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Thumbnail photo of orbital shot of Pacifica on Abyssia, a model of Earth turned inside out. Click to enlarge. Thumbnail photo of orbital shot of Atlantis on Abyssia, a model of Earth turned inside out. Click to enlarge.

by Chris Wayan, 2010

for the victims of the pointless Falkland/Malvina War

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An orbital photo of Argentia, a small temperate continent in the equivalent of our South Atlantic, on Abyssia, an alternate Earth in which up is down and down is up.

Introduction - Lowlands - Highlands & Scarp - Creatures - Falkland

Argentia is a small, temperate continent in the South Atlantic; a half-circle of rolling land about 1250 km north to south and 1900 east-west (750 by 1200 mi); larger than Alaska, smaller than Western Europe or the eastern USA. Despite its name, Argentia is well south of our Argentina's heartland--it's parallel with Patagonia and the Falklands/Malvinas. The climate is moderate, though--without an Antarctic ice dome, the whole southern hemisphere has warmer, milder weather; and on Argentia, no high mountains (as in Patagonia) block sea-storms from the west rolling hundreds of miles inland, over the Plata Plains, up the Falkland and Bahia Valleys. Or from the north and east for that matter, up the Garnet or Harrison Rivers. Like the lower Mississippi Valley, this is a land open to storms from three directions.

But this isn't the Mississippi Basin either any more than it's Patagonia. Too cool for the one, too maritime for the other.

An altitude map of Argentia, a small temperate continent in the equivalent of our South Atlantic, on Abyssia, an alternate Earth in which up is down and down is up.

Introduction - Lowlands - Highlands & Scarp - Creatures - Falkland

hilly groves and meadows; blue tower in distance. Near Lake Zapiola on Argentia, on Abyssia. Paint sketch by Wayan. Click to enlarge.

We might find the northern plains almost French--rural southern France at least. Warm but rarely scorching summers, chilly but mostly snowless winters. Broadleaf forests opening to meadows on sunny northern ridges.

Central and southern Argentia's distinctly cooler and wetter, rather like ancient Ireland--a rainy maritime climate, but still without much snow at sea level most years. All that rain nourishes dense forest covering all but the highest peaks. These are mostly under a mile high (1600 m); but at 50-60° south, you don't need to be high to be alpine; in the western Malvina Hills many ridgetops are long alpine meadows full of flowers.

Argentia's lowland forests are full of bogs and small lakes, though the only ones visible from space are huge tilde-shaped Lake Zapiola (comparable to Lake Michigan), the Lower, Middle and Upper Falkland Lakes, strung like beads along the Falkland River in the far south, and the Bromley Lakes on the east coast.

Of course the woodsy picture I've given you may be false, once people get at those forests! Western Europe and New England don't have much primeval forest these days. The Abyssians too may clear forests for farms, but it's by no means certain, as they may be arboreal or even fliers--such species would be more likely to be silvicultural and harvest from the treetops. But if they do farm in our sense, then Argentia could look much like Europe: tilled fields, grazing meadows, vineyards on the hills--the forest shrunk to firewood groves, windbreaks and orchards.

The oval paint-sketch to the left is set in the hills above Lake Zapiola in the heart of the continent, and makes the assumption the natives may farm somewhat as humans do--perhaps more orchards and no grain-crops.

Introduction - Lowlands - Highlands and the Scarp - Creatures - Falkland

Abyssia as a whole has gentle topography (above water!) and Argentia is no exception. Only in the south do real mountains rise--the Malvina Plateau undulates at about a kilometer high. Some east-west ridges, especially near the south coast, rise to near 2 km (6600').

The highlands end abruptly in the Falkland Scarp, dropping to the south shore--cliffs and steep slopes up to a mile high, sweeping into the sea.

In truth they're even taller than they look: they plunge another kilometer into cold blue Falkland Sound; there's a deep trench right offshore. Mountains, cliffs, sound and Falkland Island to the south are all artifacts of a fracture zone of unusual length and violence, extending all the way here from the Atlantic Rift, thousands of kilometers to the east.

People in this region build in wood and thatch, not stone. Lots of trees, yes, but that's not why. Every generation or so, when the big quake hits, you want thatch falling on your head, not granite.

Introduction - Lowlands - Highlands & Scarp - Creatures and Cultures - Falkland


The dominant avian (and the most numerous people) on Argentia call themselves the "Awrk-rawka-squarka-rawrk", but my life is too short to write that whenever the proper name comes up, so let's call them bronts, after their rough resemblance to Brontornis, a huge extinct flightless bird of Argentina. Unlike our prehistoric bird (probably a strict carnivore), the Argentian bronts are omnivores just liking meat. And having hands, and tools in those hands, and big brains guiding those tools.

