Thursday, May 20, 2010

Underground Salt Mine

Our first day we headed out early to the Underground Salt Mine in Hutchinson, Kansas. A few years ago this mine opened to the public for tours.

When first arriving everyone watches a movie to get you prepared for what is to come. Then off to be outfitted with a hard hat and a breathing apparatus in case of fire. (No, we didn't get to use these.)

Into the elevator we go.....down...down...down, 650 feet down. Right through the center of the aquifer.

Side note: When building the elevator to get down to the mine, they had to go right through the aquifer. Quite a feat. How they did that was by freezing the water in the aquifer with nitrogen, drilling the enormous hole in which the elevator would go through, adding cement walls to move the water around the elevator area, putting the elevator in and then unfreezing the water. Amazing.

The mine is quite cool but not cold. 65 degrees. There are many exhibits telling about mining here and how this mine was found.

These grooves on the walls are made from the machine that drills out parts of the wall. The machine moves in a circular motion.

One of the most interesting exhibits is about living organisms found in salt crystals.

The world’s oldest living organism, estimated to be about 250 million years old, is now living at the Kansas Underground Salt Museum as part of its newest exhibit featuring the unprecedented discovery of living bacteria found trapped inside a salt crystal.

The scientists credited with reawakening bacteria from spores inside an ancient salt crystal -- Dr. Russell Vreeland, Dr. William Rosenzweig, and Dr. Dennis Powers -- were at the Museum for the exhibit opening. Their research has indicated the cells from which those spores presumably formed were alive and active before the time of dinosaurs.

The three scientists are continuing their research on the subject of living organisms in non-living components like salt crystals. In fact, the men collected salt samples from the Hutchinson mine for further research. If more bacteria are found in these samples, it’s likely older than the bacteria previously found, as the salt deposits in Hutchinson are estimated to have formed 275 million years ago.

This salt mine is also used for storage of important documents and other items that may be ruined by exposure to humidity and other elements. Items come from all over the world. There are many items here from the movie industry. Footage as well as costumes used in movies.

These underground caverns are huge. You can imagine how much stuff this place can hold.

1 comment:

Katie said...

That's awesome! How interesting. I always wanted to go there when we lived there, but I don't think it opened until after we moved. I guess I'll have to make a trip back! :)