AEOLIA and AMAZONIA
by Chris Wayan, 2003
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On Mars, coasts may be dotted with small islands, but on a large scale, they're either straight, or arcs around an impact basin--simple, businesslike coasts. But here the rule is broken--from the mouth of the Aeolian Strait, east for 4000 km, huge capes and bays alternate. And the bays continue inland as lowland valleys--the Great Escarpment ending the southern highlands is broken and jagged here. These low, tropical, cliff-lined valleys, little Nepenthes, are among the most fertile lands on Mars, and the rainy uplands of the heads between them are not far behind.
In Amazonis and Aeolia, equatorial rains and low gravity combine to coax Terran tree species into gigantism. Some species in favorable bottomland top 140m (460').
The canopy, suffering no cold or dry season, offers a wealth of fruit, shoots, buds, berries, leaves and seeds; low gravity and copious food lure arboreal and flying species into gigantism, too. Parrots and ravens have wingspans of 4m (13') or more--and more to the point, are quite as intelligent as most of my readers. Down in Earth's merciless gravity well, flight has a terrible cost--size limitation. Yet even our sad little birds have tried hard to soar; they rival great apes, with brains just three percent as heavy.
Here, Mars has freed these species' super-efficient brains to expand to their real potential.
Marking the border between Aeolia and Amazonis to the east is a huge equatorial volcano, far higher than Kilimanjaro, called Mt. Apollinaris. Its glaciated summit is visible for 200 km all around, shimmering over the horizon. Due south of Apollinaris is a crater lake famous in areological history--the ancient Ma'adim River breached a crater wall to form round Lake Gusev. Its dry bed was a poster-child for the wet-Mars theory. Now, refilled, it's one of the larger lakes on Mars.
The Ma'adim arises far south, in low east-west mountains that are really the linked walls of a chain of deep craters, deep enough to have thick warm air, marshes and lakes, even trees in spots--the last gasp of the subtropic zone. Beyond is the cool dusty Cimmerian Desert.
East of Apollonaris and Gusev, the green Amazonis coast rivals Aeolia and Nepenthe for lushness--the North Sea sends tongues below the equator here. A great, rugged upland juts into the Amazonis Sea--Cape Lucus, surrounded by a complex of lesser capes, islands and sounds, all parallel--these are half-flooded fossae.
Beyond these Lucus Fossae, one final green valley extends 1000 kilometers south--the Mangala Valley, one of the longest rivercourses on Mars, and an oasis in the mostly dry southern hemisphere.
Even so, Mangala's no rainforest like the rest of Amazonis. Wooded in the north, grassy in the south, it's surprisingly cool and windy for a tropical zone. Small icy streams, pink and salmon with glacial silt, fall down its high, windy eastern cliffs--the rim of Tharsis.
The rim of another world--one Percival Lowell, CS Lewis and Edgar Rice Burroughs would recognize. The old, stark, red Mars. Still there, waiting.
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