Crossing the Great Belt was always essential in terms of uniting Denmark. But, when the Great Belt froze, sailing was impossible. Iceboats were last used during World War II.
In the 1620s, King Christian IV issued a number regulations designed to ensure regular times and routes for travellers. That meant that iceboats were required for crossing the Great Belt. In 1794, the iceboat crossings were transferred to the postal service. In 1838, an iceboat station was built at Knudshoved.
In 1883, the route was in turn transferred to DSB, when they were building the railway line to Knudshoved and Slipshavn. In the freezing winters of 1888, 1894 and 1922-23, the iceboats provided a regular shuttle service. Otherwise, the new, more powerful icebreaker ferries and propeller icebreakers tackled the task.
The iceboat service was discontinued in 1937. However, in the freezing winters of the early 1940s, the iceboat service was resumed on a private basis, since DSB would not reopen the crossing.
The iceboat station at Knudshoved still exists and today houses the DSB Training Centre. Learn more about the iceboat station here.
Iceboats on the Great Belt
There were runners under the keel so the boat could be pulled. A five-man crew pulled the iceboat using harnesses. They were assisted by the male passengers who walked either side of the boat, pushing the oars that were laid across it. Women and children remained in the boat. In ice-free areas the iceboat could be placed in the water and sailed or rowed.
The crossing over the Great Belt took approximately six hours. For safety reasons, several iceboats departed at the same time in convoy. That meant they could help each other if a boat foundered or got into difficulties.