the area north of the dam. The shape of the island is still distinctive, though we can mostly speak of a peninsula. Then in the 80s the branch to the south of the dam also started to be filled up. The reason was the excessive gravel mining in the neighborhood, which further deepened the main branch, so more and more water was needed to fill up the side branch. In lack of a permanent water coverage, the vegetation slowly took possession of the former riverbed.

In the Tündér Island, similarly to the islands of the Szentendre and Vác branches, two main morphological stages can be distinguished. The first one took place in 1940-50, when an island “very quickly” grew out of the open water surface. This was a first fruit of the first phase of the regulation of the river. The second one was in the 80s, when the branches everywhere started to eutrophise, being filled up. The main reason was the incredible extent of gravel mining, and the following sinking of the main riverbed. When walking in socialist housing estates, think about that they were mainly composed of concrete with gravels from the Danube.

In a narrower sense, the Tündér Island lived fifty years. I have not yet found an island of a shorter life in the mid-section of the Danube; if you did, please write me, which is it. In a broader sense, the Tündér Island still exists today, although rather on paper: the maps still show this name.

The Tündér (Fairy) Island in 2011. may 24th. (googleearth)

Today the Tündér Island is only marked by a narrow channel, whose entrance we search in vain in periods of low water. At times of medium or high water it is worth to row in here, because this section of the Danube will not be seen even by our children. Perhaps we can also found that One Tree.

Translation by: Tamás Sajó

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