Storch & Schöneberg mine,
Formerly "Europe's largest iron ore mine."
Daytime installation of the Storch & Schöneberg mine around 1930.
All b / w pictures from the picture archive: Horst Jentsch, Gosenbach
Text: Horst Jentsch, Gosenbach.
Mighty pits and smelters were once the outer symbol of ore mining and smelting in the Gosenbacher Tal. In its prime, mining was one of the most important centers of mining in all of Germany. The signals at the shafts and the miners' "luck on" have long since faded, and mining has been a thing of the past for many years.
What remained is the memory of the great mining history of this once famous area. The name Gosenbach is a captivating chapter in the history of the Siegerland mining industry.
Not only iron ore, but above all copper ore and the cobalt that was sought at that time were mined.
First in opencast mining, then later in tunnel mining, our ancestors penetrated the treasures of the Gosenbacher Mountains. Pit was created next to pit, union next to union. The wealth of this area seemed to be inexhaustible. When the technology then provided the miners with the necessary tools
civil engineering began and the large winding towers appeared in the landscape of the Gosenbach Valley.From the large number of mining companies in this area gained with the pits Honigsmund-Hamberg, Alte Lurzenbach, Kupferkaute, Grüner Löwe and, last but not least, the largest of all,
Storch & Schöneberg, paramount importance.
Along with the other mines, this plant developed into the largest iron stone mine in Germany.
Later, all the other Gosenbach mines gradually became part of this union, and a mining giant emerged that formed the center of what was then the Siegerland mining industry and, with a shaft depth of 1,200 meters, became the largest spar iron mine in Europe.
Until well into the 19th century, the ores extracted in the mining area were mostly smelted in smelters in the Gosenbach Valley. So were the Gosenbacher Hütte (ironworks), the Kupferhütte and that too
Cobalt stamping works well-known mining companies.
Now the water has risen over the soles and fills the whole labyrinth of shafts, tunnels and passages. Inside the mountain everything is shrouded in deep silence. All mining life is extinct.
The end has been reached where immense amounts have been "salvaged" for centuries.
In the huts, too, the fire has long been out, and the water wheels and tall chimneys have long since broken down.
Silence now lies over the mine fields and new businesses have settled in the old mine and smelter sites.
The fauna has recovered from the damage caused by the sulfur gases from the grate ovens. The construction of mines and huts has long since been broken off, the chapter of Gosenbach mining has ended.
The former administration building with the two winding towers.
Processing: Before the ore was transported to Niederschelden by mine train, it was thrown into the grate furnace.
The first two grate furnaces were built at the Storch & Schöneberg mine as early as 1862.
This investment became necessary due to the increasing extraction of the Spateisenstein.
The ovens were made by Johannes Holdinghausen (1825 - 1904) from Achenbach.
Remains of these first grate ovens made of rubble and bricks are still visible today on the former mine site. (Opposite the EDEKA market, on the right of the entrance to the road to "Honigsmund", hidden behind a billboard!)
The rapidly increasing production of the pit after the start of civil engineering in the 1960s made the construction of further grate furnaces necessary. By 1900 the mine and smelter already had 45 grate furnaces in operation.
There were 31 on the mine site, 10 on Gosenbacher Hüttenplatz and 4 more near the train station in Niederschelden. These furnaces were acquired by the Geisweider Eisenwerke in 1890.
In later years another 7 grate ovens were put into operation.
Before the modern, larger, round grate ovens covered with sheet iron, the so-called jacketed ovens, were erected, they were four- or rectangular ovens made of rubble or bricks with an open top and coke charging.
Harmful effect from grate ovens
The harmful influence of roasting gases made itself more and more noticeable due to the increasing number of roasting ovens. Nails, roof hooks, gutters and pipes, even the plastering of the outer walls of the houses were eaten away by the rust gases. In the gardens, the vegetables withered and the trees died, black bare areas emerged on the mountain slope of the Rotenberg, even the seeds could turn reddish-brown from the roasting gases. The Gosenbacher Tal was the most heavily polluted by the extraordinary SO2 emissions in the entire Siegerland. The perception threshold of 2.7 mg SO2 / cbm air was exceeded by far.
As early as 1881, the Arnsberg government did not want to approve any more roasting ovens for Gosenbach.
