Infobox German Location
German_name = Helgoland
image_photo =
Wappen = Helgoland Wappen.pnglat_deg = 54 |lat_min = 10 |lat_sec = 57
lon_deg = 7 |lon_min = 53 |lon_sec = 07
Bundesland = Schleswig-Holstein
Kreis = Pinneberg
Höhe = 61
Fläche = 4.2
Einwohner = 1650
Stand = 2006-05-27
PLZ = 27498
Vorwahl = 04725
Kfz = PI
Gemeindeschlüssel = 01 0 56 025
Straße = Lung Wai 28
Website = [http://www.helgoland.de/ www.helgoland.de]
Bürgermeister = Frank Botter
Partei = SPD

Heligoland ( _de. Helgoland; Heligolandic: "deät Lun") is a small German archipelago in the North Sea.

Formerly Danish and British possessions, the islands (population 1,650) are located in the Heligoland Bight (part of the German Bight) in the southeastern corner of the North Sea. They are the only German islands not in the immediate vicinity of the mainland and are approximately two hours' sailing time from Cuxhaven at the mouth of the River Elbe.

In addition to German, the local population, who are ethnic Frisians, speak the Heligolandic dialect of the North Frisian language called "Halunder". Heligoland was formerly called "Heyligeland", or "holy land," possibly due to the island's long association with the god Forseti.


Heligoland is located 70 km (44 miles) off the German coastline and consists of two islands: the populated triangular 1 km² (0.4 sq mi) main island ("Hauptinsel") to the west and the "Düne" ("dune," Heligolandic: "de Halem") to the east. While the former is what the place name "Heligoland" normally is used to refer to, the latter is somewhat smaller (0.7 km²), lower, surrounded by sand beaches and not permanently inhabited.

The main island is commonly divided into the "Unterland" ("Lower Land," Heligolandic: "deät Deelerlun") at sea level (to the right on the photograph, where the harbour is), the "Oberland" ("Upper Land," Heligolandic: "deät Boperlun") consisting of the plateau visible in the photographs and the "Mittelland" ("Middle Land") between them on one side of the island; the latter came into being in the course of the "Big Bang" (see below).

The main island also features small beaches in the north and the south and drops to the sea 50 metres (about 160 feet) in the north, west and southwest. In the latter, the ground continues to drop underwater to a depth of 56 metres below sea level. Northwest of the island proper Heligoland's famous landmark is found: The "Lange Anna" ("Long Anna" or "Tall Anna") which is a free standing rock column (or stack), 47 metres high and weighing about 25,000 tons.

The two islands were connected until 1720, when the natural connection was destroyed by a storm flood. The highest point is on the main island, reaching 61 meters (about 200 feet) above sea level.

Although culturally closer to North Frisia in the German district of Nordfriesland, the two islands are part of the district of Pinneberg in the state of Schleswig-Holstein. The main island has a good harbour and is frequented mostly by sailing yachts.


Heligoland sports a very healthy offshore climate, being almost free of pollen and thus ideal for allergics. Since there is no land mass in the vicinity that could cool down too much in the winter time, it hardly gets colder than -5 °C (23 °F) in any year. At times, winter temperatures can be higher than in Hamburg by up to 10 °C (18 °F) because cold winds from Russia are weakened. While spring tends to be comparatively cool, autumn on Heligoland is often longer and warmer than on the mainland and statistically, the climate generally is sunnier.

Due to the mild climate, figs have been grown on the island since the 1920s - there still is an old mulberry tree in the Upper Town.


The island of Heligoland is a geological oddity; the presence of the main island's characteristic red sedimentary rock in the middle of the German Bight is unusual. It is the only such formation of cliffs along the continental coast of the North Sea. The formation itself is from the early Eocene geologic age. It is younger than and layered on top of a much thicker bedrock of white chalk, the very same which is well known to form the white cliffs of Dover in England, and cliffs of Danish and German islands in the Baltic Sea. In fact, a small chalk rock close to Heligoland, called "witt Kliff" [cite web|url=http://www.esys.org/ftp/helgoland-detail.gif|title=Nautical chart "Helgoland"|publisher=Europäisches Segel-Informationssystem|accessdate=July 27|accessyear=2008] (white cliff) is known to have existed within sight of the island to the west till the early 18th century, when storm floods finally eroded it to below sea level.

