Route No. 4 – Chalk

1. Beginnings around Sassnitz

In the middle of the 19th century, the inhabitants of Sassnitz and Crampas found a new source of income – chalk mining. In 1805, Grümbke mentioned the lime kiln „Krenz“, which was located about 300 meters north of Sassnitz and whose lime burner extracted chalk from the bottom of the “Fahrnberg”. In the 1840s and 1850s, the Sassnitz’ and Crampas’ inhabitants mined the chalk directly from the chalk cliffs. Not only men, but also women and children were involved in this work. Men took the chalk from the slopes, while women and children transported it in wheelbarrows onto the boats. In order to avoid long marches back into the villages, families often slept in the Stubnitz forest in order to be right at their workplace the following morning.

The first quarry in the Sassnitz area was created by factory owner Gustav Schneider around 1845. His chalk-sludging factory was probably the first of its kind on the Jasmund peninsula. Already in 1848, the factory was bought by merchant Magnus Küster from Stralsund, who expanded the quarry South of the Bergstrasse. Due to the lack of chalk, Küster had to close this quarry in the mid-1860s and moved to the edge of the Stubnitz forest.

2. Chalk mining

Over decades, work in the chalk factories on Rügen had hardly changed. The work nowadays done by machines, was once carried out by manpower. Breaking off the chalk with pickaxes was certainly one of the most dangerous works to be done. Without any kind of safety devices, workers stood directly on the slopes, mining the chalk which then sled down artificially constructed aisles into so-called tipping trucks. The raw chalk was dumped into an agitator, where – due to the constant addition of water – bigger stones sank to the bottom and a milky, chalky liquid (so-called „Kreidemilch“ or „Kreidetrübe“) was obtained. This liquid ran via a channel system into special tanks, where the chalk would accumulate, and excess water be drained through a pipe. After a couple of days a solid chalk slurry had developed in the sump which had to be shoveled out of the sump into wheelbarrows and be driven to the drying sheds. Here, the chalk was shoveled as so-called „Kreidekuchen“ (“chalk cakes”) into shelves to dry, until they reached an approximate residual moisture of 5%. After that, the chalk was removed, crushed in barrels and transported via ship or railroad for further processing.

3. Chalk plant in the forest

Besides a small settlement called „Buddenhagen“, located about two kilometers to the west and being abandoned in the middle of the 19th century, the “Buddenhagen tree house” once stood at this place – a relic from times long gone, when tree keepers guarded the paths into the Stubnitz forest. Originally, the Stubnitz forest had four tree houses, which later also provided forest workers with basic accomodation. In 1926, the tranquility of this place turned into bustling activity when Sassnitz’ entrepreneur Carl Hertel and his manager Otto Rieger planned the opening of a chalk quarry. Only a little later, the tree house had been taken down and a chalk quarry, slurry basins and dry sheds dominated the scenery. By 1937, more than thirty dry sheds, a tractor house, a sawmill, a cooperage, storage sheds, warehouses and, opposite the plant, a residential building were built, which was then inhabited by Rieger.

After World War II, the quarry fell into the hands of the state and was operated until about 1960. The station „Hertelscher Kreidebruch“ is representative for all the small Jasmund chalk-businesses, which also shaped the image of the peninsula until the 1950s.

Today the traces of this former use are fading. Here, in the national park, nature is shaping the area according to its own rules. But still, the remaining relicts, the mosaic of ponds, meadows and growing forest serve as a perfect place of learning for junior rangers.

4. Medicinal chalk

“As an extraordinary novelty, the opening of chalk-baths needs to be emphasized. Only recently, their medicinal properties have been recognized and they exert immense healing effects on rashes and similar conditions. Furthermore, a fact which should be of particular interest to the ladies, chalk-baths are praised beauty treatments, as they greatly benefit complexion.” So it is written in the official guide to the Baltic resort of Sassnitz in 1912. The chalk baths and packs were initially offered in the community hall and bath house (town hall) and were well received. In the mid-1930s, Sassnitz attempted a new touristic marketing approach with the help of healing chalk and applied for the title “first chalk-spa of the world”. However, this attempt was stopped abruptly by World War II.

In 1945, the chief physician of the Sassnitz hospital, Dr. med. Fiedrich-Karl Wünn, established a special unit for chalk-mud baths, which was visited in four-week turns by about 360 GDR patients a year.