The railway staff. Photo from 1919.
The poor transport conditions - up until 1870, the mining was shipped by horse-drawn vehicle - prompted the Storch & Schöneberg union to build a narrow-gauge railway with a 1 m gauge. It was completed in 1871 as far as the railway station in Niederschelden (for the "fall").
This metric mine train had a length of 2.5 km. It had a natural gradient so that the heavy ore wagons rolled from Gosenbach to Niederschelden by themselves and only the empty wagons had to be brought back by horse and cart.
Miners at work.
The buddies from the 21st sole. Photo from 1936. Back right,
my grandfather Walter Reinhardt.
Gosenbacher and Oberschelder miners. Photo from 1936. On the left at the edge of the picture,
my grandfather Walter Reinhardt.
Workforce photo from 1894.
Around 1883, around 1,800 workers were working in the pits and smelters in the Gosenbach Valley.
Only a small part (approx. 100 of these workers) were Gosenbach citizens. The vast majority of them came from outside the city and either had to find accommodation in Gosenbach and the surrounding area or commute to work every day. Accommodation (menages) in the pits were available for those from outside or they took shelter with other miners.
These "water tasters" (so called because apart from their accommodation they were only given warm water for their morning coffee!) Stayed in Gosenbach for the working days and spent the short weekend with their families. They came from the Westerwald or the Wittgensteiner Land. They had to live frugally,
in order to be able to bring home a small sum of money on payday, on which the non-small families had to live. These miners fed themselves from what they had brought from home.
So you saw them marching with bulging rucksacks every Monday morning from the Niederscheld train station to Gosenbach. They paid the landlord between 30 and 40 pfennigs a night.
Other miners reached the workplace every day after a long walk.
Today it seems almost inconceivable that the miners from the so-called "shrub farming country", from the villages of Niederndorf, Ober- and Niederfischbach, the Häuslingsgrund or "Bäsemsgrund", even from the Wendener Land, had to walk up to 6 hours a day. Since using the road would have taken some detours, you just walked straight through fields and woods. So over time, fixed paths, the so-called miners' paths, began to emerge. Today these paths have long grown together again and only the knowledgeable can still recognize the course of these paths, which are paved with many memories.
Silicosis, an occupational disease
In 1789 Johann Philipp Becher wrote about the life expectancy of miners in Siegerland:
"... there are many widows in the villages. Their husbands did not stay in the pits, but mostly died a slow death, which in their prime caused them a kind of emaciation. I often stayed after a short stay before places where they were drilled and worked on the steel stone, felt a noticeable dust in the nose and mouth, which the miner naturally swallows a whole layer. Could this be the reason for the ruin of his lungs and the cause of the whole evil? "
At that time, the scourge of miners, silicosis, was not yet known or studied. In this way, silicosis could continue to drag miners in their prime. Although it was known that the fathers were marked by serious illness, the sons also took up the miner's profession.
The reason was to see the monostructure of our economy in our region, because at that time hardly any other branches of the economy apart from mines and smelters were relevant.
The early death of the father, the breadwinner, often brought great poverty to the families, so that the children had to contribute to the family's sustenance. They had to work hard on the field and the Hauberg. Even child labor in the pits was part of everyday life.
Visits to Grube Storch & Schöneberg
Towards the end of the last century, the Siegerland ore mining became so important for the Wilhelminian government in Berlin that even high government officials had to examine these huge ore veins. So in 1896 gentlemen from the Prussian Ministry of the Interior came to the entrance
Storch & Schöneberg to convince yourself of the richness of the aisles. This was probably the most important visit for the mining village of Gosenbach. Didn't it mean something that such high-ranking officials tried to move to a remote village during the imperial era - and that with the traffic conditions at the time.
In October 1924, there was another high-ranking visitor to Storch & Schöneberg: none other than the monkfish, Count Felix von Luckner, drove into the mine.
Many other high-ranking personalities were guests of the mine.
One day in 1921 there was great activity in the mine and the greeting was heard: "Heia Safari". This was the battle cry of the German Schutztruppe in Africa and its commander, General von Lettow-Vorbeck, came to the entrance.
Visit to Storch & Schöneberg.
Photo from 1916. The Gosenbacher Maschinen Steiger Albert Knipp (front left) with visitor staff.
