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In 1906 Cuxhaven and Sonderburg were selected as naval bases. Cuxhaven is a seaport of Germany, situated on the south point of the entrance to the Elbe ; near it stands the lighthouse. Vessels wait for favorable winds in the road, where there is good anchorage abreast the town, and when going up the Elbe they call here for pilots. In winter, when the river is frozen, passengers embark and land at Cuxhaven. Packets call regularly bound for London and the chief English ports, Havre, and Rotterdam. It is a free port, with no harbor dues ; by 1910 the harbor had been deepened so as to admit vessels of 18 feet draft at ordinary tides, and was much frequented as a harbor of refuge, having means to repair damage.

Cuxhaven was the seat of administration for the North Sea coast defenses and the pivot of the whole system. Here were the headquarters of the mine service and the naval airship branch. As soon as the new harbor works were completed, Cuxhaven took on the character of a secondary naval base, and ships were often sent here to relieve the congestion at Wilhelmshaven. The deep-sea harbor, finished in 1901, had a depth at low water of 26 feet, and the depot of the Hamburg-Amerika Line afforded excellent coaling and repairing facilities.

In 1905 the naval authorities purchased a large tract of foreshore at Groden, two miles southeast of the town, where fortifications, barracks, and ammunition magazines were established. In the same year the mine service was made a distinct branch of the navy, and the first company of specialist officers and men was formed. This step was due to the experience of the Russo-Japanese War, which was held to have demonstrated the immense potentiality of naval mines when scientifically employed. The defenses include the sea forts of Neuwerk, Kugelbake, and Grimmerhorn, and the batteries at Neues Fort, Dose, and Groden. Some extremely heavy metal was mounted here. On the northern shore there were lighter batteries at Neufeld and Brunsbüttel, to deal with any hostile ships which might have escaped the main defenses and were aiming for the canal locks at Brunsbüttel. This formidable accumulation of coast artillery, together with the mine fields which ought to prove very effective in the narrow and tortuous Elbe estuary, constituted a barrier against which no fleet could dash itself without suffering cruel loss. The excellence of the Cuxhaven defenses was largely the result of representations made by the powerful commercial interests of Hamburg.

The Elbe is one of the largest rivers in northern Europe, being about 780 miles in length. After its junction with the Eger River it becomes navigable. In its course, which is northerly, it receives the waters of many rivers and discharges itself into the North Sea at the head of Helgoland Bight, at about 15 miles eastward of the Weser. The intermediate space is filled with sand banks, extending 15 miles offshore, which are partly dry at low water. The river, between the sea and Cuxhaven, can be navigated by a vessel of any draft at high water neaps and about 21 feet draft at low water springs. Between Cuxhaven and the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal entrance the least depth is 4 fathoms at low water springs, in the channel between Oste Bank and Oste Reef. Between the canal entrance and Hamburg the navigable depth is 29 feet.

The best anchorage at Cuxhaven Road was to the northeastward of the lighthouse, in from 6 to 7 fathoms, mud. Small vessels can anchor nearer the shore, between the Alte Liebe and Kugel Beacon, but not approaching too near the bank, which here extends a considerable distance from the shore. Sailing vessels leaving the river wait for favorable winds here. There was an area of some extent surrounding a position situated in Cuxhaven Road, at a distance of 400 yards 16° from Cuxhaven Light, where many anchors have been lost. Mariners were, therefore, warned against anchoring in this area, as it may be difficult, if not impossible, to weight the anchor, in consequence of its being entangled with those already on the bottom.

In the 1870s Cuxhaven was still merely of importance as a port of refuge for vessels in distress or seeking shelter against northerly and westerly gales, as well as for those prevented by ice from proceeding up the river Elbe to Hamburgh. Cuxhaven was a perfectly free port, without any harbor dues, and vessels entering and leaving the port were not subject to any formalities.

From Great Britain two British vessels and 14 small German vessels brought cargoes of coal ; all the numerous other vessels, amounting in 1877 to 890, put in here only windbound, on account of ice in the river, for shelter, wanting repairs. About 640 small and coasting vessels, coming principally from Hamburgh and neighbouring ports, brought cargoes of goods for the use of the population, or materials for the forts, &c. ; and about 930 North Sea fishing crafts put into this port in the year 1877. The exports from Cuxhaven during the year 1877 consisted of about 675 bullocks and about 500 quarters of grain coming from the neighbouring villages, shipped to Hamburgh in coasting vessels. From Great Britain the imports in 1877 were only about 2,300 tons of coal ; the other imports by small crafts were only goods for the use of the population of this district, as well as bricks, stone, and materials for the fort.

The new harbor, although not advanced in construction during 1877, had by no means been abandoned. The depressed state of industry and business which has prevailed in most continental countries, and particularly in Germany, together with the unfavorable aspect of the political horizon, prevented the Cuxhaven Railway and Harbor Company resuming the harbor works, but they devoted their unwilling leisure to the revision of the technical and geographical project of this intended maritime establishment. At the request of Hamburgh, and following the hints said to have been given by the Imperial German Admiralty, the first authorities on harbur works had been consulted and engaged by the company to examine the project thoroughly with a view to its improvement. The well-known engineer. Sir John Hawkshaw, and some eminent Dutch engineers, accordingly visited Cuxhaven in the summer of 1877, investigating and studying the subject, the result of which was that the scheme of the harbor had been remodelled with a view of securing the new tidal harbor more effectually against the floods and strong winds, and while diminishing the area of the harbor to about two-thirds of the original design, a capacity for the accommodation of vessels to an equal extent was still retained.

By 1911 the first glimpse of Cuxhaven disclosed the wireless telegraph station, then the houses and towers of Cuxhaven itself. Cuxhaven light, the "alte Liebe" of the German sailors, occupies a prominent position. The new piers at Cuxhaven, which the steamers go alongside of to land passengers, were constructed by the German Government expressly for the use of the Hamburg American Line, and that company has erected on the quay a splendid station and commodious waiting rooms, restaurant, telegraph office, etc., for the convenience of incoming and outgoing passengers. The special steamer trains to and from Hamburg depart from and arrive at this same station.

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias

Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:54:40 ZULU