Fieldtrip Season: exploring Kansas ~ 650' Underground

May 21, 2021
Source: Academy St Mary's

~ 650 feet Underground ~

On April 29, 2021, forty-one seventh grade boys and their teachers descended into the dark depths of the Hutchinson, Kansas salt mines.

This was Strataca, part of a salt mine, the only underground museum in the world attached to a working mine. The mine has been in existence since 1923 and has 150 miles of shafts.

Once an area has been mined, it is no longer of use to the miners. However, since it is a salt mine, the space is highly conducive for storing records and other things that are sensitive to moisture. (A half-eaten burger from the 1950s bore witness to this fact: it was still visible and very real looking!). It’s also a great place for a museum too!

The museum winds around several of the great rooms created by the mining. There are several rides that take underground adventurers further into the darkness to explore. The “rooms” are 10 feet tall, and are supported by pillars 40-50 feet wide. 

We were told that the salt is believed to have been left behind from an ocean that evaporated over the course time of millions of years ago. Evidence of fossils discovered here in Kansas show that there may have indeed been an ocean covering much of our state. The salt could be the remnants of that ocean. If so, it was as though we were in the middle of a petrified underground sea! However, we found out from our tour guide, who is also a historian and archeologist, that there is another theory related to what makes wetlands salty that has recently been put forth.

The boys found out that salt under the earth is called halite. They were also showed how it was extracted from the early days up to now. We then went on a dark ride, “off the beaten path” where we drove in almost complete darkness and learned more about how the salt mine works, as well as neat anecdotes of happenings in the mine. Nearly everyone was in complete silence during this part. There was awe at the combined knowledge of miles of silent salty halls and at being enveloped in utter darkness.

The trip was an eye-opening experience for everyone. Wandering through the mines certainly put time and history in perspective and complemented our geology course. We saw how much of the world had to develop for us to marvel at all those corridors of sparkling crystallized salt. It was a fascinating experience that complemented not only our earth science curriculum, but also our world and U.S. history as well!

~ by Miss B, 7th Grade teacher