Bronts are fierce, but they have learned to cooperate. Some, that is. Once they developed edged weapons, compulsive quarrelers got weeded out over the generations. Survival of the calmest! The modern bront temperament is still feisty by Abyssian standards (land animals here, having mostly evolved on islands without big predators, are often less aggressive than on Earth's continents). But modern bronts are capable of restraint. A leptaur (a feline centauroid) & a bront (a giant bird with hands) by a meter stick for scale. Silhouettes by Wayan. Click to enlarge.

What other Abyssians notice about bronts isn't just their temper, but their size. The cool climate favors giants, and bronts are about as big as intelligent birds get, anywhere on Abyssia. Even by Terran standards, a bird standing 220-250 cm tall (7-8') and weighing a couple of hundred kilos (4-500 lbs) would be big indeed, but for Abyssia that's HUGE--there isn't a land animal of any kind over a ton and very few to rival bronts. The Argentians aren't quite the world record-holders, but the biggest are Bronts: a subspecies that made it to the isle of Sandwichia and the continent of Weddellia to the south. The chilly subpolar climate favored even bigger bodies, which retain heat better; the children aren't just shaggier than their ancestors back on Argentia, but bigger too, averaging 2.5m (8').

Bront culture focuses on honor and truthtelling, enforced by formalized dueling designed to keep aggression nonlethal. Mostly, it does; mangling an opponents' feather crest is highly visible, and the humiliation lasts several months. Like a haircut from hell that shouts "loser".

One factor of Terran honor cultures is missing: patriarchy. Female bronts tend to be even bigger than males. Sheer mass makes them a bit slower in a fight, but if they rarely pull first feather, they're very likely to pull the last.

Basically, think eight-foot Vikings who squawk oaths like drunk pirate parrots. But unlike pirates or parrots, they keep their oaths.


The dominant mammal on Argentia, the leptaur, is not native, though they've been here millennia. This species will likely be familiar to readers who've toured any part of the Atlantean Rise--these easy-going feline omnivores from Atlantis are the best sailors in the hemisphere, and have at least some presence on nearly every island.

But leptaurs like it warm; most of Argentia's quite chilly for them. They're common only in the snow-free lowlands of northern Argentia, the sheltered port of Falkmouth in the southwest, and in small numbers along the narrow north coast of Falkland, below the Scarp.

The highlands and south coast, and nearly all of Falkland, are monotonously bront--at least in winter. Once the snows melt and the seas grow kind, leptaur trade ships from Falkport round Malvina Point and ply the south coast again; leptaur wagons creak up the river roads into the hills.

Introduction - Lowlands - Highlands & Scarp - Creatures - Falkland

An orbital photo of Argentia, a small temperate continent in the equivalent of our South Atlantic, on Abyssia, an alternate Earth in which up is down and down is up.

Falkland, the great island south of Argentia is 800 km long (500 mi) but averages only 120 km wide (75 mi), narrowing in several spots to as little as 40 km (25 mi!). Since everything's within sight of the sea, it's no surprise that the climate is even more maritime than Argentia--cool, misty, and rugged, with snowcapped ridges, much like Argentia's southern highlands. Also no surprise, since that's exactly what Falkland is--a sliver torn away by the strike-slip fault in the Falkland Tranch and carried east (at least relative to Argentia; the whole complex is (probably) moving west, just at very different speeds). Fault, or faults. There may be a whole freight-train switching-yard of parallel faults under Falkland Sound and its surrounding escarpments.

Most of Falkland feels much cooler than Argentia. This is partly topography--the great escarpment faces the sun, so the north shore (a strip just a few miles wide) is hotter than the latitude would suggest, but the rest of the island, mostly well above sea level and tilted away from the sun, is dark pine forest. Primeval Germany?

Get used to it. Even gloomier woods ahead, on Sandwichia. And in southern Weddellia, beyond, even evergreen forests shiver and struggle to survive. Abyssia's landmasses, on the whole, are warmer than Earth's--few are at high latitudes, and the poles are milder--but Falkland is the doorstep to the greatest exception.

So make sure you have a warm coat (and rain gear) as we head south of Falkland, to an even greater island, a jagged place with icy peaks twice as high, one that's been growing steadily for ages and may eventually achieve continentality: Sandwichia.

Map of Abyssia, a world-building experiment. Click a feature to go there.
TOURS: this route snakes around Abyssia's major lands - Lena Is. (brr!) - Greek Is. - Atlantis - Azorea - Cayman and Albatrosia - Andean Is. - Scotia Is. - Morningtonia - Agassiz - South Pacifica - East Pacifica - Hawaiian Sea - Pacifica Desert - Filipinia - Banda Is. - Vityaz Archipelago - Tasman Is. - The Bight - Whartonia - Chagosia - Somalia - Mascarenia and Crozetia - Weddellia - Argentia - Pernambuco - Angolia - Tristania - Agulhas group

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