Water Planet

an umbrella project of 

the Centre for Earth Evolution and Dynamics (CEED)

Following the water: Art, Geology and Education

Slănic Moldova is a place where art and nature mix thanks to the In Context programme. For more than three years now, Alina Teodorescu has been inviting artists and musicians from all over the world to her atelier to experience Slănic’s nature and culture and create new artwork. Through the language of art she also teaches to kids of the local schools the importance of protecting our planet and eco-sustainability. Educating the young generations to these topics is clearly essential not only for our future, but also for our present. Just look at what is happening with the movement that activist Greta Thunberg started. And this is where we come in. Geology and Education.

From left to right: (1) In Context atelier and its striking pink tower, (2) the inside of the atelier, (3) Carmen and Alina chatting at the local school in front of an artwork made in Slănic Moldova by Indian artists. 

Carmen Gaina (CEED director) and Valentina Magni (CEED researcher), invited by the In Context programme, visited Slănic Moldova in September. This small town of Romania is located in the south-east part of the Carpathian mountains. Tourists come here for its mineral water springs, artists come here to be inspired by its nature, and we came here to talk to high school students about geology, plate tectonics, and the environment. And as an extra perk for us, we also got to explore the surroundings and look at the geology of the region.

The Carpathians are a relatively young mountain chain that formed as a continuation of the Alps due to subduction of a small ocean basin. As this plate was sinking into the Earth’s mantle, it released water, creating the perfect conditions for the mantle above it to melt, rise at the surface, and form new volcanoes (see Water & Volcanism). Subduction and generation of new volcanism migrated progressively towards South-East, where a small part of the slab is still present at depth and where volcanic activity at the surface is very recent (up to 200 kyr ago). Slănic Moldova is at the northern edge of this slab remnant in the accretionary prism of the Carpathian mountains. Walking around this region you can often find layers of sediments that have been tilted and deformed during nappes formation. 

Map of the Carpathian mountain chain and the subduction zone location (with triangles on the overriding plate showing the dip direction of subduction)

From top to bottom: (1) Carmen and (2) Valentina giving lectures to the highschool students of Oneşti, (3) group pictures with Alina and the volunteers and teachers involved in the project.

The recent tectonic and volcanic history is tightly linked to the presence of large salt diapirs (like that of Târgu Ocna Salina) and numerous mineral water springs. These waters have different characteristics depending on what the hostrock they travel through and dissolve is; some are more salty, some are more metallic, some have that rotten egg smell typical of sulphur, and some can even be set on fire. But more importantly, they all have healing properties. The Târgu Ocna Salina is also used for curative purposes by people with respiratory problems. Here, salt is extracted for commercial use, but when you go down 8 floors and 240 m you find yourself in a large playground where you can drive a kart, play basketball, volleyball, football, table tennis, chess, and just relax while breathing air that is good for you.

From a geological perspective, this region is a great place to study how the solid Earth interacts with water at different depths and time scales.  

From left to right: (1) Sediments layers and (2) one of the mineral water springs in Slănic Moldova, (3) inside the Târgu Ocna Salina