A few hundred feet below the Russian city of Yekaterinburg is an abandoned salt mine of indescribable, psychedelic beauty. Entire caves and corridors covered with astonishing patterns caused by the natural swirling of carnallite and rock layers. The mineral carnallite, a hydrated potassium magnesium chloride, serves as a powerful aid in plant fertilization. It is most often found to be yellowish-red, but can appear to be blue, purple, or even colorless.
Only a small part of the mine is still in use today, leaving miles of these abandoned hypnotic tunnels below the surface that are only accessible with a certain government permit. That, however, did not stop photographer and spelunker, Mikhail Mishainik, and his friends from exploring the spectacular corridors beneath the industrial city. “The mines are huge and stretch many kilometres in width and length, a single tunnel can be over four miles long,” Mikhail stated. “It is hard to describe how it feels being so far down, you lose all track of time and the air is very dry, you always feel thirsty. The air is filled with small particles of salt and if we didn’t have our torches switched on it would be pitch black.”
The group claims to have spent over 20 hours exploring the swirling, dimly lit labyrinth and has stayed overnight on multiple occasions. The photographs they have captured during their journeys beneath the surface are nothing short of breathtaking.
“It is easy to get lost as many of the passageways look the same, we navigate our way around very carefully.
Many people know about the mines but it is very difficult to access them if you don’t have an official permit,” Mikhail said. “We take our safety very seriously, but of course there are always dangers. There is the possibility of a gas leak from chemicals such as methane, hydrogen sulphide carbon dioxide as well the risk of a landslide. The danger element is part of the fun and it’s a special feeling being somewhere very few people have seen.”