The 16th Adventure Club Podcast: Spiekeroog, snipes & the Maxim machine gun

The entry in Carruthers’s log book for October 16 makes mention of: a survey of the Muschel Balge between Wangerooge and Spiekeroog; a spot of hunting for jack snipe; encounters with both the galliot Kormoran and the torpedo gunboat Blitz – the latter armed with four ‘Maxims’. Lots for us to get our teeth into there.

First, though, Tim (notCarruthers) notes a very specific reference in the book to tide tables. Why does Childers bother with this? And are the tide times across the book actually accurate? (01:49); we discuss the island of Spiekeroog, a place of holidaymakers, groynes and wellness centres (05:13); Lloyd (notDavies) refers to his copy of Brasseys to see if he can find a real-life version of the Blitz (10:40); similarly Tim (notCarruthers) shares a few thoughts about the Kormoran, and German galliots in general (14:31).

We learn about jack snipes and how to catch one (18:16); a short interlude about 1980s rabbit hunters of the region (21:45); we discover that the inventor of the Maxim machine gun had a very colourful life – and is buried just down the road from us in Norwood Cemetery (25:29).

Hiram Maxim and his gun

Club Business: Adrian proposes we all share photos of our personal ‘NotDulcibellas’ (40:48); Jeff goes book spotting (42:09); a reminder that you can support us financially at (42:59); Tony on harbour stinks and tidal flushing (43:41); Kevin on ‘something else’ about Davies (44:26); A Ron joins the Club (46:00); Patrick mixes the perfect pink gin (46:22).

Missions for next week – members assistance required.

Langeoog: we’re on to our third Frisian island – what’s interesting about this one?

pig ballast: what is it and why does a boat like Dulcibella need it?

Bensersiel: this will prove to be a rather important location in the book, and October 18 will be our first visit there.

whisky, salt & coffee: for some reason these are the things that the fussy German customhouse officer quizzes our heroes about when they arrive in his harbour. We’re not sure why, but it’s surely a good excuse to do a bit more ‘vittals’ research.

8 thoughts on “The 16th Adventure Club Podcast: Spiekeroog, snipes & the Maxim machine gun

  1. Groynes – between Wangeroog and Spiekeroog there is indeed a very long groyne (or “Training wall” as they are sometimes referred to if they are trying to modify water currents), but it doesn’t block the entire entrance. On the Navionics chart, there is a gap, marked by an East cardinal bouy on the groyne side and between that and the eastern end of Spiekeroog, there is a channel with a of depth of over 20 metres, plenty to get even large ships in and out. So it seems that the training wall is doing its job in keeping the current flowing through the gap. But probably better not to try and walk out on the groyne, as Google Earth shows quite clearly that it is covered up by water almost along its length, and its course is marked only by a line of rapids.


  2. The Gunboat Blitz – Think the crux of the problem is relying on Brassey’s Naval Annual, there was a reason Jane’s Fighting Ships supplanted it…

    You can track down the 1900 edition on Google Books ( which has some useful pearls of wisdom in there. First of all, there was a Blitz in the German navy of the period, built in 1882 but considerably larger than von Bruning’s vessel, and with two funnels (, a more likely candidate is one of the second class torpedo boats, of which Germany had 62, were 140 feet long, single funneled, 85 tons, and sound like the sort of vessel that would be stooging around the Fresians, the illustration of it also shows it shipping quite a lot of water over the bow, which would also fit with Davis’ comments about her (

    A further dig about also yields a Cormoran (

    On avisos, this is a French term for a dispatch boat, so a light vessel akin to a frigate or a corvette. The French still use it as a term, so more recently their light Type A69 ships were classified as avisos ( If you’re interested in the derivation of this sort of thing have a look at Theodore Ropp’s “The Development of a Modern Navy” – the Naval Institute Press edition is a beautifully illustrated work and you can view a decent chunk of the text on Google Books.


  3. Pig ballast is used to get some weight low down in the boat below the centre of buoyancy, like a heavy keel does. This has the effect of reducing the heeling over of the boat under wind pressure and increasing its stability.The increased overall load brings the boat down to her designed lines too: immersing more of the hull usually increase the waterline beam which also stiffens it up.
    “Pig” refers to the slabs of iron, or better but more expensive, lead. These were made by casting by pouring molten metal into a channel with off shoots for the slabs, the pigs, which lay in parallel like piglets suckling the sow. Hence the expression “pig iron”.
    An insufficiently ballasted boat would be very “tender”. A badly ballasted boat could be unstable, or slow, or fail to go well to windward. The commercial sailing ships of old paid great care over correct loading of cargo, which was done by stevedores, not dockers, whose job it was to trim the ship right. Get it wrong and the vessel would roll badly or very jerkily. It could be “down by the head” or “down by the stern”.
    In a boat like Dulcebella too much ballast forward could increase “weather helm”, the tendency of the boat to gripe up to wind with a beam wind. Too much ballast aft could cause ” lee helm” the tendency to bear off downwind, a dangerous event in strong gusts.


  4. Any club member staying at the Peabody Hotel, Orlando Florida between 2nd and 6 September 1996, would probably have been aware of the 25th International Conference on Coastal Engineering, taking place there. On day 2 one of the papers presented in the Structures and Shore Protection section (which itself came between Breakwaters-General & Wave Forecasting) was Hans Kunz’s “Groins on the East-Frisian Islands: History and experiences” .

    The full paper can be found at :

    There are maps/charts going back to 1874 on Wangerooge, Spiekeroog & Nordeney specifically. The bibliography at the end references 24 other works ,going back to 1905, so this subject & region has been the subject of much informed study and research.

    The Club’s efforts, whilst taking a different approach, will bring these noble efforts to a wider audience, and give an early 21st century lay view on the subject.


  5. Langeoog: lots of practical stuff – geographical & historical is available at : .

    It doesn’t mention the Langeoogians penchant for airfields though.They are on the second one, having decided to build anew instead re-opening “Fliegerhorst Langeoog”, which the British occupied after the war until 1960, and is now apparently mostly a forested conservation area. The old runway still seems to be identifiable cutting through the forest.

    More information is available at the ever reliable Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields website: it also has a section on Nordeney’s old air field.

    Oh yes,and there’s an inselbahn……


  6. Surfing on from Kevin’s suggested abandoned airfields site, I encountered a link to the Inselflieger micro-airline that serves the islands today, using Britten-Norman Islanders (originally from Bembridge, IoW!).
    They have a nice little video (German-language voiceover) showing the islands from the air. Worth a minute or two, I think.


  7. What a good find John. It was interesting to see the islands from the air & get a feel for how low they are, especially compared to Heligoland / Helgoland.

    That reminded me that I had read somewhere that despite how they may seem on a map, the islands were never part of the mainland that had been separated over time, but are ‘just’ sandbanks. Heliogoland with its cliffs does seem to be different.

    I think that some sort of flight has to be part of the adventure, particularly noting Childers flights over the islands during the Great war – although may be best not to mention that particular aspect…


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