|Mayor||Jörg Singer (Ind.)|
|Area||1.7 km2 (0.66 sq mi)|
|Elevation||61 m (200 ft)|
|Population||1,131 (31 December 2011)|
|- Density||665 /km2 (1,723 /sq mi)|
|Time zone||CET/CEST (UTC+1/+2)|
Formerly Danish and British possessions, the islands (population 1,127) are located in the Heligoland Bight (part of the German Bight) in the south-eastern corner of the North Sea. They are the only German islands not in the immediate vicinity of the mainland and are approximately three 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 46 kilometres (29 mi) 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. The former is what the place name "Heligoland" normally is used to refer to. Düne is somewhat smaller at 0.7 km2 (0.27 sq mi), lower, and surrounded by sand beaches. It is not permanently inhabited, but is today the location of Heligoland's airstrip.
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 located), 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 Mittelland came into being in 1947 as a result of explosions detonated by the British Royal Navy (the so-called "Big Bang"; see below).
The main island also features small beaches in the north and the south and drops to the sea 50 metres (160 ft) high in the north, west and southwest. In the latter, the ground continues to drop underwater to a depth of 56 metres (184 ft) below sea level. Northwest of the island proper Heligoland's famous landmark is found: the Lange Anna ("Long Anna" or "Tall Anna") is a free standing rock column (or stack), 47 metres (154 ft) high.
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 metres (200 ft) 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.
The climate of Heligoland is typical of an offshore climate, being almost free of pollen and thus ideal for people with pollen allergies. Since there is no land mass in the vicinity, temperatures rarely drop below −5 °C (23 °F) even in the winter. 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 is generally sunnier.
Owing to the mild climate, figs have reportedly been grown on the island as early as 1911 and a 2005 article mentioned Japanese bananas, figs, agaves, palm trees and other exotic plants that had been planted on Heligoland and were thriving. There still is an old mulberry tree in the Upper Town.
|Climate data for Heligoland, 1961–1990|
|Daily mean °F||36.5||35.8||38.1||42.8||50.4||56.8||60.4||61.9||58.8||53.1||45.7||39.9||48.4|
|Daily mean °C||2.5||2.1||3.4||6.0||10.2||13.8||15.8||16.6||14.9||11.7||7.6||4.4||9.1|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||46.5||79.1||120.9||177.0||241.8||237.0||223.2||220.1||147.0||99.2||54.0||40.3||1,686|
|Source: German Weather Service|
|Climate data for Heligoland, 1990 – 2010|
|Average high °F (°C)||40.3
|Average low °F (°C)||36.7
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, called Bunter, is from the early Triassic geologic age. It is older than the white chalk that underlies the island Düne, the same rock that forms 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 (white cliff), is known to have existed within sight of the island to the west until 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). A referendum in June 2011 dismissed a proposal to reconnect the main island to the Düne islet with a landfill.
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, as expressed in its motto:
|German||Low German||North Frisian||English|
Grün ist das Land,
Gröön is dat Land,
Grön es det Lunn,
Green is the land,
1 lit. "edge" (of the island)
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.
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. Archaeological findings from the 12th to 14th century suggest the processing of copper ore on the island.
It is usually said that the name Heligoland in origin means "Holy Land" (cf. modern Dutch and German heilig, "holy"). However, 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica describes this theory as "doubtful", suggesting instead an etymology of "Hallaglun, or Halligland, i.e. 'land of banks, which cover and uncover.' "
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.
19th century 
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On 11 September 1807, during the Napoleonic Wars, HMS Carrier brought to the Admiralty the despatches from Admiral Thomas McNamara Russell announcing Heligoland's capitulation to the British. Heligoland became a centre of smuggling and espionage against Napoleon. Denmark then formally ceded Heligoland to the United Kingdom by the Treaty of Kiel (14 January 1814). Thousands of Germans came to Britain and joined the King's German Legion via Heligoland.
In 1826, Heligoland became a seaside spa and soon it turned into a popular tourist resort for the German upper-class. The island also attracted artists and writers, especially from Germany and even Austria who enjoyed the freedom of the benignly ruled (British) island, including 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 in the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty. The newly-unified Germany was concerned about a foreign power's controlling land from which it could command the western entrance to the militarily-important Kiel Canal, then under construction, as well as other naval installations in the area, and traded for it. 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.
Heligoland has an important place in the history of the study of ornithology, and especially the understanding of migration. The book Heligoland, an Ornithological Observatory by Heinrich Gätke, published in German in 1890 and in English in 1895, described an astonishing array of migrant birds on the island and was a major influence on the future studies of bird migration, in Britain in particular.
20th century 
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. While a student of Arnold Sommerfeld at Munich in the early 1920s, Werner Heisenberg (1901–75) first met the Danish physicist Niels Bohr. He and Bohr went for long hikes in the mountains and discussed the failure of existing theories to account for the new experimental results on the quantum structure of matter. Following these discussions, Heisenberg plunged into several months of intensive theoretical research, but met with continual frustration. Finally, suffering from a severe attack of hay fever, he retreated to the treeless (and pollenless) island of Heligoland in the summer of 1925. There he conceived the basis of the quantum theory.
