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MARS: ARCTICA AND THE NORTH SEA

by Chris Wayan, 2003

Mars Reborn: homepage -- Index: Martian place names -- Planetocopia: more world-models

ARCTICA

Arctica is the logical name for the northern polar continent. About the size of Elysium (a bit larger than Greenland) it's entirely iced-over, except the end of Boone's Neck, the tongue almost touching the Nilo Coast of Araby. There's also open tundra on Lomonosov, the large crater-island on the lower right. Lomonosov could be considered part of Arctica, since an ice shelf links it firmly to the mainland each winter, and can even last through some cool summers.

Like Earth's Antarctica, the icy surface looks barren, but the seas around Arctica are full of life. The underside of the sea-ice is green with algae and plankton, feeding everything from shrimp to whales.

The wedge-shaped ice shelf cutting into Arctica at the bottom is Chasma Boreale, though the name's deceptive. This isn't a classic Martian chasm of redrock cliffs, but a broad sound, frozen over, with rounded humping glacial walls. It narrows but gouges into the icecap nearly to the North Pole--and the occasional cracks and holes in the ice shelf mean that life gets within a couple of hundred kilometers of the Pole. The biggest dead zone is the lobe of the icefield reaching toward Tharsis. While it may look like Antarctica, remember the scale: this ice patch is only a few hundred miles across. Arctica is small.

Orbital photo of Mars: the North Sea and Arctica.
NORTH SEA

The triangular North Sea is less a region than a process--the rain-generator for a thirsty world. The three lobes, as you see them, are:

I set the sea level a bit below the clearest fossil waterline, but a bit higher than Kim Stanley Robinson did. Pure whim, really--I wanted Elysium to be a true continent, and recent maps showed the straits to be a bit higher than he thought. Raising the sea may have a price: it floods the land-bridge between Arabia and Arctica. With the strait open, a ring-current develops around the Pole, cutting off Arctica from warmth to the south. If the North Sea were broken up more, circular currents in the separate seas might be stronger, pulling more heat north, more rain south, along the shores of Arabia, Elysium, and Tharsis. But I can't be sure. This shallow Boone Strait freezes each winter--but to the bottom? Either way, the ring-current is at least partly disrupted, and nowhere near as strong as Earth's Antarctic ring. All three lobes of the North Sea (Acidalia/Chryse, Arcadia/Amazonia, and Utopia/Isidis) will have substantial loops--like the Gulf Stream, if not all as strong.

Map of Mars. Click a feature to go there.
Index of Martian place names. Or for a tour, the following route snakes around Mars, covering all major features:


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