For the most part, fried iron was produced on the hut. The use of the spate iron stone from the Storch & Schöneberg mine brought a manganese content of 10 - 12% in the iron without the addition of foreign manganese ores.
There was a stipulation that the hut always got the best iron stone. This was checked very carefully by the smelter Roth and when he once reprimanded the production supervisor, the latter replied: "Yes, if you learn Stoahl, you know you will do it."
Workforce at the Gosenbacher Hütte during its shutdown in 1927.
...... by 1908 the old, massive, four-edged blast furnace made of quarry stone had served its purpose.
Between 1909 and 1910 the hut was rebuilt again and a new, larger furnace was built.
The solemn act of lighting the new stove was performed by the bride of the then mining assistant Walter Siebel, a daughter of the mining captain Vogel.
The Siegener Zeitung wrote:
Gosenbach, January 11, 1910.
This morning the new blast furnace plant of Storch & Schöneberg was put into operation and the first fire was lit in front of Miss Vogel, the bride of Mr. Siebel from Kirchen, during the important act. Soon thick clouds of smoke from the new furnace announced that the work, which had been completed for a long time, was now ready for use. Good luck for! the new operations.
The new stove, much more powerful than its predecessor, was equipped with 4 modern cowpers for heating the wind. Its daily production reaches around 70 t of pig iron, about twice as much as its predecessor. During the construction of the new furnace there was a legal dispute with a citizen of Gosenbach. During the construction, the Storch & Schöneberg union overlooked the fact that the furnace was also built on a part of the property (approx. 64 square meters) that was still owned by this citizen. He demanded a compensation of RM 128,000 or the demolition of the furnace. It came to the trial that was finally decided by the Higher Regional Court.
Here, the value of the property was determined at RM 500.00 and the Storch & Schöneberg union was sentenced to make corresponding annual interest payments.
The hut was last managed by the hut master Roth from Gosenbach.
The hut was temporarily closed in 1924. In 1926 it was put into operation again briefly, but had to finally cease operations in 1927 and was later canceled.
The stone knife Johannes Utsch was closely connected with the hut. He was the civil servant who calculated the hut days based on the amount of iron stone mined and thus set the trades' share. He was called “Staimessersch” Johann, and this house name - at the same time to differentiate it from the other many Utsch families, was passed on to his descendants and is still used today.
The hut stood below the Gasthof Lange, today the factory halls of the Marburger & Co.
The district of Gosenbach in the direction of Niederschelden is still called "Auf der Hütte" today.
Closure of the Storch & Schöneberg pit
On January 30, 1942, the last conveying shift was carried out on the "Storch".
One day later, on Saturday, January 31, 1942, the remaining staff gathered in the retinue building to say goodbye. In the pit's compressor room, also known as the "Westfalen-Halle", the miners heard the last pit boss's farewell speech,
Bergassessor Dresler from Eiserfeld.
The following took part in this celebration as guests:
the first mountain ridge from Reinbrecht from Siegen and the last climber of the mine, the mountain manager Friedrich Wilhelm Hoffmann, who went down in Gosenbach mining history as the "Lurzemer Frieder", further the retired Steigers Tillman Bäumer and Karl Schmidt and the last active mine officials, Obersteiger Fritz Ebener as operator and the Steiger A. Utsch, F. Schütz, D. Nöll, E. Solms, K. Schmidt and P. Hartmann.
In his speech, Dresler referred to the Storch & Schöneberg mine as the "King of the Siegerland mines". In addition to copper and cobalt ores, more than 16,000,000 tons of iron stone were extracted from it.
The pit reached its greatest depth at 1,156 m. At the turn of the century, the mine employed more than 2,000 miners, the highest number in the history of the mine!
Renewed ore extraction after closure
When the economic upswing gradually emerged in the Federal Republic after the currency reform, raw materials of all kinds were in demand again. In Gosenbach, as in other Siegerland places, attempts were made to rebuild easily accessible tunnels and to search through the old dumps for Eisenstein.
Anna Pietschmann and Walter Schneider from Oberschelden, among others, worked on the heap of the Schöneberg. Ore was still found here, which was then sent by train to the Westfalen-Hütte in Dortmund.
