What Is the Heligoland Bight?
The Heligoland Bight, also known as Helgoland Bight is an arm of the North Sea extending south and east of the red sandstone island of Heligoland. Heligoland is a small remote island of the German North Frisian group lying in the North Sea between the coast of Schleswig-Holstein and the estuaries of the Jade, Weser and Elbe.
The Heligoland Bight extends from the mouth of the River Elbe to the islands of Heligoland and lies between the East Frisian island of Wangerooge and the North Frisian peninsula of Eiderstedt. It is 5,249 feet long and 1,640 feet wide at its broadest point. In 1807 Heligoland was a Danish possession but it was seized by the English in 1814 and given to Germany in 1890.
Named after Heligoland, it was the location of World War I naval battles in 1914 and 1917. In 1939 it also had a World War II aerial battle named after it. In the Heligoland Basin (Helgoländer Becken), a basin lying directly southwest of Heligoland, the bight is up to 56 metres deep.
Before 1914 Germany developed it as a great naval base with an extensive harbor in the south-east. There was a network of underground fortifications and coastal batteries and it was known as the “Gibraltor of the North Sea”. The Heligoland Bight became famous as the scene of a naval battle between the British and the Germans on August 28th, 1914. Heligoland became a stronghold again under the Nazis and the capital town of Heligoland was destroyed by Allied bombers. In 1947 the whole character of the island was changed by the destruction of the fortifications.
One of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, from Hamburg and the mouth of the Elbe to the Straits of Dover and the English Channel, runs through the Heligoland Bight. The area also includes nature reserves such as the Heligoland Felssockel and the protected Wadden Sea, in which the Wadden Sea National Parks of Schleswig-Holstein (East), Hamburg (southeast) and Lower Saxony (south) are located.
Besides the aforementioned islands of Heligoland, which form the northwestern boundary of the Heligoland Bight, there is the small island of Neuwerk in the southeast, which is located in the Wadden Sea off the Elbe estuary. South of this island is the estuary of the Weser and, to its west, the Jade Bight. Southwest of the Heligoland Bight is the East Frisian island of Wangerooge. East of the bight the Eider enters the sea with, to its north the Eiderstedt Peninsula and, to its south, Meldorf Bay.