GB No. 2(17)/95
Hel Peninsula is situated in north-east Poland, between the Baltic Sea and Puck Gulf. Its landscape is unique in Europe. It is covered with pine forest with the addition of birch and rowan. Most of the woodless area is heathland. Along the gulf are wild rose bushes and by the seaside is sea-holly. The peninsula, which is a landscape park itself, holds also a reserve, inhabited by boars. The climate is very specific and highly esteemed by tourists.
Unfortunately, this wonderful place is in danger now. It has been losing its sand due to storms and in some places the land has shrunk even by 50m. Continued erosion would be disasterous We don't know yet what will happen but scientists have not ruled out the most negative possibilities. Let's concentrate on the peninsula's problems.
About 8500 years ago the shoal of Hel first came above the surface of water. Then, around 4000 years ago yellow dunes originated in the present stretch from Jastarnia to Hel (a town at the very end of Hel Peninsula). However, the process of consolidation into compact land area began only 1800-1000 years ago. In 1810 the first detailed map of north-east Poland was published. It stated that the peninsula's width from Władysławowo to Chałupy was 900m, that is 3-6 times more than today, whereas the coastline was shorter by about 1.5 km.
The peninsula was seriously eroded several times due to strong storms, which occurred in 1818 and 1824 and initiated work on strengthening the shores in 1825. However, in 1855, 1874 and 1899, during winter storms, the peninsula was divided again. In the 20th century Hel was attacked from the side of the gulf, too, e.g. in 1902, 1912 and 1914. A continuous railway from Puck to Hel was built in 1922. During storms water approached the track, which forced the people to drive piles into the sea bed and beaches in order to weaken wave action and stop sand runoff. Between 1936 and 1937 the breakwaters for Władysławowo harbour were built. They managed to diminish sand accumulation in the first part of the peninsula. After the WW2, in the 50s, concrete piles were driven into sea bed and wooden ones into beaches of Kuźnica. In the 60s people tried using concrete bands but they were so heavy that they disappeared into the sand. In 1962 there was another shoreline recession of 15m due to storms in Kuźnica. Then afforestration began, with forest nurseries and trees resistant to salt water. Wild rose bushes, which had a very strong and soil-reinforcing root system, were planted along the gulf.
Despite this, on January 18, 1983 a storm flooded Chałupy, Kuźnica and part of Jastarnia and damaged the pier in Jurata. Two days later the peninsula was cut off and the flood was not stopped until the shore was reinforced on the evening of January, 21. The people realised that the exploitation of the peninsula should be limited. Before that drivers were allowed to park their cars wherever they wanted to, which resulted in formation of ruts filled with water. As a result, the peninsula sank Tollgates were introduced in order to control the number of cars and carparks were built. Dunes were strengthened with fences and sea-grass and "Tire mattresses" were put in order to stop abrasion between Kuźnica and Jastarnia. Unfortunately, they drowned in sand. Sand shortage on the sea bottom and the shore was evaluated to be about 8 million m3. In 1984 dredgers were bought in Denmark to stop the depletion. Dredgers are machines used for collecting sand and sediment from the gulf bottom and pumping it over to the side of the sea. The dunes in Kuźnica were equipped with baskets of steel wire, which were filled with stones in order to provide foundations for sand and plants. After the winter storm of 1993 the south-east part of the peninsula was covered with a moving concrete structure, which did not crack under the influence of land deformation and could be covered with plants. Dredgers were placed in Kuźnica, near the narrowest place and in W3adys3awowo - in order to soften the harbour's impact. A special plastic mesh was going to be bought. The material was composed of tiny threads, which could easily stop grains of sand. The mesh was intended to cover dunes and thus enable grass to grow and stay there. Unfortunately, it is very expensive and Poland can't afford such an expense.
Moreover, there is no efficient service, which would enforce prohibition of lighting fires on the beach, destroying fences and walking on the dunes.
Will we be able to change anything? I think it's important to make people aware of the problem and do something about it. Maybe someone will be moved by this beautiful place and will make contact with the Sea Institute in Hel or Gdansk. The peninsula is still moving. Will the man's activity cause it to disappear for ever within several years? I hope not!
Kaskady 48, 40-748 Katowice
reprinted from Zielone Brygady 2/95