Heligoland's rock is significantly harder than the postglacial sediments and sands forming the islands and coastlines to the east of the island. This is why the core of the island, which a thousand years ago was still surrounded by a large, low-lying marshland and sand dunes separated from coast in the east only by narrow channels, has remained to this day, although the onset of the North Sea has long eroded away all of its surroundings. A small piece of Heligoland's sand dunes remains — the sand isle just across the harbour called Düne (Dune), which today holds Heligoland's airstrip.


The Heligoland flag is very similar to its Coat of arms. A tricolour flag with three horizontal bars, from top to bottom: Green, Red and White. Each of the colours has its symbolic meaning. Green symbolises the land, red symbolises the edge (the red cliffs of Heligoland) and white symbolises the sand. This in German is the motto of Heligoland:

"Grün ist das Land,"
"rot ist die Kant',"
"weiß ist der Sand,"
"das sind die Farben von Helgoland."

In English,"Green is the Land, Red is the Brim, White is the Sand, These are the Colours Of Heligoland"

In the original Low German it says, "Green is dat Land, roat is de Kant, witt est de Sunn, dat sünd de Farven van't Hilligelunn."


The German Bight and the area around the island is known to have been inhabited since prehistoric times. Flint tools have been recovered from the bottom of the sea surrounding Heligoland. On the Oberland prehistoric burial mounds were visible until the late 19th century and excavations showed skeletons and artefacts. Moreover, prehistoric copper plates have been found under water near the island; those plates were almost certainly made on the Oberland (see Alex Ritsema, "Heligoland, Past and Present", 2007, pp.21-23).

In 697, Radbod, the last Frisian king, retreated to the then-single island after his defeat by the Franks - so it is written in the "Life of Willebrord" by Alcuin. By 1231, the island was listed as the property of the Danish king Valdemar II.

Traditional economic activities included fishing, hunting birds and seals, wrecking and - very important for many overseas powers - piloting overseas ships into the harbours of Hanseatic League cities such as Bremen and Hamburg. Moreover, in some periods Heligoland was an excellent base point for huge herring catches. As a result, until 1714 ownership switched several times between Denmark and the Duchy of Schleswig, with one period of control by Hamburg. In August 1714, it was captured by Denmark, and it remained Danish until 1807.

In 1807, Heligoland was seized by the British during the Napoleonic Wars. It became a centre of smuggling and espionage against Napoleon. Thousands of Germans fled to Britain and to the King's German Legion via Heligoland. In 1826, Heligoland became a seaside spa and soon it turned into a popular tourist resort for upper-class people. The island also attracted artists and writers, especially from Germany and even Austria who enjoyed the freedom of the benignly ruled (British) island, e.g. Heinrich Heine and August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben. It was a refuge for revolutionaries of the 1830 and 1848 German revolutions.

Britain gave up the islands to Germany in 1890 (by virtue of the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty) and also gave up its interests in Madagascar to the French, in return for those countries surrendering their claims to the African island of Zanzibar (now a part of Tanzania), largely so the British could intervene there to suppress the slave trade. Fact|date=September 2008 A "grandfathering"/optant approach prevented the Heligolanders (as they were named in the British measures) from forfeiting advantages because of this imposed change of status.

Under the German Empire, the islands became a major naval base, and during the First World War the civilian population was evacuated to the mainland. The first naval engagement of the war, the Battle of Heligoland Bight, was fought nearby in the first month of the war. The islanders returned in 1918, but during the Nazi era the naval base was reactivated. Lager Helgoland, the Nazi labour camp on Alderney, was named after the island.

Werner Heisenberg first formulated the equation underlying his picture of Quantum mechanics while on Heligoland in the 1920s.

During World War II the civilian population remained on the main island and were protected from Allied bombing in rock shelters, with most of the 128 people killed being anti-aircraft crews.

