by Chris Wayan, 2003
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South of the lower Mariner canyons (at top of photo) is the Nirgal Valley, a wide stretch of veldt with golden grass and shallow or seasonal streams. South of Nirgal is the Argyre Sea. In Kim Stanley Robinson's "Green Mars", the Argyre Basin is kept dry as a preserve, a sort of memento of the much larger Hellas Basin and the northern plains, which were doomed from the beginning to become seas.
But in my scenario, Argyre is flooded too. I have no regrets. The resulting lake, as large as the Black Sea, feeds rains that fertilize the jagged, spectacular ranges ringing the basin--the Nereids in the north and Charitias in the south. The moisture spills out, sparse but vital, feeding crater-lakes and mountain streams all over the Southern Highlands.
The Argyre coast is a 3000 kilometer ring of islands and rugged, snowcapped ranges with narrow coastal plains at most, and often, raw cliffs dropping into the young sea. The slopes are cool woods of pine and fir--Argye is cupped by cold highlands, and it's not nearly as deep and thick-aired as Hellas. An austere, big, spectacular country. As in the Rocky Mountains or Central Asia, winters can be snowy and harsh here, but summers are quite warm, even this far south--Mars's eccentric orbit creates stronger seasons in the southern hemisphere.
On the east side, Galle Crater juts into the sea with its own mountain wall, a miniature Argye, lake and all, though its interior is cliffy and drier, with more grass than trees. Great herds roam the crater--a cool-temperate Ngorongoro--except that it's a hundred times bigger, and is ruled by mammoths. Galle is the world center for mammoth research, as the shaggy ones grope their way past a purely oral culture toward tool use, fire, and all that comes after.
The mammoths (and other cold-weather creatures evolving intelligence, like megaravens and Martian wolves) aren't trapped in Argyre--while it's not vividly visible in this shot, there's a thin, patchy migration corridor of tundra, bog and forest stretching southeast (lower right), all the way to the grassy Malea Plain and down to the rich, warmer lands of the Hellas Sea.
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