Helgoland Habitat

Coordinates: 54°18′20″N 13°06′57″E / 54.30556°N 13.11583°E / 54.30556; 13.11583
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Helgoland underwater laboratory (UWL) at Nautineum, Stralsund (Germany)
Interior of the Helgoland UWL
Interior of the Helgoland UWL

The Helgoland underwater laboratory (UWL) is an underwater habitat. It was built by Dräger in Lübeck, Germany in 1968 for the Biological Institute Helgoland, and was the first of its kind in the world built for use in colder waters.[1] It is named after the island Helgoland.

The habitat allowed divers to spend several weeks under water using saturation diving techniques. The scientists and technicians would live and work in the laboratory, returning there after each dive. Only once they had reached the end of their stay did they decompress in the UWL itself, being able to then resurface without coming to any harm. After experience gained in the first deployment, a wet section was added.

The UWL was used in the waters of the North and Baltic Seas and, in 1975, on Jeffreys Ledge, in the Gulf of Maine along the coast of New England in the United States.[2][3]


The station was delivered to the GKSS Research Center in Geesthacht in 1972. It was used until 1981 in the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the North Atlantic. The first stage of deployment was in 1969 off Helgoland. During this deployment Karl-Heinz Schumann and the student Winfried Kreytenberg died on 6 December 1969 at a depth of 25 meters south-east of the island Düne during work on the underwater laboratory while disconnecting the underwater laboratory and the supply line.[4][5]

The laboratory was lifted by the floating crane "Magnus 4" in April 1970 and placed on the mole of the South Helgoland harbour.[6]

Further deployments were off Eckernförde at 9 m depth, off Helgoland again in 1973 in 23 m depth, in Lübeck Bay in 1974 in 15 m depth, off Rockport in 1975 in 33 m depth and from 1975 to 1981 in Lübeck Bay between 11 and 15 m depth. On September 25, 1975, German aquanaut Joachim Wendler died of an air embolism while returning to the surface of the Gulf of Maine from Helgoland. He was participating in a checkout mission for the First International Saturation Study of Herring and Hydroacoustics (FISSHH) project.[7][8][9]

At the end of the 1970s the laboratory was decommissioned, and in the summer of 1998 it was donated to the German Oceanographic Museum by the GKSS Research Centre, Geesthacht. It can be visited at the Nautineum, an outpost of the museum in Stralsund.

Technical data[edit]

The interior of the UWL Helgoland consists of a living area 2.5 m long, an instrumentation and engine room 6.5 m long and since 1973 a wet laboratory 4 m long.[10] With a diameter of 2.5 m, this provided a useful area of 32.5 m2. The laboratory provided all necessary facilities for a stay of several weeks on the seabed. The internal pressure was the same as the external pressure, and decompression from saturation was done at the end of the mission.

The habitat had air conditioning and good thermal insulation. It was lowered by flooding the ballast tanks with seawater, and raised by blowing the water out of the tanks using compressed air.

Principal dimensions:

Overall length: 14 meters
Overall width: 7 meters
Total height: 7 meters
Total weight (with ballast): 110 tonnes


  1. ^ "Unterwasserlabor Helgoland • Fotogalerie • schiffsspotter.de". Archived from the original on 2010-05-07. Retrieved 2010-08-06.
  2. ^ Miller, James W.; Koblick, Ian G. (1984). Living and Working in the Sea. New York, New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company. pp. 115–116. ISBN 0-442-26084-9.
  3. ^ http://stellwagen.noaa.gov/library/pdfs/banknotes_sprsum2011.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  4. ^ "Friedhof der Namenlosen", 22 November 2008, retrieved 21 November 2009.
  5. ^ Das tragische Nachspiel: Im Dezember 1969 sterben zwei Forschungstaucher, sh:z, 9 March 2010, retrieved 2 July 2012.
  6. ^ "Unterwasserlabor gehoben", Hamburger Abendblatt, 10 April 1970, retrieved 25 June 2013 (PDF; 1,7 MB).
  7. ^ Ocean Science News. 17 (39). September 26, 1975. {{cite journal}}: Missing or empty |title= (help) and Ocean Science News. 17 (40). October 3, 1975. {{cite journal}}: Missing or empty |title= (help), cited in "Full text of "O.C.S. oversight of 1978 amendments : hearings before the Select Committee on the Outer Continental Shelf, House of Representatives, Ninety-sixth Congress, first session, on oversight on the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act Amendments of 1978"". Internet Archive. 1979. Retrieved January 25, 2012.
  8. ^ Miller and Koblick, pp. 117, 264.
  9. ^ Hellwarth, Ben (2012). Sealab: America's Forgotten Quest to Live and Work on the Ocean Floor. New York: Simon & Schuster. pp. 235–237. ISBN 978-0-7432-4745-0. LCCN 2011015725.
  10. ^ G. Luther (March 1973). "UWL "Helgoland" - an underwater laboratory for rough sea conditions". Helgoland Marine Research. Hamburg: Springer Nature. 24 (1): 45–53. Bibcode:1973HWM....24...45L. doi:10.1007/BF01609498. ISSN 1438-3888.

External links[edit]

Media related to UWL Helgoland at Wikimedia Commons

54°18′20″N 13°06′57″E / 54.30556°N 13.11583°E / 54.30556; 13.11583