Questions for ‘Science works to save a salty world treasure’

Miners at Wieliczka carved statues of historical figures, such as Poland’s King Casimir the Great (here), as well as holy people from the Bible.

Kathiann M. Kowalski

To accompany feature “Science works to save a salty world treasure”


Before Reading

1.  What is salt? Where can you find it? What can you do with it?

2.  People have traded in salt for thousands of years. Whole towns and cities are named in honor of salt. Why was salt so important? Is it still that important today?

During Reading

1.  Why was salt particularly important in the centuries before refrigeration was invented?

2.  What is a World Heritage site?

3.  How is an inclusion in rock “like a time capsule”?

4.  Where does the word “salary” come from?

5.  How have pollutants from above ground harmed the salt mine?

6.  Why is the breath of visitors a problem for preserving the salt mine?

7.  Why does the salt in Wieliczka appear yellow, red or brown and not white?

8.  What happens to water that can enter the Wieliczka salt mine in huge quantities?

9.  Why might the air within Wieliczka be cleaner than air on the surface, outside of the mine?

10.  Why are geologists filling in the mine in some places?

After Reading:

1.  The Wieliczka salt mine faces several threats, including the breath of visitors, pollution from the surface and the intrusion of groundwater. Which threat would you consider the most dangerous and why? How would you address that threat differently from how scientists are now doing so? Use evidence from the story to back up your response.

2.  Saving treasures like the Wieliczka salt mine is difficult and expensive. So why do we do it? Is it worth the effort and expense? Explain why or why not?


1.  Using information from the story, determine in centimeters or inches the average height of each stair step descending into the Wieliczka salt mine.

2.  Using information from the story, calculate the percentage difference between the amount of groundwater that enters the Wieliczka salt mine versus the Bochinia salt mine.