Station: [11] Fossils and Minerals

Heligoland’s red rock was created by enormous geological forces. Around 230 million years ago, the German Bight was a low-lying plain. The soil contained vast deposits of salt – specifically, Zechstein, a type of Permian rock with a high salt content, all that remained of a shallow sea that had long since evaporated. Overlying the Zechstein was red sandstone and shell limestone or coquina.

Due to the interplay of various forces and the properties of these rocks, the saline Zechstein was forced upwards over a period of several million years, through the upper layers of red sandstone and shell limestone. As a result, the red Heligoland cliff and Düne Island emerged in the midst of a low-level plain. 

Even now, the limestone that came to the surface is a veritable treasure-trove of fossils, reflecting the lush plant and animal life of the Cretaceous period. All the fossils on display here, without exception, were found on Heligoland

In 1910, the geologist Wilhelm Wolf made a very special discovery on the island’s south-west coast. The large skull of a fossilised amphibian was embedded in the red sandstone. This giant salamander lived roughly 250 million years ago. A scientist called Henry Schröder studied the find in 1913 and made this plaster cast, which is a faithful reproduction of the original skull.

All depictions: © Nordseemuseum Museum Helgoland