By Maren Isigkeit
It was 1878 in the Sauerland, Mid-Germany, when miners started tunnelling the first adit in a mountain, to get to the deposits of slate inside. For over 100 years the slatemine expanded its business and became famous all over the world for its good quality slate. But in 1985 the company suddenly had to close its doors and all mining activities came to a sudden hold. The workers didn't even get the chance to retrieve their remaining belongings out of the mine and with the immediate shut down of power, the groundwater slowly started to flood the tunnels.
Another 25 years later, curious divers got to know about the mine system that now consisted of several dry sections as well as two permanently flooded under water levels. Two brothers, Gerd and Rainer Mengeler, who hold the access rights of the mine today, allowed the first divers to explore the mine and they returned with exciting finds. Multiple tunnels, big rooms, and several remains of the miners from jackets to machines, shovels, carts, and tracks were found. An aggregation of cave and wreck diving right on their doorstep.
It took the team of Matthias Richter of the Tauchschule Sorpesee more than two years to explore the first level of the mine. They spent a lot of effort to install a permanent guideline, to take care of diving safety matters and build the infrastructure needed to run a comfortable diving business before they opened the mine to public cave divers in May 2013. Since then a maximum of 10 cave divers a day can dive the first shallow level (avg. depth of 8 meters) of the mine and enjoy its special atmosphere, great vis and explore the different paths themselves.
The second level has its own story. Not as easy to access, the cautious team decided to seek assistance to explore the deeper part, offering potential for hundreds of meters of further tunnels. So during the annual boat show in Duesseldorf, Germany, 2013, Matthias Richter and GUE President Jarrod Jablonksi agreed on a GUE Project for this purpose.
Beginning of October 2013 a group of 20 GUE cave divers and supporters met up at Nuttlar, Sauerland, Germany for four days to get things on the run; four days to initiate the project and gain an overview of the required work. Jarrod and his WKPP-teammate Chris Werner did exploration dives into the unknown second level whilst installing a guideline system as well as undertake an initial survey of the tunnels. In the meantime the other team members focused on mapping the known part of the mine, taking pictures and video, adjusting the line-setup and providing surface support. In between, the project members got the opportunity for a guided tour through the dry sections, conducted by Gerd and Rainer Mengelers themselves, which was impressive and helped a lot to understand what they discovered underwater.
It was a great team spirit and we are quite happy with the result, so I like to thank everybody who took part in this initial part of the project:
Holger Amecke, Anke Bossow, Niels Bossow, Peter Brandt, Dorota Czerny, Manuel Eickhoff, Kristina Heusel, Jan-Hinrich Hoffmann, Jarrod Jablonski, Sander Jansson, Jan Medenwaldt, Kasia Puchalska, Anton van Rosmalen, Stephan Schlumbohm , Daniel Schmid, Merle Schmid, Torsten Schnitter, Gina Steiner, Roel Veugen, Chris Werner
Info and pics of the mine: www.bergwerktauchen.de