World War II 
The area was the setting of the aerial Battle of the Heligoland Bight in 1939, a result of British bombing attempts on German Navy vessels in that area. The area was frequently mined by British aircraft.
During World War II the civilian population remained on the main island and were protected from Allied bombing in rock shelters. Following the island's penultimate air raid, on 18 April 1945 using 969 Allied aircraft, the island was evacuated. Most of the 128 casualties during the WW II period were anti-aircraft crews.
|11 March 19 March, 24 August 1944||No. 466 Squadron RAAF conducted minelaying operations.|
|18 April 1944||No. 466 Squadron RAAF conducted bombing operations.|
|29 August 1944||Mission 584: 11 B-17 Flying Fortresses and 34 B-24 Liberators bomb Heligoland Island; 3 B-24s are damaged. Escort is provided by 169 P-38 Lightnings and P-51 Mustangs; 7 P-51s are damaged.|
|3 September 1944||Operation Aphrodite B-17 63954 attempt on U-boat pens failed when US Navy controller flew aircraft into Düne Island by mistake.|
|11 September 1944||Operation Aphrodite B-17 30180 attempt on U-boat pens hit by enemy flak and crashed into sea.|
|29/30 September 1944||15 Lancasters conducted minelaying in the Kattegat and off Heligoland. No aircraft lost.|
|5/6 October 1944||10 Halifaxes conducted minelaying off Heligoland. No aircraft lost.|
|15 October 1944||Operation Aphrodite B-17 30039 *Liberty Belle* and B-17 37743 attempt on U-boat pens destroyed many of the buildings of the Unterland.|
|26/27 October 1944||10 Lancasters of No 1 Group conducted minelaying off Heligoland. 1 Lancaster minelayer lost. and the islands were evacuated the following night.|
|22/23 November 1944||17 Lancasters conducted minelaying off Heligoland and in the mouth of the River Elbe without loss.|
|23 November 1944||4 Mosquitoes conducted Ranger patrols in the Heligoland area. No aircraft lost.|
|31 December 1944||On Eighth Air Force Mission 772, 1 B-17 bombed Heligoland island.|
|4/5 February 1945||15 Lancasters and 12 Halifaxes minelaying off Heligoland and in the River Elbe. No minelaying aircraft lost.|
|16/17 March 1945||12 Halifaxes and 12 Lancasters minelaying in the Kattegat and off Heligoland. No aircraft lost.|
|18 April 1945||969 aircraft – 617 Lancasters, 332 Halifaxes, 20 Mosquitoes bombed the Naval base, airfield, & town into crater-pitted moonscapes. 3 Halifaxes were lost. The islands were evacuated the following day.|
|19 April 1945||36 Lancasters of 9 and 617 Squadrons attacked coastal battery positions with Tallboy bombs for no losses.|
From 1945 to 1952 the uninhabited Heligoland islands were used as a bombing range. On 18 April 1947, the Royal Navy detonated 6,700 tonnes of explosives ("Big Bang" or "British Bang"), creating one of the biggest single non-nuclear detonations in history. 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 then 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.
Modern day 
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.
The ornithological heritage of Heligoland has also been re-established, with the Heligoland Bird Observatory now being managed by the Ornithologische Arbeitsgemeinschaft Helgoland e.V. which was founded in 1991.
Before 2009, when the island was connected to the mainland network by a submarine cable, electricity on Heligoland was generated by a local diesel plant. With a length of 53 kilometres (33 mi) the Heligoland Power Cable is one of the longest AC submarine power cables in the world and the longest of its kind in Germany. It was manufactured by the North German Seacable Works in a single piece and was laid by the barge Nostag 10 in spring 2009. The Heligoland Power Cable, which is designed for an operational voltage of 30 kV, reaches the German mainland at Sankt Peter-Ording.
Road restrictions 
There are very few cars on Heligoland. There is a special section (§50) in the German traffic regulations (Straßenverkehrsordnung) prohibiting the use of automobiles and bicycles on the island. No other region in Germany has any exceptions to the general regulations in the StVO, although other North Sea islands, such as Baltrum, have also banned the public from using cars and motor-bikes.
Except for the local ambulance van and the small firetrucks the only powered vehicles on the island are electrically powered, used primarily for moving material. Kick scooters are sometimes used as substitutes for 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 (being exempt from the bicycle ban).
Notable residents 
- Heinrich Gätke (1814–1897), artist and ornithologist.
- Rear Admiral Sir John Hindmarsh (1785–1860), veteran of the Battle of Trafalgar and first governor of South Australia, was the governor of Heligoland from 1840–56.
- James Krüss (1926–1997), poet.
- Richard Mansfield (1857–1907), actor.
In 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 by August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben during his vacation on then British-governed Heligoland.
- "Heligoland" is the name of a song by Overseer
- Part of Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens was filmed here. Part of the dark comedy Shadow of the Vampire, which is a fictionalized account of the filming of Nosferatu, was also set on Heligoland.
