Ordnance Survey Map (1912)

The 1912 Ordnance Survey maps were created 52 years after the 1859/60 Ordnance Survey maps. If one disregards Schroetter's map, the discernible differences in the cultural landscape are most striking in the 1912 map compared to the previous map. The discernible change between the maps is largely due to human intervention in nature rather than a relic of the progressive development of surveying technology.

The total area of the spit in the 1912 sheet is 166.52 km², only slightly larger than in the previous map (1859/60: 165.96 km²). Proportionally to the total area, the area of sand as a formative landscape type has decreased by about 20 percentage points to 30.77%. At the same time, the proportion of areas with herbaceous/shrubby vegetation (including gray dune) has also decreased to 14.11%, thus the value has approximately halved. There has been a slight increase in the area of grassland, which has increased from 2% (1859/60) to 3%. However, the landscape change has been determined by the increase of forest areas, which have grown to 46.67% of the total area. Thus, the proportion of forest area has increased fivefold since 1859/60.

This development can be seen clearly on the map. If one looks at the maps of 1859/60 and 1912 in comparison, the change is immediately apparent. While the dominant colour up to and including 1859/60 was the yellow signature colour of sand, in 1912 it is the dark green of forests. If one takes a closer look at the spatial distribution of the forest, it is noticeable that the forest now extends over the entire length of the spit and is no longer concentrated solely around the villages as it was before. The large contiguous free sandy areas have disappeared. They are now either covered with forest or at least interrupted by herb/shrub growth (including gray dune).

This change in the landscape is the result of the dune fortification works led by Wilhelm Franz Epha (1828-1904) and other actors. The map of 1859/60 was created shortly before the beginning of systematic dune fortifications on the Curonian Spit, while the map of 1912 was created after their extensive completion, so that in comparing the maps their profound influence on the landscape of the Curonian Spit can be impressively understood. The establishment of the dunes meant a permanent and profound change in the functioning and appearance of the ecosystem of the Curonian Spit. For the inhabitants of the Curonian Spit, however, the establishment of the dunes meant a significant improvement of their living conditions, as the constant threat of siltation of their dwellings and places could thus be averted. Simultaneously with the establishment of the dunes, the percentage of the settlement area increased from 1.60% to 2.01%, which was favored by the intervention in nature.

The 1912 map is interesting for another reason. It is the last official map before the First World War and the state separation of the Curonian Spit in the aftermath of the war. It is also the last map in the tradition of Prussian land survey by the General Staff, which began with the wars of liberation against Napoleon.


Square kilometres


Herb/shrub cover (incl. grey dune)






Water area (except lagoon and Baltic Sea)






Settlement area and immediate surroundings



Grassland (incl. sparse tree population)



Agricultural land










Methodological note: The explanatory map description refers to the derived form of the map, which is shown on the left. For this purpose, the land use type or ecotope was derived from the signatures of the source map and presented in a summarised map. In this form, the height information was completely omitted, which is why it is only taken into account here in the form of additional information. This information relates in particular to the distribution and form of the dunes that are so characteristic of the spit.