In addition, a spate iron vein is said to have stood in the area of the sandhole, which was mined by the company Becker and Ley from Obersdorf. Some observers are said to have noticed at the time that the ore in the lower part of the wagons would have been a little worse than the one on top.
Gallery High view
A shaft was sunk in the gallery (Kalberhard) and some exploration work was carried out.
Big ping on the deer
The ore remains in this pinge were mined by Friedolin Meng, Karl-Fried and Ernst Latsch (Krupp) from Gosenbach.
To overcome the high rock face in the direction of Lurzenbach, old light rail tracks were laid steeply in the depths. The ore was then pulled up by means of wagons with a Lanz Bulldog.
The deep bubbling of the old tractor's glow plug could be heard all over the village.
Black eagle studs
Friedrich Bäcker, who lives in Gosenbach, worked with two of his sons in the tunnel of the Black Eagle (located directly above the honeycomb shaft).
The iron luster still pending here had a very high ore content (up to 70%) and was one of the highest quality ores.
The excavation of this pit was partly in the area of the large pinge, which was later used as a garbage dump. The end of the tunnel could previously be seen halfway up the approximately 30 m high rock face.
Another hole in the wall, a little to the left of the previous tunnel exit, belonged to another tunnel,
which was set a little lower about 100 m from the Black Eagle.
Both ends of the tunnel became visible in the wall, as this large pinge was only created by Storch & Schöneberg for the extraction of tailings to fill in the excavated mines and cut the old mining stretches from the Black Eagle.
Pit old man
Eduard Hartmann from Gosenbach and his sons worked at the old man. In the old days, when cobalt was mined here, quite a bit of brown and spate iron stone had been dumped on the dump.
These ores were retrieved by hand and thrown into the transport truck through an approx. 5 m long pipe.
The drivers were not very happy with this loading method, because the ore chunks falling from a great height did some damage to the vehicle.
After the ore supplies in the dump were running low, attempts were made to get back to the ore vein or to find the continuation by blasting the western pingen wall.
During the shooting, however, the whole wall came loose and lays itself on the air shaft of the Green Lion tunnel that is exposed here. Unfortunately, there was no more ore to be found. This prompted Hartmann to comment: "Where the eels have abrehoart, break mr net mr azfänge".
An attempt was then made to open the tunnel. However, this turned out to be too time-consuming.
The stone was too brittle so that it would have had to be completely rebuilt, which was costly.
Gleanings from mining in Gosenbach after the closure of the
Storch & Schöneberg mine.
The Jungfrau mine is only about 70 m from the Alte Mann in a south-westerly direction.
The Gosenbach blacksmith Otto Utsch (stone knife) worked in the pinge, which is still in existence today.
Only a few meters of the tunnel leading to the shaft were cleared. The ore yield was very low, the spar was very quartz here.
Pit Green Lion
The two Gosenbachers Otto Utsch and Paul Henß intended to open the tunnel of the Grube Enkeler in the rear part of the pinge at the Green Lion. It was removed again and supported with supports that were taken from the Lackgrafs tunnel. This tunnel was popularly known as the "Brethren Union" (because the "Dicken Strunks" worked here). Actually it was the iron garden tunnel, which ended after about 40 m at a shaft that was filled with water at the bottom.
This not very productive ore extraction also came to an end quickly.
One day Paul Henß hears a fine crackle in the mountains. This seemed quite familiar to such an experienced miner. He immediately alerted everyone working in the mountain. A short time later, a large part of the southern Pingenwand broke loose and lay down in front of the tunnel. You can still see this rock fall today.
The mud pole
Another type of ore extraction was the sewage sludge, which was created by the wet processing in "Glück auf". This was deposited in clearing ponds (just called "mudpole" in parlance), which were opposite the Hotel Lange. This mud was transported with its own cable car to around 200 m Pinge (behind the church), where it then dried out. Because of the very high iron and manganese content, it was particularly suitable for smelting. It was hand-picked and loaded. Today the pinge is not yet filled.
Gait map made by Gosenbach in 1906 on a scale of 1: 10,000.
The mineralization in Gosenbach
Little is known about the occurrence of the various minerals from the operating time of the Gosenbacher pits. The causes are manifold. On the one hand, the frequency on the main veins is relatively low and, on the other hand, the Gosenbach veins had a weak "iron hat",
in which the secondary minerals could form.
