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Heligoland is a small archipelago located 29 miles from the German coastline in the North Sea. It is part of Germany, although was also previously under Danish and British possession. The local population of around 1100 people are ethnic Frisians and speak the Heligolandic dialect of the North Frisian language, as well as German. Heligoland consists of two islands, the main island of Hauptinsel (normally the island referred to as Heligoland) and the smaller Düne (seen across the water on photo 4, below). Whilst the main island has a coastline largely composed of stunning sea cliffs, Düne is much flatter and surrounded by sandy beaches. The islands have duty-free status and are popular with day-trippers from the mainland. Heligoland has its own flag (and coat of arms) - a tricolour composed of green, red and white horizontal stripes (from top to bottom) with its motto translating as "Green is the land, Red is the cliff, White is the sand, These are the colours of Heligoland."

Heligoland was originally occupied by Frisian herdsmen and fishermen until it came under the control of the dukes of Schleswig-Holstein (1402). After switching ownership several times, it eventually became a Danish possession in 1714. In 1807 (during the Napoleonic Wars), it was Seized by the British navy. Despite Queen Victoria's personal protestations, in 1890, the islands were then given up to Germany in the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty. Whilst Germany gained an area of strategic naval importance, the British Empire gained, in return,  Zanzibar and large areas of East Africa.

During World War I, the islands were used as a major naval base and the local population were evacuated to the mainland. It became the scene of the First Battle of Heligoland Bight (1914), the first naval battle of World War I. During World War II, the islands were again significantly affected and were the scene of The Battle of the Heligoland Bight (1939) which was the first "named" air battle of WWII. This time, the local population stayed on the main island, seeking cover in rock shelters. Following a penultimate air raid in 1945, the islands were evacuated. Now uninhabited, the land was used by the British as a testing ground for experimental bombs; on 18 April 1947, the Royal Navy detonated 6,700 tonnes of explosives making it one of the biggest single non-nuclear detonations in history. Following campaigning, Heligoland was eventually returned to Germany on 1st March 1952 (an official holiday on the island), allowing the local population to return. The landscape had been devastated and had to be made safe, reconstructed and new housing built. So, despite all of this, today the unique culture of the islanders with their own distinct dialect, traditional dress and flag still lives on.

The main island is a delight to walk around. There are almost no motor vehicles - only scooters and the paths away from the main settlement areas are well laid out. The first thing one notices if arriving on the main island by ferry is the attractively painted lobster huts. On the North-western part of the main island, Heligoland's famous landmark may be found - the Lange Anna - a free standing sea stack 154 feet (47m) high (see photo 19 below). The islands form an important geographical location for migratory birds and so are important for ornithologists, as well as those seeking a retreat away from the mainland.

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