After 1990, the healing chalk of Rügen – Rügen´s “white gold” – experienced a renaissance and even now, after more than 100 years, it is still playing a major role in tourism and medicine. Due to its slow heat release, chalk-mud baths have always been popular. Dr. Fiedrich-Karl Wünn already stated in 1945: “In chalk, the dark marsh has found a white brother.”

5. Sassnitz‘s landmarks

In 1910, entrepreneur Carl Galitz opened his chalk quarry close to the Crampas mountains and, right from the beginning, it was considered to be the most profitable one. Benefitting from the railway connection, the processed chalk could be transported without detours. Two more quarries followed in 1923, the “Saßnitz Kalk- und Kreidewerk” (Sassnitz limestone and chalk-factory) and the quarry of industrialist Wilhelm Bliesath from Stralsund. He decided to use carriages to transport the raw chalk from the quarry to the port of Sassnitz, where it was loaded onto special barges, so-called „Seeleichter“. Pulled by tugboats, the chalk reached Greifswald, where the processing factory was located. Due to this enormous effort and the related high expenses, Bliesath only managed to stay in Sassnitz for two years. The chalk factory “Kreidebetriebsgesellschaft Greifswald” continued to work in the same way until, in 1930, the factory was finally taken over by Rudolf Galitz, the son of Carl Galitz. The story of the restaurant „Bergschlösschen” shows that the chalk industry did not even stop at touristic facilities. Since 1879, it had been a popular destination in the Crampas mountains, as it offered an extensive view of Sassnitz, Crampas and the opposite coast. In 1923, Wilhelm Bliesath acquired the leasehold of the „Bergschlösschen“, turned the restaurant into a workers’ accommodation and finally demolished it in 1926.

For a few more decades, additional chalk quarries were opened in the Stubnitz area of. Today, the remains of these open pit mines, which were in operation until 1962, form a mayor landmark of Sassnitz.

6. Chalk – Chalk cableway

Since the 17th century, one of the many possibilities to transport people and material from A to B has been the cableway. Also outside the then existing municipality, a material cableway helped transporting the raw chalk from the „Lenzer“ quarry, and later the „Lanckener“ quarry, to the port.
This new business was launched by the owner of the forest, builder of the “Dwasieden” castle and owner of the “Lancken” estate: Adolph von Hansemann. In the 1870s, he got into the chalk business and established a raw-chalk quarry on the „Lenzberg“ (northwest of the present Merkelstraße, entry at Hiddenseer Strasse). A short time later, a first material cableway was built at this place. Hansemann, who had always been interested in innovation and modernization, was also a pioneer in terms of electricity. From 1900 on, “glass-candles“ burned in Dwasieden and Lancken and also the cableway was operated electrically, a fact, the press considered worth a report: “A strong electrical current will also be led to the „Lenzer“ chalk quarry to be the driving force for a cable railway for chalk production. This cableway leads to a bridge near Dwasieden, from which the raw chalk is poured directly onto the ship.”

In 1903, chalk production was moved to the „Lanckener Bruch“ quarry behind the area of the „Garzer Busch“. The cableway was also moved and was operating until 1945. As part of reparations, it was later dismantled and shipped to the Soviet Union.

7. Chalk quarry “Klementelvitz”

By the end of World War II, chalk production had come to a complete standstill. However, the raw material was urgently needed for reconstruction so that after 1945, a total of 19 quarries resumed operation. After merging plants and changing responsibilities, the „VEB Vereinigte Kreidewerke Rügen“ was created in 1957.

With increasing scopes of application and higher quantities required, a continuation of operations with small quarries was no longer feasible which led to the modernization of the mining and processing technology. North of the former estate „Klementelvitz“, a new chalk factory was built. Strategically well located close to the railway, it started operation in 1962. Additionally, the already existing open pit mine „Wittenfelde“, approx. 3 km north of the factory, was extended considerably. The smaller quarries were closed one after the other.

Due to new technologies in the quarry, e.g. the excavator UB 80 , the chalk’s rail-bound transportation with its own cableway and further processing development, the time from mining to packaging of the dried material was reduced to only 80 minutes. Today, the chalk arrives at the factory on a conveyor belt directly from the „Promoisel“ quarry. The open pit mine „Wittenfelde“ has been renaturated.

Nowadays, the application areas of Rügen chalk range from flue gas desulphurization in coal-fired power stations, fertilizer lime used in agriculture and forestry to the popular Rügen medicinal chalk.