Another obstacle was the mine management's attitude towards "mineral mountains". It forbade the miners to recover beautiful steps in a time-consuming manner, because "tons" had to be "made" on the "Storch". Karl Weber once said that on the route from the Storch to the Lurzenbach a crystallized chasm was shot. Before the miners could save anything, the Steiger had already attached and detonated a new explosive charge, so that almost everything was destroyed. The "Archangels" were able to partially secure crystal remains on the ribbon. Gerhard Afflerbach from Niederschelden was later able to acquire a crystal from this find.
The behavior was very different at other Siegerland mines, especially in the Herdorf and Biersdorf mining areas. It has been handed down from the Füssenberg that the miners reacted with outburst of joy when they shot a gap filled with minerals.
Fortunately, there were also peripheral zones in the Gosenbacher Revier, where the extraction of Spateisenstein was low, but the mineral formation was all the stronger. In particular, it was the upper levels of the Grüner Löwe and Schmiedeberg pit as well as the old man and the copper chew.
The following minerals were widespread in the Gosenbach district: Spate iron (siderite), pyrite, copper pebbles, goethite, rock crystal. Galena was extremely rare. A step with lead luster in cubes with an edge length of approx. 2 cm from the Storch pit is known.
At the Grüner Löwe mine it was also possible to detect: cobalt bloom, galena, red gold ore, bournonite, nickel bloom, polybasite, zinc blende, ullmannite, stephanite, siegenite, columnar pyrite (containing nickel).
If you follow the corridor further east you come to the old man pit. This pit consolidated from several small pits, including the Jungfrau. Here the well-known mineralogist Prof. Ullmann was able to identify the nickel antimony luster as an independent mineral. After his death it was named "Ullmannite" in his honor. Recently, Ullmannite in ideal crystal form has been recovered from the dump from the Green Lion. The Old Man Mine has also produced some excellent specimens of malachite. Also to be mentioned from this pit are: cuprite, langite, pharmacosiderite,
Scorodite, goethite, brochantite, olivite, manganite.
At the top of Rothenberg there was the former Sophie mine, which has a crystal formation similar to that of the old man mine. A special feature of this pit are the arsenates, which are also rare across the region because of their good formation: scorodite, pharmacosiderite, olivite, arthurite, cornwallite, chalcophyllite, etc. .....
Pinging on the mountain top on Rothenberg. These pings belonged to the small cobalt mine Sophie.
Rare minerals such as arthurite, olivite and scorodite were found here
..... The Kupferkaute mine, which adjoins the Storch & Schöneberg mine to the west, shows special features: copper pebbles, Gersdorffite, rock crystal, galena, pale ore, feather ore, black zinc blende, red ore, silver black and polybasite.
In the area of the Lurzenbach and Schmiedeberg pits, the iron luster emerged more and more, which in some cases only merged into Spateisenstein at greater depths. Beautiful "iron roses" could be recovered.
Further on to Oberschelden, in addition to the iron luster, pyrolusite often appears in beautiful crystals. Other minerals found: colored copper (bornite), cuprite, malachite, langite, copper luster, steamed. Copper, glass head, delafossite. These minerals were found near the Euler Shaft, the dump of which was pushed during the construction of the "EDEKA" supermarket. This peculiarity is due to the fact that at the time of the sinking of the New Shaft, the Schmiedeberg medium was briefly promoted via the Euler Shaft.
Pingen am Schmiedeberg. Here one found predominantly brown iron stone and iron luster.
The tunnel opening of the Schmiedeberg pit was located further below the Pingen.
Today it is walled up with bricks. Only bats have access through a small hole.
View from Schmiedeberg to the center of Gosenbach where the Storch & Schöneberg mine was once.
On the right edge of the picture was the Alte Lurzenbach mine. In the middle of the picture on the mountain slope Rothenberg the pits Grüner Löwe, Alter Mann and Sophie.
Chalcopyrite on siderite. Storch & Schöneberg mine. Image width: 4.5 mm. Collection: Markus Henrich, Kirchen.
Millerite on Siderite. Pit Green Lion. Image width: 3.6 mm. Collection: Tim Overkott, Siegen.
