Diving into the flooded tunnels of Schieferbergwerk Nuttlar in
Sauerland is not for the faint-hearted. After crossing the yellow
container (which represents the entrance), it gets quite dark. Very
dark, in fact. Thirty metres away, the tunnel leads downwards, where an
underground lake marks the entrance to the realm of darkness.
cold here – a good seven degrees Celsius – and this is true for both
the air and water here.
This lake can be dived by sport divers. However, it is a “dive by
feeling”. The passage to the lake, swimming past the rugged slate
walls, is in complete darkness. “I would almost call it ‘sniffing’ for cave divers,” said Matthias Richter, the owner of dive school Tauchschule Sorpesee, in German.
“In the complete darkness, the feeling is unique, and you immediately know if this is the type of experience for you,” he added.
Hovering over the railway tracks, surrounded by slate rock with its
indentations, edges and overhangs, it is as if you are on the film set
of Middle-earth – or more precisely, the dark land of Mordor.
point, you arrive at the area reserved for cave divers with the
appropriate equipment. A double tank, three lamps, dry suit, two
separate breathing systems are the minimum prerequisites to be able to
proceed – not forgetting the necessary qualifications, of course. Then,
you continue with your dive – though it is so much more than just
another cave dive.
Steadily, the passage goes through narrow passages and galleries
through which fitted just a wagon in the past. Then, you reach the
large caverns, some up to 15 metres high. “There are always places where you can emerge, but you have to know where they are,”
said Richter. In these wide open areas, you can admire the magnificent
views, which can be twenty, perhaps thirty metres high. A careless fin
movement, though, can cause this scene to be spoilt by very fine
sediment from broken slate.
During the winter months between December and March, when bats use the
area as their winter quarters, diving is not allowed. This is the
“rule” set by Rainer Mengelers, who owns the usage rights of the cave.
There is no life in this underwater world; what is left is only a
glimpse into the life that the miners had led. Diving into this time
capsule, which measures a maximum of 32 metres depth, is only possible
for experienced cave divers from March to December upon special
Video from dive