Dune and Bunkers

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The tiny island of Dune was connected to the Heligoland main island until 1720, when a storm flood destroyed the land bridge between them. As the name suggests, sand dunes cover much of the island and beaches ring the shores, making it a popular summer destination. The island’s healthy seal population also is a major attraction.

For 200 years, the island was only 25 acres (10 hectares) in area, but the German navy increased that to 99 acres (40 hectares) during World War II, partly to support an air base. That air base evolved to the current Heligoland airport, with a regular ferry connecting the two islands. Outside the beach-going season, Dune remains a popular day trip year-round from the main island, and the ferry often is packed with visitors.

On our fourth and final day in Heligoland, we took the ferry over to Dune for lunch and spent the early afternoon exploring the island. Later that day we learned more about the naval history of the island through a tour of Heligoland’s underground bunker system, before our final dinner on the island. We’d had a wonderful time visiting Heligoland and are glad we finally had a chance to spend some time there.

Below are trip highlights from October 19th, 2019 in Heligoland, Germany. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at mvdirona.com/maps.

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Dock Removal
Crane lifting a boat out of the water after removing all the docks attached to the visible pilings. The marina will be shutting down on October 24th for the winter.
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On Board
On board the ferry Witte Kliff to the small island of Dune. The vessel filled up quickly after we took this picture.
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Witte Kliff
The ferry Witte Kliff departing Dune after dropping off a load of passengers.
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Map of Dune showing the Heligoland airport at right. The ferry landing is at the big red X on the left.
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Runway 33
A good lunch at Runway 33 in the Heligoland airport on Dune. The airfield was built during World War II when the Heligoland archipelago was a navy base. Due to the short length of the runway and often difficult conditions, any pilots landing here need special training.
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Aerospool WT-9 Dynamic
One of two ultralight aircrafts parked at Heligoland, this one a Slovakian-made Aerospool WT-9 Dynamic. The plane costs €130,000 new and has a cruise speed of 160 mph (250 kph) with a range of 990 miles (1,600 km).
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Appealing-looking bungalows in the sand on Dune.
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Dune’s small surface is full of great walking trails. The day is a bit cold, with strong winds, so we’re more bundled up than usual.
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Grey Seals
Dune has a large seal population. These are grey seals hauled out on the north shore. The bulls can reach 10 ft (3 m) and weigh over 660 pounds (300 kg).
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Common Seal
A baby common seal alone in the sand along the east shore of Dune.
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Coast Guard
A German coast guard was in position southeast of Dune most of the time were were on Heligoland.
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Lighthouse along the south side of Dune. The winds and waves are still pretty active after yesterday’s big winds.
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Boardwalk through grass-covered dunes on the north shore of Dune.
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Beach Chair
We see beach chairs throughout Dune and Heligoland, sometimes in seemingly unusual places. This one is inland along a boardwalk.
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Tranquil pond in the center of the island of Dune.
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These shrubs appear ready to take over the path given a chance.
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Edeka Markt Falmfelsen
Enjoying the view to Dune over a beer at Edeka Markt Falmfelsen on the main island.
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Bunker Tour
Heligoland has a warren of World War II bunkers underneath the upper city. Today we took a tour through a portion of them.
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Heligoland 1930
Photograph in the Heligoland bunker showing the island in 1930. You can see how smooth the northern end of the island is compared to the craters visible now following the “British Bang” when Britain in 1947 detonated 6,700 tonnes of explosives. The explosion also collapsed the southern top of the island—a large crater is there today where in the photo cliffs ring the southern tip.
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Project Hummerschere
Project Hummerschere (“Lobster Claw”) was an ambitious project German Navy plan to greatly extend the usable land in Heligoland and create a major North Sea naval base. In the picture, the dark grey areas are the existing land and the light grey is the proposed new land. The project was started in 1937, but never completed.
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Nordsee III
A photograph in the Heligoland bunker of the submarine pen Nordsee III at Heligoland. The facility, completed in 1941, was 511ft (156m) by 308ft (94 m). It was destroyed by the “British Bang” of 1947, which had the goal of destroying the military facilities on the island.
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Big Bang
Photographs in the Heligoland bunker of the “British Bang”, also called the “Bing Bang” in April of 1947. The detonation of 6,700 tonnes of explosives was almost half the size of the Hiroshima bomb.
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We can view our boat cameras from our cell phone and could see that a boat had just rafted against us, so returned to the dock to let them know we would be leaving at first light the next morning. The harbour is getting crowded now, with boats rafting three-deep.
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The boat against us was a large Princess with what appeared to be a professional crew. They’d done a good job of landing, securing their boat and placing their fenders along with our large inflatable fenders to keep the two boats apart in the wind and waves. And they were fine with being up early for us to to depart at first light the next morning.
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Halunder Jet
Last night we took a picture through the boat of the broken windows on the Halunder Jet and today the ship has been turned around for temporary repairs. These repairs patch the hole in the side of the boat and the broken window, and will allow them to return to the mainland for full service.
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Rickmers Seafood
A final Heligoland meal at Rickmers Seafood with a view to the harbour. Tomorrow morning we depart for the Netherlands. We really enjoyed our time on Heligoland and are glad we finally had a chance to visit.
Show locations on map Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at mvdirona.com/maps.


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8 comments on “Dune and Bunkers
  1. WILLIAM DOMB says:

    Amazing someone would just raft up against you with no by or leave.


    • Yes, but at least they did no damage and were very nice. Not everyone manages to succeed on either of those dimensions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2jsDt8KW1Y&t=4s.

    • Julian Buss says:


      berths are very limited, especially in winter. It‘s completely common to raft up against. In summer, there are up to ten boats rafted against eachother or even more. There are even buoys in the middle of the harbour where the outer boats cam secure additional lines.

      Since this is common, everyone takes great care and is relaxed about this. Last summer I was the most inner boat with 8 boats on my side, and I wanted to leave in the night – so we shuffled the „Päckchen“ (german word for such set of boats), I went to the end of the row and several others changed place depending on their planned departure time.

      It was fun and easy and relaxed and a good way to get in touch with other sailors :-)

      • Yes, I know some people don’t mind rafting or even like it. And, sure, we like meeting people in all of our travels but, just like I would rather not share an apartment or a hotel room with a stranger, I would rather not go on vacation with others inches away and walking back and forth over our boat. We understand that this posses some limitations on where we go and there are some places like Helgoland where it is just about impossible to avoid, but that’s our preference when we can get it.

  2. Julian Buss says:

    The coast guard vessel southeast of Dune is on a permanent stand-by position in case a ship has engine or rudder trouble. It’s part of sophisticated emergency plan covering ship accidents in the german bay.

    I’m glad you had a good time on Heligoland!

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