Solid copper next to cuprite and malachite. Schmiedeberg mine. Image width: 2.5 mm.
Collection: Tim Overkott, Siegen.
Erythrin on siderite. Pit Green Lion. Image width: 4.5 mm. Collection: Matthias Reinhardt, Drolshagen.
Chalcoalumite on brown iron stone. Pit Sophie. Image width: 7.7 mm.
Collection: Matthias Reinhardt, Drolshagen.
Rhodochrosite on limonite. Pit Green Lion. Image width: 21 mm. Collection: Andreas Gerstenberg, Chemnitz.
Carrollite. Alte Lurzenbach mine. Image width: 2.4 mm. Collection: Markus Henrich, Kirchen.
Copper steamed on rhodochrosite. Pit Green Lion. Image width: 5.2 mm. Collection: Andreas Gerstenberg, Chemnitz.
Hematite on Limonite. Schmiedeberg mine. Image width: 2.5 mm. Collection: Tim Overkott, Siegen.
Devillin. Pit Green Lion. Image width: 2.6 mm. Collection: Matthias Reinhardt, Drolshagen.
Pyrite on siderite. New copper chute pit. Image width: 2.4 mm. Collection: Tim Overkott, Siegen.
Arthurite on limonite. Pit Sophie. Image width: 4 mm. Collection: Gerd Helsper, Gosenbach.
Aragonite on hematite. Storch & Schöneberg mine. Image width: 2.6 mm.
Collection: Matthias Reinhardt, Drolshagen.
Rich bachite on limonite. Old copper chute pit. Image width: 3.6 mm. Collection: Markus Henrich, Kirchen.
Scorodite on limonite. Pit Sophie. Image width: 2.4 mm. Collection: Matthias Reinhardt, Drolshagen.
Delafossite on limonite. Schmiedeberg mine. Image width: 5.5 mm. Collection: Tim Overkott, Siegen.
Bismuthinite on chalcopyrite. New copper chute pit. Image width: 1.8 mm.
Collection: Tim Overkott, Siegen.
Wittichenite on quartz. Alte Lurzenbach mine. Image width: 2.4 mm. Collection: Markus Henrich, Kirchen.
Pharmacosiderite on Limonite. Pit Sophie. Image width: 3 mm. Collection: Gerd Helsper, Gosenbach.
Malachite on Cornwallite. Pit Sophie. Image width: 2 mm. Collection: Matthias Reinhardt, Drolshagen.
Oliveite crystal lawn on quartz. Pit old man. Image width: 2.5 mm. Collection: Tim Overkott, Siegen.
Lepidocrocite in limonite gland. Pit old man. Image width: 1.5 mm. Collection: Matthias Reinhardt, Drolshagen.
Cuprite on malachite. Pit old man. Image width: 2 mm. Collection: Tim Overkott, Siegen.
Chalcopyrite on dolomite. Storch & Schöneberg mine. Image width: 34.5 mm. Collection: Josef Dreier, Herdorf.
Ullmannite on chalcopyrite. Pit Green Lion. Image width: 4 mm. Collection: Tim Overkott, Siegen.
Pyrargyrite on siderite. Pit Green Lion. Image width: 2 mm. Collection: Tim Overkott, Siegen.
Chalcopyrite on dolomite. Schmiedeberg mine. Image width: 18 mm. Collection: Andreas Gerstenberg, Chemnitz.
Pyrite on dolomite. Storch & Schöneberg mine. Step size: 12 x 8 cm. Collection: Josef Dreier, Herdorf.
Ullmannite with oxyplumboroméite. Honigsmund Hamberg mine. Step size: 13 x 8 cm.
Collection: Andreas Gerstenberg, Chemnitz.
Chalcopyrite on dolomite. Schmiedeberg mine. Step size: 10 x 6 cm. Collection: Andreas Gerstenberg, Chemnitz.
Gerd Helsper - connected with minerals
Text by Markus Henrich, Kirchen
This time, our collector's portrait goes into millimeter detail and is dedicated to collecting tiny minerals. We introduce Gerd Helsper from Siegen-Gosenbach, who dedicated himself to this micro-wonder world at an early stage.
