Friday, July 20, 2007

I Went 650 Feet Underground

I really did!

650 feet is more than the height of the St. Louis arch. More than the Washington Monument. And more than the Statue of Liberty.

650 feet--deep into the earth. How did I do it?

Well, I didn't dig to China.

I went to the Kansas Underground Salt Museum. Located in Hutchinson, Kansas, the underground museum is an old section of an active salt mine.

The adventure begins with a minute and a half elevator plunge that takes you 650 feet under the earth. When you get out of the elevator, you basically enter one huge continuous tunnel-- featuring several main roads with hundreds of sectional rooms. In all, the mine tunnels stretch more than 67 miles.

The ceiling of the mine is 10-17 feet, supported by 40' x 40' pillars throughout. Each "room" is approximately 2,500 square feet or bigger. The floor for our tour is a smooth road made of "saltcrete," a combination of salt and concrete. The temperature underground is consistently 65-68 degrees year round. And without lights, its completely pitch black. We got a taste of that!

You go through the mine by riding an electric tram. A guide points out features of the mine and tells you about its history. You'd think going so deep underground would be scary, but it's actually a very comfortable experience. If you can ride an airplane, you can easily enjoy the mine. My three kids--preschool and elementary age--went and had a great time.

Salt was accidentally discovered in Hutchinson in the 1880's when a man found salt instead of oil. Interestingly, this salt vein runs underground from Kansas and run south continuously into Mexico.

Today, salt from the active mine is used to melt ice on roads, horse feed, and pharmaceuticals.

The underground museum is the only one of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. Next door to the museum is the Underground Vaults and Storage Company. The company stores critical records and Hollywood archives like Johnny Carson shows, the original print of Gone With the Wind and hundreds of other movies.

Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew 5:13, "You are the salt of the earth." Just as salt preserves food and enhances flavor, so do Christians who inhabit the earth.

Of course, Jesus was referring to the salt crystals that gathered by the sea, not salt mined from underground. But being deep inside the earth, surrounded by nothing but salt, you get a deeper appreciation for Jesus' word picture.

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