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This is crystalline halite, in the form of “Christmas tree” stalagmite, from crystals with an incomplete crystallization structure, with rusty-brown colouring, because of the iron compounds present.
The saline stalagmite, resembling the shape of a Christmas tree, is the result of the free growth of halite crystals under stable conditions of temperature, airflow, and humidity.

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This is crystalline halite, in the form of “Christmas tree” stalagmite, from crystals with an incomplete crystallization structure, with rusty-brown colouring, because of the iron compounds present.
The saline stalagmite, resembling the shape of a Christmas tree, is the result of the free growth of halite crystals under stable conditions of temperature, airflow, and humidity. The specific shape, in which it appears that partly-formed crystals have been stacked in a terraced and stepped construction, is original, due to its rust colouration, which is atypical for haliter. The raw material for the crystallization, together with particles of iron oxides and iron hydroxides, was the evaporating brine. This specimen is an example of the impact of anthropogenic factors (forced air flow, rust from metal structures) on the formation of original secondary halite aggregates in mine excavations.

Elaborated by Witold Kuc (Kraków Salt Works Museum in Wieliczka), © all rights reserved

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Kraków Saltworks deposits

Salt exploitation history is connected in Poland, with the Miocen marine deposits filling the Pre-Carpathian basin. The salt series thickness varies from 250 m in Wieliczka up to 1500 m close to Wojnicz. It is built of five cyclothems, that is sedimentation cycles, beginning from aggregated  and argillaceous rocks (sandstones, mudstones, claystone), argillo-calcerous and anhydrite claystone to anhydrites and halites.

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Salt exploitation history is connected in Poland, with the Miocen marine deposits filling the Pre-Carpathian basin. The salt series thickness varies from 250 m in Wieliczka up to 1500 m close to Wojnicz. It is built of five cyclothems, that is sedimentation cycles, beginning from aggregated  and argillaceous rocks (sandstones, mudstones, claystone), argillo-calcerous and anhydrite claystone to anhydrites and halites. The Carpathian overthrust caused strong folding of the salt series and formed local concentrations of salt of industrial value. The Miocen halite deposits occure in the Carpathian forground, between Wieliczka (West) and Tarnów (East). The historical sources  of the 11th and the 13th centuries mention bestowments and privileges of salt  mining. The documents certify that salt exploitation has been continued in ”Wieliczka” and  ”Bochnia” salt mines for over 700 years. They belonged to the Kraków Salt Mines, that together with the Russian Salt Mines (Kałusz, Tyrawa Solna, Jasienica, Starasól, Stebnik, Modrycz, Solec, Sołotwina and Truskawiec) constituted the Royal Salt Mines. The salt mines brought profits for local people, tenants and the king. Archaeological investigations provide more and more proofs confirming salt exploitation in the area. About 3500 years BC. Bochnia area was already known as a place where salt was obtained by means of an evaporation method. Ancient coins dating back to the Emperor Hadrian times as well as chert and flint tools were found on slag heaps of the Russian Salt Mines.  Due to development of the bore-hole method in salt mining, wider exploitation of the Zechstein salt deposits, the old salt mines began to loose their importance. Currently they function mainly as tourist attractions and sanitariums. In Bochnia, the lowest levels (from the XVI to the X) have been backfilled and the historical part (from the level I to IX) has been adapted for touristic purposes. The ”Wieliczka” salt mine reaches the depth of 327 m. It has 9 levels and about 300 km of excavations (galleries, inclined drifts, exploitation chambers, salt lakes, shafts and pits). Most of them are open for tourists. 

Elaborated by the Geological Museum at the Faculty of Geology, Geophysics and Environmental Protection of the AGH University of Science and Technology, © all rights reserved

See also:
Halite with organic inclusions
Halite crystals
Halite crystals from Groty Kryształowe [Crystal Caves]
Halite crystals on the watering can

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Geological deposits of Wieliczka

The Wieliczka salt deposit is a small part of the Miocene marine sediments that fill the Carpathian depression and has a close link with the geological structure of this region. It was created about 13.6 million years ago, as a result of sedimentation in the Miocene Sea, formed subsequently by tectonic movements. The lithostratigraphic profile of the deposit and its surroundings includes the Mesozoic (Jura and Cretaceous) and Cenozoic (Neogen and Quaternary) periods.

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The Wieliczka salt deposit is a small part of the Miocene marine sediments that fill the Carpathian depression and has a close link with the geological structure of this region. It was created about 13.6 million years ago, as a result of sedimentation in the Miocene Sea, formed subsequently by tectonic movements. The lithostratigraphic profile of the deposit and its surroundings includes the Mesozoic (Jura and Cretaceous) and Cenozoic (Neogen and Quaternary) periods.
Jurassic deposits (rocky limestones) form the basis of Miocene sediments. In the area of the Wieliczka deposit, they occur at a depth of about 760 m. They subside stepwise in the south-easterly direction.
Flysch chalk deposits occur in the Carpathian overthrust, whose coastline runs more or less latitudinally through the southern part of Wieliczka. The front of the Carpathian overthrust is built of two tectonic units:

  • Silesian Nappe (mainly sandstone and shale)
  • Sub-Silesian Nappe (mainly spotted marl)

Neogene sediments are represented mainly by Miocene age deposits. These are characterised by high lithological variability, and very complicated tectonics in the area of the deposit. The following deposits are included in these sediments:

  • Skawińskie (subsalt) — mainly marly clay with some inserts of siltstone and sandstone
  • layers of sulphate and chloride evaporites — mud deposits with clusters of anhydrite, gypsum, and rock salt
  • Chodenickie (presalt) — mainly clays and mudstones, in some parts with gritty and overground layers of brittle sandstone
  • Grabowieckie — grey loams and sands locally called “Bogucice”

Elaborated by The Geological Museum of the Institute of Geological Sciences, Polish Academy of Sciences, © all rights reserved

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Salt stalagmite

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