Micromounter from the very beginning
In the last decades of the 20th century, the collection of small and very small minerals, the so-called micromounts, has found more and more friends. One reason for this is that most of the German mines have been closed as a source of beautiful showcase steps. On the other hand, the micro-minerals also have a very special charm, as they are characterized by their intact and often perfect formation, their diversity and rarity. There are also minerals that are not even known in large format. However, you need special aids, for example a magnifying glass or - better - a stereo microscope to be able to look at the little treasures. Since it is difficult to display the “micros” in a showcase in a way that attracts the public, you have to go other ways to present your mineral collection.
Gerd Helsper, born in 1942 and trained electrical engineer, followed this path early on and is one of the pioneers of collecting and photographing micro-minerals in Siegerland. For decades, his mineral photos were considered to be among the best you could see in micro-photography.
The first contact with stones and minerals had already occurred in childhood.
In the 1950s, many things were still different than they are today; natural history, for example, still took place outdoors. “The interest in stones, we jokingly spoke of 'knots', was instilled in us school children by our teacher, local history researcher Otto Krasa. We had to look for stones in nature, which were then discussed, ”recalls Gerd Helsper of this rather compulsive relationship to inorganic matter. Still, some interest in the stones remained for many years; his home village Gosenbach, the former location of the Storch & Schöneberg mine, one of the largest Siegerland mines (see MINERALIEN-Welt 4/2013), is certainly not to blame for this.
However, it was not until the end of the 1960s that the passion for minerals was really sparked. "I was lucky enough to have Dr. Getting to know Hütter from Netphen-Deuz, who at that time already owned a micro-collection that immediately inspired me, ”says Gerd Helsper looking back. "Dr. Hütter was an esthete in his own way. For example, he visited the piles of the Marie, Neue Hoffnung or Victoria pits and was happy when he found a nice little bit. When I think back to his way of collecting today and his satisfaction, I can only envy him for it. ”Infected by Dr. Hütter's passion was also able to inspire Gerd Helsper's wife for her husband's new hobby. He is particularly grateful to her for showing him the patience for his sometimes time-consuming hobby.
Gerd Helsper is known to many as a collector of “extremes”. In order to get good, fresh material, it was necessary to dig in the dump material. Pick and shovel were among his most important tools in the field. When he arrived at the dump, he immediately engaged the turbo and shoveled into the depths. However, digging in the dumps has often not met with much approval from the landowners and forest managers.
“In retrospect, I find that collecting itself and getting to know like-minded people brought me more than the subsequent possession,” Gerd Helsper sums up today and continues: “Now you can have different opinions about the value of a collection. But even museums are now stocked with the little new discoveries. Analyzes have shown some very rare minerals that are missing in previous literature. ”His“ favorite sites ”include the Victoria pits in Littfeld, Fischbacherwerk and Concordia in Niederfischbach, Breimehl in Brachbach, Alte Mahlscheid in Herdorf and above all the dumps in the vicinity of his place of residence Gosenbach. But he also visited one or the other site outside of the Siegerland.
The art of micro photography
Gerd Helsper has repeatedly reported on his new finds in collector's magazines - professionally versed and interesting articles, garnished with high-quality picture material, which has given his way of collecting a high value in specialist circles. Photographing micro-minerals has become his second hobby and has made him famous beyond the borders of the Siegerland.
“Since you couldn't see the micromounts properly without aids, the solution was to take photos; I started doing it in the 1970s, ”says Helsper, who is undoubtedly one of the pioneers in the field of photography of micro-minerals. He tried a lot, including 3D stereo photography.
He later switched to digital photography and also dealt with multilevel recording technology. However, he was unable to make the new leap forward due to Parkinson's disease. Having reached retirement age, the dire illness prevents him not only from taking photos at the top level but also from collecting himself. As far as his health allows, Gerd Helsper now mainly devotes himself to viewing and cataloging his extensive collection - and is always happy to do so to show this to others too. Countless slides, digital pictures and small steps in drawers, fixed in plastic boxes, are the result of his long career as a collector. Every visit to his “mineral cellar” is an enrichment for those interested and those thirsting for knowledge - regardless of whether they are mineralogical experts or laypeople. We wish Gerd Helsper that his state of health will remain stable for a long time so that he can enjoy his minerals and the contact with like-minded people for a while.