This is the confluence of two great rivers, one draining half a continent and the other from a forested land that rises to chalk downs where the marshes come to an end. In the flat lands of the river delta, the homesteads are divided by waterways and along one of these, rowing against a slight current, a bearded, grizzled man makes his way in a coracle. Seagulls circle overhead, hoping for a chance to rob him, for the little boat lies low in the water, weighed down by a catch of fish. His dog sits alert in the bow, her nose pointing into the wind that shivers the surface of the water, grey clouds mass together in the sky. He looks up as a raindrop splashes the back of his hand. More rain – how much can the land take? The waterways widen, year on year, as the water rises around the homesteads. Perhaps next year will be dry. For now, there is plenty of fish.
He is drenched by the time he arrives home, but his family have built up the turf fire and he dries in its heat, watching the fish cooking, nibbling on samphire. This is all mine, he thinks, this warm air scented with smoke, the popping and spitting of the fish skins, the slender fair haired woman who sits with their son on her lap. The songs; the stories; the poetry. His dog rests her jaw along his thigh and he fondles the warm, silky ears, murmuring softly to the animal that there is no chance at all of any morsels from the feast. The dog’s eyes half close; she has heard the same thing scores of times, and knows it means her belly will soon be full.
The sages have predicted an inundation. The side of a mountain in a distant land will slip into the sea, and the waters will swirl up and sweep everything away: their homes, their people, their hunting grounds. Even their coracles will be broken and scattered across a vast ocean, drifting like tiny leaves on the immense unknown. He shrugs. What fool would abandon his house for a soothsayer’s whim, to wander homeless in a strange country, prey to wild beasts and wilder people?
From time to time, a North Sea trawler might raise an implement of horn, a relic from 6000 BC. Somewhere off Dogger Bank there is a stone bridge, beneath the shipping lanes where the supertankers glide through sheets of rain. Their shadows darken the sea bed and they fill the water with the grumble of their engines. The Dogger folk lie under the sea, their mouths filled with sand. The tsunami felled trees and scattered their dwellings. Their hunting grounds were drowned, the animals, bloated, were borne away on the merciless brown waters. The survivors fled to become slaves and beggars and whores, abused and reviled, their songs silenced. Only their spirits return to the swirling sands of the sea bed, amongst the open maws of scallops, caressed by the bellies of flatfish and eels.
Doggerland appears in my free eBook ‘In Other Times, an anthology of 20 historical fiction short stories.
To obtain your free copy and subscribe to the free monthly newsletter ‘The HistWriter’, subscribe below:
For more of the historical background on Doggerland see National Geographic (link)