Den Helder is a borough and a city in the Netherlands, in the province of North Holland. Den Helder occupies the northernmost point of the North Holland peninsula. It is home to the country's main naval base. The Royal TESO ferryboat service operates a link between Den Helder and the nearby Dutch Wadden island of Texel to the north.
Huisduinen was the original older part of the city, whereas Helder itself was a nearby smaller hamlet. Due to its strategic location at the tip of the North Holland peninsula, multiple fortifications were built in the area. The area began to be called Helledore ("Gate to hell", later on Den Helsdeur), because of the "hellish" fortifications that prevented enemy ships from sailing into the Zuyderzee. The name Helder may also have come from Helle/Helde, which means hill or hilly grounds, or from Helre, which means a sandy ridge.
Den Helder has played an important part in Dutch shipping. During the Dutch Golden Age, ships would be assembled near Den Helder and sail from there the world's oceans. In the 1820s, the North Holland Canal was dug from Amsterdam to Den Helder. The lighthouse Lange Jaap was built in 1877 and is the tallest cast-iron lighthouse in Europe, at 63.45 meters (208.2 ft).
Den Helder acted as a naval base as early as the 18th century. An Anglo-Russian invasion force landed at Den Helder in August 1799 and captured the Batavian navy there (see Battle of Castricum). French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, visiting Den Helder in 1811, was impressed with the town's strategic location and ordered the construction of a fort (Kijkduin) and naval dockyards (Willemsoord). The docks were built in the years 1813-1827. In 1947, it officially became the Royal Netherlands Navy's main centre of operations. Den Helder continues to be the navy's main base today. The Koninklijk Instituut Marine (Royal Naval Academy) is also located in the city.
The old naval dockyards of Willemsoord, located in the north of the city, has been turned into restaurants, a cinema, and other recreational facilities. The naval docks and administration have moved to a new location further east.
Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Den Helder holds special memories for me. As a small boy we lived in Den Helder for a couple of years. Our little house nearby the dunes was ideally located for little kids who spend all their free time fishing and going to the beach. My school was just around the corner and I did all the basic school classes. At the time we cycled to the nearby naval harbor and local airbase to watch the planes. We arrived during the winter of 1962-1963 and this turned out to be one of the coldest winters in Holland ever. My parents had a hard time adjusting to the snow and cold temperatures, coming from the Caribbean.
Den Helder has changed must during the last 30-40 years. Most of the neighborhoods and the old city remain as they were during my childhood. There are no new major roads and/or big urban areas. So every time I visit Den Helder it’s like going into a time warp, and it brings back nice memories. The reason for my latest visit was the arrival of the Tall Ships. I was too late to see the ships come it, but decided to go and see them sail out the harbor onto the Marsdiep waters.
For those who seek to combine sailing with maritime history, Den Helder offers the perfect blend. A major port town of 60,000 inhabitants, just 80 km north of Amsterdam, Den Helder is the Netherlands’ no. 1 seaport for offshore yachting. But take a step back in time, and Den Helder offers you breathtaking maritime monuments and naval fortifications, dating back to Napoleonic times and even the Republic’s Golden Age.
Den Helder is the homeport of the Royal Netherlands Navy, has major fishing and offshore industries and offers no less than six marinas.
During The Tall Ships' Races 2008, more than 90 vessels of the STI fleet found a vintage berth in and around Oude Rijkswerf Willemsoord, once the ancient Napoleonic dockyard of the Royal Netherlands Navy, now fully restored as a nautical theme park. Offering museums, dry-docks, cinemas, restaurants and a marina in a beautifully restored historical setting, Willemsoord is a maritime monument of truly European stature.
Den Helder is a port well-known to many Tall Ships and other sailing vessels that took part in our 1993 and 1997 Sail events. Captains and crews may well remember the quality of our liaison service, our technical facilities and the extensive programs for trainees, crews and officers.
Once again, in 2008 the City of Den Helder, the Province of Noord-Holland, Rabobank and the Royal Netherlands Navy supported the event. Together with our many regional and local sponsors, they assisted in offering the hospitality programs for our guests, day sailing activities, and on decks of the visiting ships.
The Prins Willem was the largest ship at the time of the Dutch East India Company (the VOC). It was built in 1649 in the town of Middelburg (Netherlands) and sank near Madagascar in 1662.
A replica has been built under the same name. It was built at shipyard Amels in Makkum (Netherlands) for the Oranda Mura (Holland Village) theme park in Nagasaki, Japan. Since 2004, she is part of the theme park Cape Holland in Den Helder, the Netherlands. The Prins Willem bowsprit has been restored to full glory.