The maritime region of the port-city
Author: ARDELEANU KONSTANTIN
The best way to present the conditions of the maritime area of Constanţa and the dangers ships faced when entering its harbour is to include below three excerpts from the geographical and hydrographical information published for the use of ship-masters. By providing details from three different periods (1850s, 1880s and 1920s), one can also see the improvements done for making Constanţa a safer harbour.
“Kustendje (called by the modern Greeks Kostantsa) is situated at 11 miles to the N. of Touzlah and 21 miles from Mangalia, upon a promontory which shelters the roadstead to the N.E.; and is exposed to all the other winds as far as S. on passing by the E. It is highly necessary to avoid approaching the coast to the N. of this town, because at a mile and a half at sea it is bordered by rocks more or less dangerous. Other rocks form two banks further removed from land, but less to be feared; from 25 to 30 feet water has been found there. The extremity of the Cape of Kustendje is also bordered by rocks at about 1 ½ cable-length towards the E. and to the S. of the most southern bastion of Kustendje. There is near them from 20 to 25 feet of water. The ordinary anchorage is to the S.W. of this bastion, and to the S. of the last walls on the land side, in 25 feet water with a mud bottom; ships can approach nearer to the landing-place, and shelter themselves from the E. and even from the S.E. by the long bank of the southern bastion; but the anchorage at present is not very good on account of a coarse gravelly bottom, which borders the whole coast at a distance of one-third of a mile. Kustendje has been proposed as the mouth of the ship canal from the Danube. The town trades in grain and other agricultural produce. The corn grown in the plain of Babadagh, near here, is superior to that of Taganrog, in the Sea of Azoff. Latitude, 44° 10’ 15’’ longitude, 28° 41’ 25’’. Kustendje was formerly sheltered by a mole built by Constantine, the ruins of which are visible for a considerable extent into the sea. From hence, as far as Cape Singol, and at 2 ½ miles from the shore the coast is bordered by rocks” .
“Kustenjeh (Constanta). This town lies 11 miles to the northward of cape Touzlah, and is built on a promontory projecting half a mile south-eastward, which shelters its road from northerly winds, but it is open from the N.E., as far round as south. Kustenjeh is one of the nearest points on the Black sea to Chernavoda on the Danube, from which it is but 29 geographical miles distant; in 1837 a design for a canal between these points was found impracticable for want of water at the summit level, 164 feet in elevation, at 2 miles from the Black sea; a railway has been constructed instead, and is the principal conveyance for the grain which is grown in the adjoining districts, to the steamers, for transport to the European markets. A fort has been constructed on the tumulus, 198 feet high, northward of the town.
Anchorage. The ordinary anchorage is in from 4 to 6 fathoms, over a bottom of sand and mud, about three-quarters of a mile south-west of cape Kustenjeh, but small vessels approach nearer the shore, where they lie sheltered by the town and by jetties from easterly winds. The holding ground there, however, is bad, being a continuation of a bank of coarse sand, which runs along the coast to the southward, about a third of a mile from the shore. A rocky patch, with only 1 ½ fathoms on it, rises from the sand bank at 1 ½ miles to the S.W. of the town, abreast the Tumuli, nearly two cables from the shore.
Harbour. The harbour has a depth near the eastern and southern jetties of 19 feet, and can accommodate about seven steamers alongside, about as many more at moorings, and a number of small coasting vessels.
Lights. From a white tower on cape Kustenjeh is exhibited at an elevation of 68 feet above the sea, a fixed white light, visible in clear weather from a distance of 9 miles.
Also a fixed red is exhibited from the extremity of the southern jetty, visible 2 miles.
Pilots meet all vessels arriving off the port, weather permitting. […]
Winds. From May to August, the land and sea breezes are fairly regular, the sea breeze between N.E. and S.E. coming in about 9 a.m. and lasting till sunset; the land breeze, N.W. to S.W. springing up about 3 a.m. and dying away about 8 a.m.
Occasionally during this period, a strong N.E. breeze was experienced, and at times, strong westerly breezes accompanied by rain, lightning and thunder. A dull, humid atmosphere gave notice of these thunder storms.
Cape Kustenjeh with its lighthouse, is the eastern projection of the promontory, and is bordered by some rocky uneven ground, extending upwards of half a mile to the eastward from the cape, where there is a rocky patch carrying a depth of 3 ¾ fathoms. Care must be taken in approaching the land to the northward of the cape, for between it and Singholi point, which lies 2 ¼ miles to the northward, there are several rocky patches, more or less dangerous, lying nearly \\ miles from the coast” .
“Constantsa Harbor (44° 10’ N., 28° 41’ E.) is protected by breakwaters and of small extent, lies on the southern side of the peninsula on which is built the town of Constantsa. The extremity of this peninsula, which is low and has on it several conspicuous buildings, is known as Cape Constantsa.
Aspect. Approaching from eastward a tumulus, located about 1 mile northwestward of the cape and having a fort on the summit, is a good landmark, but the first conspicuous objects seen when making the port from the eastward are the oil tanks situated south-westward of the harbor. A conspicuous white house stands on the cliff about 1 ¼ miles southwestward of the harbor entrance.
Other conspicuous objects when approaching the port are the grain elevators, then the cathedral, the minaret of the mosque, the disused lighthouse and the casino on the cape, the masts of the vessels, and finally the town itself.