- The first part of The Holy Mountain, starring Leni Riefenstahl, directed by Arnold Fanck was filmed here.
- Physicist Werner Heisenberg formulates the idea of the Uncertainty Principle on this island in the play Copenhagen (1998) by Michael Frayn.
- The British trip hop band Massive Attack named their 2010 album Heligoland.
- The Berlin-based football club TSV Helgoland takes its name from the island.
See also 
- Postal history of Heligoland
- Forseti – A Norse god whose central place of worship was at Heligoland.
- Location hypotheses of Atlantis – Heligoland is hypothesized as a possible location for Atlantis by the Austrian author Jürgen Spanuth.
- "Statistikamt Nord: Bevölkerung in Schleswig-Holstein am 31. Dezember 2011 nach Kreisen, Ämtern, amtsfreien Gemeinden und Städten". Statistisches Amt für Hamburg und Schleswig-Holstein (in German). 19 July 2012.
- Adolphi, Klaus (March 2008). "Neues zur Flora von Helgoland". Braunschweiger Geobotanische Arbeiten (in German) 9: 9–19. Citing Kuckuck, P. (1911). "Reife Feigen und subtropische Pflanzen auf Helgoland. I". Die Heimat (in German) (Kiel) 21: 19–24.
- Saße, Dörte (26 August 2005). "Helgoland und Sansibar: Die ungleichen Schwestern". Spiegel Online (in German).
- "Langjährige Mittelwerte: 1961–1990" (in German). German Weather Service.
- "WeatherOnline.co.uk CLimate Robot Helgoland/Düne". WeatherOnline.co.uk.
- "Nautical chart "Helgoland"". Europäisches Segel-Informationssystem. Retrieved 27 July 2008.[dead link]
- "Helgoländer stimmen gegen Inselvergrößerung". Kieler Nachrichten (in German). 26 June 2011. Retrieved 27 June 2011.
- Ritsema, Alex (2007). Heligoland, Past and Present. Lulu Press. pp. 21–3. ISBN 978-1-84753-190-2.
- University of Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein State Archaeological Museum, ed. (1986). Schleswig-Holstein in 150 archäologischen Funden (in German). Neumünster: Karl Wachholtz. ISBN 3-529-01829-5.
- Heligoland, Past and Present, p. 39, Alex Ritsema
- "Heligoland". 1911encyclopedia.org. 10 June 2006. Retrieved 18 April 2013.
- The London Gazette: . 12 September 1807. Retrieved 25 November 2010.
- 466 Squadron Missions
- "8th Air Force 1944 Chronicles". Retrieved 2007-05-25. June, July, August, September, October.
- "1942 USAAF Serial Numbers (42-57213 to 42-70685)". Encyclopedia of American Aircraft. Joseph F. Baugher. Retrieved 2007-04-10.
- "Campaign Diary". Royal Air Force Bomber Command 60th Anniversary. UK Crown. Retrieved 2007-05-24. 1944: June, July, August, September, October, November, December.
- "1942 USAAF Serial Numbers (42-30032 to 42-39757)". Encyclopedia of American Aircraft. Joseph F. Baugher. Retrieved 2007-04-10.
- Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces – December 1944
- Royal Air Force Bomber Command 60th Anniversary: Campaign Diary – March 1945
- Royal Air Force Bomber Command 60th Anniversary: Campaign Diary – April and May 1945
- "Der Tag, an dem Helgoland der Megabombe trotzte". Spiegel Online. 13 April 2007. Retrieved 2007-04-13.
- [http://books.google.com/books?id=nJTj4pD_XekC&pg&pg=PA206 The Royal Navy and German naval disarmament, 1942–1947 By Chris Madsen] at Google Books
- "Mit der Zukunft Geschichte schreiben". Dithmarscher Kreiszeitung (in German).
- § 50 (50) StVO
Further reading 
- Charlier, C. (1947). "L'explosion d'Heligoland. – Discussion des observations effectuées à Uccle". Ciel et Terre (in French) 64: 193–214.
- Gardner, N. (2008). "An island outpost: Helgoland". Hidden Europe Magazine (20): 2–7. ISSN 1860-6318. Historical synopsis with review of modern economy and society on Heligoland.
- Reich, H.; Foertsch, O.; Schulze, G. A. (1951). "Results of seismic observations in Germany on the Heligoland explosion of April 18, 1947". Journal of Geophysical Research 56 (2): 147–156.
- Black, William George (1888). Heligoland and the Islands of the North-Sea. Edinburgh: W. Blackwood.
- Drower, George (2011). Heligoland: The True Story of German Bight and the Island That Britain Forgot. Stroud, UK: History Press. ISBN 9780752460673.
- Ritsema, Alex (2007). Heligoland, Past and Present. Lulu Press. ISBN 1847531903.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Heligoland|
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Heligoland.|
- Film clip of coast defenses
- Heligoland Tourist Board — includes an aerial photograph of Heligoland (front) and Düne (back).
- Site about planting palms on Heligoland
- Heligoland Web Cams
- Heligoland Bird Observatory
- Footage of Destruction of Heligoland fortifications April 1947