On the Ems at Emden was a torpedo boat station. According to the report of the London Daily Express (see an article in that paper of April 4th, 1907), the German Admiralty decided to turn the port of Emden, at the mouth of the river Ems, into a first-class torpedo base. This decision was Germany's reply to the formation of the British Home Fleet and the creation of a new flotilla of torpedo-boat destroyers at Dover.
Emden is the nearest German harbor to the English coast, and is some fifty miles nearer to Sheerness than Wilhelmshaven, which had hitherto been the most westerly of Germany's naval ports. It will be remembered that Emden is the port which is always chosen by novelists and story writers as the point at which the German army is embarked for the invasion of England. Embarkation wharves extend for over a mile along the right bank of the Ems, but apart from this the place is not very well adapted for the purpose usually allotted to it. The fortifications were very feeble, and there are only a few troops quartered there, while for many miles the line of railway leading up from the military centers was a single one. These difficulties, however, could easily be surmounted, and they did not in the least affect the decision of the German Government.
The principal German naval base in the North Sea was Wilhelmshaven, and this was connected with Emden by the Ems-Jade Canal, about forty miles in length, which was deep enough to allow of the passage of small torpedo craft. By using this canal, whatever force of torpedo-boats was at Wilhelmshaven can reach Emden without touching the sea at all, and it was stated that it is extremely unlikely that a force of boats would be permanently maintained at Emden. The only craft to be there permanently were reported to be the necessary "mother ships." There was no doubt, however, that the new base will provide a useful and dangerous striking point for Germany should she ever come into conflict with Great Britain. Emden would certainly be of much more use to Germany as a torpedo base than as a possible jumping off place for an invasion which in all probability they would never risk. It brings their torpedo craft within eight hours of the English coast.
It was only since 1910 that Emden had come into prominence as a naval base. The channel leading from the Ems up to the port was widened and deepened sufficiently to allow the passage of vessels drawing more than thirty feet. Adjoining the harbor itself an immense basin was cut, capable of holding a whole fleet of big steamers. Everything, in fact, pointed to the Emden as the selected base for oversea military operation on the most formidable scale. Its position was well adapted to such a purpose. Screened from observation by the Frisian Islands, several of which have been strongly fortified, a fleet of transports could assemble there in absolute secrecy. With many lines of railway converging on the port from inland military depots a large army could be concentrated at short notice, and its embarkation rapidly accomplished. That it could serve as one of the principal bases for an army of invasion, should the Germans decide upon such an adventure, is no less certain.
The fortification of Borkum, which was a topic of much discussion in the English press, began in 1909. Situated at the mouth of the Ems, and less than twelve miles from the coast, this island commands the approach to the river, and has been fortified on a scale commensurate with its strategical importance. For the defense of Borkum, the military are responsible. The defense works, which are well concealed among the dunes, are known to be extremely powerful. Besides the heaviest guns of position there are mobile batteries of quick-firers, operating along a railway which completely encircles the island.
Emden numbered among the most important German seaports and was considered to be the cultural and economic center of Ostfriesland (East Frisia). Its first settlement dates back to a trading outpost which Frisian merchants established in the late 8th and early 9th centuries on a Warf, a hill of earth designed to protect buildings from the North Sea tidal flooding. In the early Middle Ages the settlement derived its name "Amuthon" from its location at the confluence of the A River into the Ems River; in the course of time the name became Emutha, Emda and ultimately Emden.
During the 16th century, Emden, with its some 25,000 inhabitants, was one of the largest cities in Germany, but a shift in the course of the Ems River following a storm tide in the 17th century had catastrophic consequences for the flourishing trading metropolis: whereas the river had previously flown directly past the city, its course now lay 3 km away from Emden. The harbor entrance, the old river bed, began to silt up. Around 1750 only 7,000 people lived in Emden, and the city fell into provincial insignificance. The construction of the Ems-Jade Canal in 1888 and the Dortmund-Ems Canal in 1898 again connected Emden with German interior regions, in particular with the Ruhr industrial area. In the course of only a few decades Emden became one of the busiest ports for the import and export of bulk goods such as iron ore and coal.
Emden, situated about 35 miles from the sea, had, with the opening of the Dortmund-Ems Canal, become a depot and an important outlet by the sea for the industrial products of the Province of Westphalia. The harbors have been improved and deepened, and works were in progress in 1914, and the trade has consequently largely increased. The United States is represented by a consular agent. The least depth, between Emden and the sea, passing by Huibert Gat, is at the east end of the gat, 21 feet at low water springs. The channel from the Ems to Emden is dredged to 22 feet.
Emden Harbor was divided into three parts - the outer haven, the new inner haven, and the old inner haven. The outer haven below the locks is a large tidal basin about 1,650 yards long and 150 yards broad, with a depth of 32 feet at high water springs and at low water of not less than 23 feet. Suction dredgers were constantly employed in maintaining the above depths. On the western side of the outer haven is a quay 1,226 yards long; seven or eight steamers can lie alongside. On this quay are several sheds with railway communication. Northward of these sheds is a large coal tip which will unload twelve railroad cars per hour and discharge their contents into vessels lying alongside. There are also ten electric traveling cranes and one large crane with a lifting power of 40 tons. On the eastern side of the outer haven are dolphins where six vessels can moor.
The inner haven extends from the locks at the northern end of the outer haven to the railroad bridge and has a depth of from 18 to 23 feet. On the western side are three basins each about 1,100 feet long, 200 feet broad, and 20 feet deep. These basins were chiefly used by private firms. On the eastern side of this haven, at the northern end, was the Government yard for the repair of dredgers, buoys, etc., which possesses a 25-ton crane. Further southward on this side was a large goods shed with railroad communication and ten cranes. Below this is the entrance to the Ems-Dortmund Canal.
The old inner haven consists of several basins in the town above the swinging railroad bridge. The Ems-Jade Canal joins it by means of a lock at its east end. The Ems-Jade Canal is 39 miles in length, 59 feet wide at the top. and 28 feet at the bottom, with a depth of 6 feet 10 inches on an average, but usually less in summer, and is intended for both military and commercial purposes. It connects Emden Harbor with Wilhelmshaven. The locks are 108 feet in length, 21 feet in breadth, and 6 feet 10 inches deep. The canal can be used by vessels not exceeding 108 feet in length, 20 feet in breadth, and 6 feet in draft. Mooring berths and turning places as well as canal harbors have been constructed in both canals at suitable places.
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