Shoals extend off Cape Constantsa for a distance of 600 yards east-northeastward with depths less than 18 feet (5.5 m.). At a distance of ½ mile in the same direction is a detached bank nearly 400 yards in extent which has a least depth of 22 feet (6.7 m.).
Southward of the port, at a distance of ¾ mile from the end of the eastern breakwater, is the 18-foot (5.5 m.) extremity of a rocky spit which extends northeastward from the coast.
The harbor is formed by two breakwaters, the southern and the eastern. The southern breakwater begins at the shore near Trajans Wall and extends southeastward 950 yards, then eastward 660 yards. The eastern breakwater extends southward about 1,400 yards from the southern extremity of the town. About 450 yards from the outer end an arm 130 yards long projects toward the southern breakwater, leaving an entrance 175 yards wide. The entrance has a depth of 29 feet (8.8 m.), somewhat decreased by strong northwest winds.
Two moles project from the western side of the harbor, the petroleum basin, with a depth of 29 feet (8.8 m.), being inclosed between the southern mole and the south breakwater, while between the two moles is a second basin, at the head of which two docks are to be built. The northern part of the harbor on its western side is inclosed by the northern mole and on its eastern side by a quay. The general depth in the harbor and alongside the quays is 26 feet (7.9 m.).
The petroleum harbor is difficult of access with a fresh breeze, and it is desirable that vessels entering have sufficient ballast.
There are several mooring buoys in the harbor.
Lights. An occulting white light, 71 feet (21.6 m.) above the sea and visible 14 miles, is shown from a gray stone tower on a square structure 59 feet (18 m.) high located on the extremity of the eastern breakwater.
An occulting green light is located on the arm of the eastern breakwater, and the eastern extremity of the southern breakwater is marked by an occulting red light.
A fixed red light is shown from the quay on the eastern side of the harbor, and on the mole opposite is a fixed green light.
Fog signal. A siren is sounded from the western side of the harbor entrance (reported irregular).
Buoy. A red whistle buoy is located about 150 yards southward of the extremity of the eastern breakwater; it should be left to starboard entering.
Wrecks. The wreck of a steamer lies sunk in a north-south direction on the eastern side of the entrance to Constantsa Harbor within the eastern breakwater. It is marked by two red and white buoys, one at each end.
A wreck with a least depth over it of 13 feet (4 m.) is charted about 750 yards east-northeastward of the extremity of the eastern breakwater.
Lifeboat. There is a lifeboat and rocket apparatus at Constantsa.
Winds. The prevalent winter wind is the northwest. There are continuous winds from that direction in December and from the northward in January and February. In March southerly winds are experienced, but even then the prevalent wind is from northwest. In April and during the summer months, and to some extent in September and October, land and sea breezes prevail, as the northwest winds predominate in the morning and during the day and evening south and easterly winds prevail. During good settled weather the sea breeze begins about 8 a. m., freshens in the latter part of the afternoon, and falls after about 9 p. m. After that is the land breeze, but it is generally light and only blows strong during thunderstorms on summer nights. In November these breezes cease. Calm weather occurs most frequently in June, July, and August. During a gale a heavy sea is caused in the roadstead, which continues after the storm has passed and causes vessels there to roll heavily.
Pilots. Pilotage is compulsory.
Directions. Vessels arriving off the port in daytime must anchor 1 mile distant from the harbor and await the pilot, who will come off in answer to the pilot flag and take the vessel into the harbor, weather permitting. At night they must anchor 2 miles off the port and await the pilot in the morning.
Constantsa (Kustenjeh) (44° 10' N., 28° 41' E.) has a population of about 28,000. A large number of the houses are built of stone and several stories in height. The port owes its importance to its protected harbor, its railroad connections with the interior, and to the fact that, unlike the Danube River ports, it is never closed by ice. The port is largely concerned with the shipment of oil and its derivatives; it is also well equipped for shipping grain.
Wharves. There are four loading berths in the petroleum basin and vessels can be loaded at the rate of about 160 tons an hour, the oil being pumped directly from the reservoirs into the vessel’s hold. The total storage capacity in the port is about 248,000 tons.
The northern part of the harbor is allotted to the shipment of grain from the elevators on the wharves, onto which the railroad runs. There are three grain elevators in the port, of which only two are fully completed. Each elevator has a capacity of 33,000 tons of grain. Two steamers can load at the same time alongside the grain wharf at the rate of 300 tons per hour. On the quay in the northeastern side of the harbor there is an electric crane with a lifting capacity of 35 tons
Coast. Care must be taken in approaching the land to the northward of Cape Constantsa, for between it and Cape Singhol, which lies 2 ¼ miles to the northward, there are several rocky patches more or less dangerous lying nearly 1 ½ miles from the coast” .
 Geographical & Hydrographical Notes: To Accompany Mr. Wyld's Maps of the Ottoman Empire and the Black Sea(London: James Wyld, 1854), 26.
 The Black Sea Pilot, third edition (London: Hydrographical Office, 1884), 25–27.
 Black Sea Pilot. The Dardanelles, Sea of Marmara, Bosporus, Black Sea, and Sea of Azov, second edition, 1926 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1927), 193–196.
Geographical & Hydrographical Notes: To Accompany Mr. Wyld's Maps of the Ottoman Empire and the Black Sea (London: James Wyld, 1854).
The Black Sea Pilot, third edition (London: Hydrographical Office, 1884).
Black Sea Pilot. The Dardanelles, Sea of Marmara, Bosporus, Black Sea, and Sea of Azov, second edition, 1926 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1927).