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Romania has many relief forms that are not frequently met-with in Europe. Among these, one may count the Danube Delta and the Muddy Volcanoes. Nature’s friends will surely be curious to read about a rarely encountered phenomenon.
A natural reserve that is unique in Romania, a protected Area, which has been declared a Monument of nature having a geologic value ever since 1924, the Muddy Volcanoes are situated in the Sub- Carpathian Curvature, in the Buzau zone. The Muddy Volcanoes are a cone-shaped elevation, improperly called a volcano, formed by the earth-surface eruption of the gases released from a deposit of hydrocarbons that engaged mud.
The presence of the volcanoes at that site can be explained by the peculiar geologic structure that reveals the presence of salt within the foundation. On account of the tectonic pressure present during the wrinkling phase, the salt, being plastic, was pushed towards the surface, forming wrinkles that stretch from Turda to Ocna Sibiului. The created plate exerts a pressure that resulted in the forming of fractures by which the methane gas goes towards the surface engaging the salt water.
This softens the marnas, turning them into mud that is pushed out. The mud formed by them goes towards the surface and, at those sites, it gets dry in contact with the air, forming, by accumulation, certain conical structures looking like volcanoes. The mud is cold because it comes from clay layers. The bubbling is due to the methane gas. At present, in the Buzau zone, some active volcano cones are still visible.
The mud consistence determines the rythmicity and dimension of the gas bubbles. By studying the phenomenon to a little extent, you can anticipate the bubble forming and fairly well, the optimum releasing moment, too. If at the top of the crater the mud is fresh or in course of getting dry, in the middle and on the outskirts of the cone it is dry and streaked with cracks.
Water is the one that leaves its main imprint over the place. When it rains, it moulds the earth forming torrents having depths up to 2-3 meters, and it leaves behind it millions of cracks when it evaporates. The mud goes on getting fabricated within the belly of the volcano boiling up like a polenta, be it autumn or spring, or hot weather anyway. From the deep, it brings up mud under the form of a white-gray or brown- gray fluid paste resulted from the marna and clay dissolving.
The cracked earth, the craters of the small volcanoes, and the ditches formed by water make up a landscape that is frequently compared to the moon’s.
Once you get to the area of the muddy volcanoes, you are surprised to feel an unusual sensation. All around you can see arid terrains, which are flooded by mud and covered by a thick layer of solidified, cracked mud with craters here and there, out of which, strangely cold, the mud is bubbling up. In fact, it is nothing else but a mixture of sandstone, gyps, clay, limestone and petroleum traces, which are engaged from the deep by the natural gases that come up from a depth of 3,000 meters, the gases passing through a clay soil and combining themselves with the groundwater.
Being a wonder, it shows the way the sun can change the landscape. It is ideal to see the volcanoes at sunrise. They are red like flames, and, at sunset, they turn dark brown. At noon, from 12 to 6 p.m., especially in summer, everything is gray.
You have the impression that you are an earthling living on a strange planet. When it is cloudy, the arid plateau (tableland) with millions of cracks and deep torrents, which are separated by ridges, are gray, a thing that makes you think you are on the moon. If the sun appears, it seems to you that you are deep into the African desert, as the dry mud changes its color into light yellow. When it is raining, water drains in streams down the cone sides creating, by erosion, a ditch assembly.
In the proximity of the muddy volcanoes the soil is sulphurous and salty , unfavorable to the common vegetation. Around the volcanoes, there develops vegetation that adapted itself to the high salinity. It is also impressive that a big area of a desert, full of volcanoes of all dimensions. was seemingly carefully placed within the middle of a place full of vegetation. It has kept like that, too, since immemorial times.
On these arid terrains, two very rare plants grow: Nitraria schoberi (or gardurarita) and Obione verrucifera – according to their scientific names. They are plants that grow only in a salty environment, needing salts for food. It is the only place in Europe where these plants are growing so that they are protected by law, being also one of the reasons for which the zone of the Small Mists was declared a natural reserve.
If you get a little farther from the zone with craters, you shall be amazed to see how this land that is apparently hostile to vegetation is surrounded by a green explosion of a wild nature. Enormous lilac bushes, flowers, young and old trees, bushes that get stubborn to live in a dry, cracked soil…
The little- bloomed lilac forest that can be found within the Muddy Volcanoes reserve brings a contrast note, highlighting the Muddy Volcanoes zone to a larger extent. The Muddy Volcanoes originated in the Cenozoic era, and they can be found in 25 countries in the world. There are over 700 of such formations. Most of them, about 170, are located in the east of Azerbaijan and at the bottom of the Caspian Sea, in the proximity of land. The Muddy Volcanoes are on two types of area. On the first type the volcanoes gases are amounts of fine sediments, caused by small eruptions, and built cones of less than 1-2 meters. The Yellowstone National Park of United States is full of such volcanoes. In the second type the gas climbs from the underground storage to oozy area.
The biggest muddy volcanoes in the world are on the Caspian Sea area. The muddy volcanoes reach one kilometer in diameter and some hundreds meters high. Similar phenomena are recorded in Siberia, Australia and on Trinidad island in Caraibe.
The Muddy Volcanoes in Romania have given birth to one myth:
They say that on these places, when the Ogres lived here, were the most and beautiful cattle on the best pastures. Being a rich place it attracted people who banished the ogres and took their land and cattle away. The ogres are forced to live underground because of people. That is their world. But the annoyances on the people persist nowadays and they will take revenge on people. Therefore, the Ogres make meshes, mud pitted, where the water and ooze are bubbling. In many meshes the water is stored clear, and if any people or animal try to drink some water, the meshes open and swallow the people or the animal and nobody can save neither of them, because the ogre shoots down in the bottom ground.
That sounds the best known of the legends.
If no one will save volcanoes, children in the village will remain with stories from grandparents about mesh with mud.
For most natives, the volcanoes represent the place where all the calm and Earth peace gathers. All these things, as the volcanoes are mild, and the mud bubbles, are the evidence that the Earth heart beats all the time.