Best View Flooded mine in the Sauerland
Behind a small bridge in the village of Bestwig, the paths of those who want to visit the Nuttlar slate mine separate. If you take the gravel path on the left, you should have fins, drysuits and compressed air bottles in the trunk; warm clothes and sturdy shoes are sufficient for the others.
Since June divers can go on a discovery tour in the realm of darkness. Underground, under water. A yellow container, set in the middle of the rugged slate, marks the entrance. The tunnel leads down about thirty meters from there, then you stand in front of an underground lake. It is completely dark here, the only light comes from the diving lamps brought along. And cold: All year round, the air and water temperature is a good seven degrees, the humidity 100 percent.
This area of the mine is also suitable for recreational divers, provided they have the necessary experience. “This is practically trial diving for cave divers,” says Matthias Richter, the operator of the diving school ( video ). “Because of the total darkness, the feeling is right, but you can still show up at any time.”It is possible to rent the equipment on request, but it is rarely used: “Whoever comes here,” says Matthias Richter, “is an experienced diver – and they have what they need.” Renting the required drysuits is not a good idea anyway, because they have to be adjusted exactly.
The divers float over the tracks, the cones of light from their lamps give the slate rock surreal shapes. And at some point they will reach the area that is reserved for trained cave divers with appropriate equipment. And only for them – Richter makes no exceptions.
What follows can still be called diving, but it is more than that. It is advancing to a place that was simply pulled out in 1985 because of the mining company’s insolvency. The men set their equipment aside on the last day of work, turned off the pumps, turned off the lights, and closed the door. Finished.
From then on, twenty to fifty cubic meters of water poured in every day, flooding twelve kilometers of corridors and halls. Lorries, tools and lamps were covered, as well as helmets and thick jackets that the workers had left hanging on the walls. After seven years the two lowest levels were full, three higher levels remained dry.
“For us children from the village, the mine has always been an adventure playground,” says Rainer Mengelers, who, together with his brother Gerd, has the rights of use. “And shortly after the closure we thought: You have to do something!” The brothers fought until 2009, when they were given the right to use them for life. “We knew from the start that we wanted to leave everything as it was.”
In the “inn to the moldy miner”
There are no stainless steel gratings, no laterally attached handrails, no light installations for visitors who join his guided tours above water. Here everyone gets a helmet with a lamp on and that’s it – pure mining. It should remain an adventure playground in the future; one with ten-kilometer-long corridors and halls that are several thousand square meters in size and up to 25 meters high.
At the end there is the “Gasthof zum moldy miner”, where Mengeler’s sausage is served: people eat on benches made of slate, just as the miners once did. Attempting not to get dirty here is guaranteed to be futile.Everywhere you can see the legacies of the workers: bottles of brandy, the contents of which should help to overcome the hardship of the job, brass-colored carbide lamps, swastikas from the time of the “Third Reich”.
In addition newspapers; the oldest comes from an era when Germany was still ruled by an emperor. Nothing is behind glass here, everything can be touched here. Only the newspapers, says Mengelers, would he keep his hands off – they would often have served the miners as a substitute for toilet paper.
There are Cyrillic letters on a wall, attached by forced laborers who kept the war-essential business going during the Second World War. “A good 70 Russians worked here,” says the tenant. “The youngest was only 15.” Underground work was carried out until March 29, 1945 – a week later the Americans had conquered the Sauerland.
No wrong move!
Only the sunken area, which the water has effectively protected against looting and curious visitors, is even more untouched. Only around 15 percent of the corridors are equipped with ropes, the rest are still waiting to be explored. Cautiously through narrow passages. Through tunnels that are less than the height of a man and past trucks that still contain slate. In the wide open areas you are amazed at the grandiose visibility: is it twenty meters? Thirty a wrong fin movement, however, and the view is gone – the finest sediment has settled on the floor when the slate was broken.
There is no life in the underwater world; Just an insight into a life that others lived here. the water, a maximum of 32 meters deep, created a time capsule that only fully opens to those who have mastered the demanding training to become a cave diver. What is possible in the slate mine between late March and early December on request.In the months in between, however, diving is prohibited. this was important to Rainer Mengelers, because then the bats will come to use this area as a frost-proof winter area.
“And on that,” says a member of a protection association, “my heart is just as attached to the mine itself.”