Maria Teresa II chamber

The mechanization of mining work

In the 1870s salt extraction by means of mechanical methods was originated. A technique widely used in the mine was the explosive technique. The first attempts to use gunpowder in the Wieliczka mine were made in 1743 and blast holes were made with chisels and hammers. At the end of the 19th century hand drills were introduced (mainly Ratchett drills), and since 1914 air compressed drills (Flottmann drills). Between the First and Second World War preparatory works were done by means of Demag pneumatic cutters. After electricity had been introduced in the mine electric drills were used (mainly Siemens drills). During the Second World War to improve efficiency of rock crushing with gunpowder the number of blast holes was greatly increased. The exhibition is completed by two machines for incline transport: an 18th century horse cross with a wooden rail cart that facilitated hauling of the output from hard accessible places, and prams from the 19th century with a two-drum axle brake and rail carts used to lower salt from steep walls to the main transporting level. Wooden and salt tablets carry information concerning the marking of the underground labyrinth.

Tourism in Wieliczka Mine
Since the 15th century the salt mine in Wieliczka has been visited by many eminent Poles and foreigners which is commemorated by a separate exhibition on the left side of the chamber. Easily recognizable images of Stanisław Staszic, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Fryderyk Chopin and the cardinal Karol Wojtyła – later the pope John Paul II, lead tourists to the gallery of people whose visits to the mine have been recorded in the Museum documents, and since 1774 in Visitors’ Book introduced by the Austrians.
The rulers of Poland, as well as the kings and emperors of neighbouring countries who have visited the mine are presented in chronological order. In another group, which comprises scholars and poets are: Joachim Wadian – a Swiss humanist and the author of the first description of the mines in Wieliczka and Bochnia in European literature dating from 1522, Jędrzej Śniadecki, Alexandeer von Humboldt or Dymitr Mendelejew. Images of outstanding Poles from the 19th century, politicians, military men, popes, Nobel Prize winners and presidents that have visited the mine until present day show the significance of this tourist site in the world. In 1978 the ancient salt mine in Wieliczka was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The exhibition is completed by pictures presenting sections of the 19th century tourist route, glass cases containing the oldest guidebooks (published since 1822) and Visitors’ Books. Nearby, there is a row of horse-drawn wagons that used to carry tourists along the tourist route. A marble bust of Hieronim Hilary Łabęcki (1809 – 1862), a historian of the Polish mining and metallurgy, reminds of the first source publication of the history of the salt mines in Poland in 1841.

The Mining Reservation
The chamber is a mining reservation that shows three techniques of salt exploitation in the Wieliczka mine. Smooth surfaces of walls that carry signs of pickaxes are the result of preparatory works done before the use of explosives. Regular surfaces left after massive blocks had been cut out are characteristic for the mechanical technique that relied on the use of explosives, while large frayed surfaces indicate that the rocks were crumbled by explosives only.
In the ceiling one can see “windows” of the shaft and a gallery which remind of the exploration works and the discovery of a large block of green salt. The height of this chamber is 24 metres with capacity of 11700 cubic metres.
After long and complex restoration works the reservation was reopened to visitors in 2006.

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