From 1945 to 1952 the uninhabited islands were used as a bombing range. On 18 April, 1947, the Royal Navy detonated 6,800 tonnes of explosives ("Big Bang" or "British Bang"), creating one of the biggest non-nuclear "single" detonation in history.cite web
date = April 13 2007
url =http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/zeitgeschichte/0,1518,477076,00.html
title=Der Tag, an dem Helgoland der Megabombe trotzte
publisher=Spiegel Online
] While aiming at the fortifications, the island's total destruction would have been accepted. The blow shook the main island several miles down to its base, changing its shape (the Mittelland was created).

In 1952 the islands were restored to the German authorities, who had to clear a huge amount of undetonated ammunition, landscape the main island, and rebuild the houses before it could be resettled.

Heligoland is now a holiday resort and enjoys a tax-exempt status, as it is part of the EU but excluded from the EU VAT area and customs union, and consequently, much of the economy is founded on sales of cigarettes, alcoholic beverages and perfumes to tourists who visit the islands.

Also, there is a search and rescue (SAR) base of the German Navy on Heligoland (German SAR #10).

Road restrictions

There are very few cars on Heligoland. There is a special section (§50) in the German traffic laws ("Straßenverkehrsordnung" [StVO] ) disallowing the use of automobiles and bicycles on the island. No other region in Germany has any exceptions to the general laws in the StVO, ( [http://bundesrecht.juris.de/bundesrecht/stvo/__50.html The section in German] ) though other North Sea islands, such as Baltrum have also banned public use of cars and bicycles.

The area received its first police car on 17 January 2006. Until then, the island's policemen moved around on foot and by bicycle. The car is needed occasionally to transport heavy materials.

Notable Residents

* James Krüss (1926–1997), poet

Heligoland in popular culture

* Heligoland gave its name to the Heligoland trap, used in bird ringing.
* Anton Bruckner composed a large scale choral work based on text about Heligoland.
* The text of the German National Anthem was written on Heligoland during British rule.clarify
* "Heligoland" was a previous designation of the sea area German Bight for the purposes of the Sea Area Shipping Forecast on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) between 1949 and 1956
* Heligoland is the name of a song by Overseer, which describes the changes in shipping forecast when the island was reoccupied.
* Was the subject of a WWI song: "We'll knock the Heligo-into Heligo-out of Heligoland!"
* Swedish author August Strindberg married for the second time on this island with Austrian journalist Frida Uhl in 1893.
* Part of "Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens" was filmed here.
* Physicist Werner Heisenberg formulates the idea of the Uncertainty Principle on this island in the play "Copenhagen" (1998) by Michael Frayn.

ee also

* Postal history of Heligoland
* Forseti - A Norse god whose central place of worship was at Heligoland.


Further reading


* Charlier, C. (1947) " [http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1948C&T....64..193C L'explosion d'Heligoland. - Discussion des observations effectuées à Uccle] ", "Ciel et Terre", 64, p. 193–214
* Gardner, N. (2008) An island outpost: Helgoland. "hidden Europe magazine", 20, pp.2-7 (ISSN 1860-6318) (Historical synopsis with review of modern economy and society on Helgoland).
* Reich, H., Foertsch, O. and Schulze, G.A. (1951) " [http://www.agu.org/journals/ABS/1951/JZ056i002p00147.shtml Results of seismic observations in Germany on the Heligoland explosion of April 18, 1947] ", "J. Geophys. Res.", 56 (2), p. 147–156.

Books (English)

* Black, William G. (1888) "Heligoland and the Islands of the North Sea", London : W. Blackwood & Sons, 199 p.
* Drower, George (2003) "Heligoland - The True Story of German Bight and the Island that Britain Betrayed", Sutton, ISBN 0-7509-2600-7
* Ritsema, Alex (2007) "Heligoland, Past and Present", Lulu.com, ISBN 1-84753-190-3

External links

* [http://www.helgoland.de/engl.htm Heligoland Tourist Board] — includes an aerial photograph of Heligoland (front) and Düne (back).
* [http://velutina.brinkster.net/Helgopalmen/Englisch/StartPage.htm Site about planting palms on Heligoland]
* [http://www.jostjahn.de/reisen/inselhelgoland.html Heligoland Web Cams]

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