Kiel Canal

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The Kiel Canal (German: Nord-Ostsee-Kanal, NOK), known as the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Kanal until 1948, is a 61-mile (98-kilometre) long canal in the German Bundesland Schleswig-Holstein that links the North Sea at Brunsbüttel to the Baltic Sea at Kiel-Holtenau. An average of 250 nautical miles (460 kilometres) is saved by using the Kiel Canal instead of going around the Jutland Peninsula. This not only saves time but also avoids potentially dangerous storm-prone seas. According to the canal's website, it is the most heavily used artificial seaway in the world; over 43,000 vessels passed through in 2007, excluding small craft.[1]



The first connection between the North and Baltic Seas was the Eider Canal, which used stretches of the Eider River for the link between the two seas. The Eiderkanal was completed in 1784 and was a 27-mile (43-kilometre) part of a 109-mile (175-kilometre) long waterway from Kiel to the Eider River's mouth at Tönning on the west coast. It was only 29 metres (32 yards) wide with a depth of three metres (ten feet), which limited the vessels that could use the canal to 300 tonnes displacement.

A combination of naval interests—the German navy wanted to link its bases in the Baltic and the North Sea without the need to sail around Denmark—and commercial pressure encouraged the development of a new canal.

In June 1887, construction works started at Holtenau, near Kiel. The canal took over 9000 workers eight years to build. On June 21, 1895, the canal was officially opened by Kaiser Wilhelm II for transiting from Brunsbüttel to Holtenau. A ceremony was held in Holtenau where Wilhelm II named it the Kaiser Wilhelm Kanal, and laid the final stone. The opening of the canal was filmed by British director Birt Acres and surviving footage of this early film is preserved in the Science Museum in London.[2]

In order to meet the increasing traffic and the demands of the German Navy, between 1907 and 1914 the canal width was increased. The widening of the canal allowed the passage of a Dreadnought-sized battleship. This meant that these battleships could travel from the Baltic Sea to the North Sea without having to go around Denmark. The enlargement projects were completed by the installation of two larger canal locks in Brunsbüttel and Holtenau.

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