A Remembrance of the Past; Building for the Future." ~ Eve Eckert Koehler

Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors

Chapter 2

Climate and Bodies of Water

By Josef Schramm
Translation by Brad Schwebler

     The Batschka has a temperate central European climate with strong continental influences.  By this I mean that the annual fall in temperatures fluctuated greatly.  In the middle of January the temperature was 2.5 to 1.5 degrees below zero, while in the middle of July it was 22.0 to 23.0 degrees Celsius (71.6 to 73.4 °F).  In the summer it could be up to 40 degrees Celsius (104 °F) under the influence of the subtopic high pressure extreme, and in the winter it could be minus 30 degrees Celsius under the influence of the Siberian anti-cyclone.

     Air humidity and clouds are the highest in December and in August at the lowest.  With the blue sky in July and August and the high temperatures now and then a true Fata Morgana (Delibàb) can be seen, that is, mirages which usually only occur in the desert.

     The annual amount of precipitation is not very high, but is to some extent well distributed in the course of the year.  In the southern part the precipitation is still 60-700 mm on the average, in the north it is always less, so that in places only scantily more than 500 mm was recorded.  On the average 86.5 % of this precipitation falls as rain, 13.5 % as snow.  Annually there are about 92 days with rain, 18 with snow, and 2 with hail.  The most precipitation falls in May, June, and October.  The dry months are January and February.  Typical for the land are the thunderstorms with “Platsch rain”, on the average of 23 days a year.  In the afternoon hours of hotter, clearer summer days the upper surface of agricultural lands or the drifting sands can warm up to 65 days Celsius, created all the conditions for the formation of thunderstorm clouds.  Under violent thunder and lightning the “Platsch rain” started in the late afternoon and early evening hours.  Soon after the thunderstorm the sky brightened up again and the evaporation started in large amounts.  The whole thing happened like a true tropical tornado.

     The wind blows in the winter mainly from the north-northwest, in the summer from a northwesterly direction.  The annual average speed of the wind moves between two and three meters per second, which are actually weak winds.  The thunderstorms have a speed of more than 10 meters per second.

     The average worth of the climatic factors are in general described as favorable in the Batschka, but besides that there is an uncertainty co-efficient , which can be expressed neither in numbers nor in average worth.  Whoever saw the worried look of the Batschka farmers in the hot summer months when they scanned the horizon in the evening looking longingly in the distance for heat lightning, praying for much rain, hearing begging and cursing, will be able to imagine just how very important it is here when the precipitation falls and how literally from a wind direction, from a temperature maximum, from a couple drops of rain a wide stretch of land can be dependant on it.

     So the climate already is not to be described exactly as a restful climate, so perhaps one searches in the network of bodies of water for something more romantic: the blue Danube, the sandy colored Theiß, the Blutsee (Blood Lake), Moostung, Schlangenbach (Snake Brook), Eselbach (Donkey Brook), Butterbach (Butter Brook)… which all certainly seemed beautiful.  In the natural state the bodies of water had a sluggish course and tended to become swampy, yet the people had also formed an effect around here: the streams were leveled, the brooks were channeled, new drainage ditches and shipping canals were built, so that the original condition is hardly still seen in the water network.

     The Danube forms the border of the Batschka for 306 kilometers in the west and south.  On the stretch the Danube falls from 90 meters above sea level north of Baja to 74 meters at the mouth of the Theiß, so it is a fall of only 52.28 mm per kilometer.  Before the great river gradients of the 19th century the fall was only 40 mm per kilometer.  The water command of the Danube here also depends much on the high water mark in May and June, the lowest water mark in December.  Near Wukowar there is also a high water mark in May, but a low water mark in February.  Flooding comes when the snow melts and heavy rain falls together.  Hundreds and thousands of hectares of land are then flooded.  It may perhaps also be interesting to learn how much water flows down the Danube:

   Near Besdan

      flows through on the average 65,077 cubic meters of water per year.

   Near Wukowar (after the influx of the Drau)

      flows through on the average 82,779 cubic meters of water per year.

   Near Slankamen (after the influx of the Theiß)

      flows through on the average 124,705 cubic meters of water per year.

   Near Titel on the Theiß

      flows through on the average 21,966 cubic meters of water per year.

     The Theiß is the border river of the Batschka in the east and had a length of 229. 5 kilometers before the regulation of this section; but since the work of the 19th century only 179.3 kilometers.  The fall formerly amounted to only 15 mm per kilometer and today amounts to 27.88 mm per kilometer.  The water mark is at its highest in April and at its lowest in October, where the maximum water mark is almost eight times more than the minimum water mark.

     The largest lake in the Batschka is the Palitsch Lake near Theresiopel with a surface of seven square kilometers.  With luck the trees on its shores were not cut down – like on other lakes, formed a very pleasant place for relaxation there.  In the neighborhood of Palitsch one also finds other lakes, but because of the reeds existing on the shores they are not open to foreign traffic.  In the neighborhood of Palitsch there is also a strange “salt sea.”  In dry years its water is saturated with sodium salt and completely dries up in the summer.  The whole lake surface is then filled up with a white salt crust which was like the salt gravel at the desert’s edge.  The Batschka is much more abundant in swamps tan lakes, but only a very small remnant of the former expansive swamps still exist.  The “toad hole” at the edge of the village is frequently still such a remnant of a former swamp, but also can be made by the people, and indeed it is where he takes the earth out to build his homes.  The shipping canals are also created by the people: the 123 kilometer length, up to 20 meters wide and 2 meters deep of the Franzen Canal from Besdan on the Danube to Betsche on the Theiß and 66 kilometer long Franz Josef Canal, where the Franzen Canal near Stapar connects with the Danube near Neusatz.  In addition there are numerous kilometers of drainage canals.  The original picture of the bodies of water has disappeared, and yet there are still some small places in which children play and adults can dream, also when the “blue” Danube only leads to gray-brown water and the “sandy colored” Theiß is gray-green.  In the remaining swamps the hemp was roasted  where one can reach a long way; in the “toad holes” the toads give their concert in the evening: in the larger drainage canals the schoolboys went fishing with baskets without bottoms…

     The active person has formed the original picture around the natural landscape.  Our ancestors decisively contributed to this conversion.

[Published at 19 Sep 2005 by Jody McKim Pharr]

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