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CHAOTIC TERRAINS

by Chris Wayan, 2003

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

Orbital photo of a terraformed Mars 1000 years from now: Ganges Gulf, Mariner Sound, the Chaos.
Orbital photo of a terraformed Mars 1000 years from now: east Mariner complex & Margaritifer Chaos. Model by Wayan; click to enlarge.

If we take a side trip east or south of Mariner Sound, we enter chaos--literally. It's the technical term for this distinctive Martian landscape. Two chaoses are especially visible from orbit, for they're half-flooded: tangles of islets, crags, hoodoos, rocks, rivers and lakes. Arsinoes Chaos is a basin east of Mariner Sound (center-right in upper photo), and Aromatum Chaos is a dead-end water-maze to its northeast.

South of these is the Margaritifer ("pearl-bearing") Chaos, less visible because it's mostly unflooded--a mere valley at this scale. But it's a wide jumbled basin, part green, part dry, and all rugged. Salt marsh, scrub, steppe, forest, lakes, and deserts begin and end abruptly as the land slumps, humps and breaks.

A fourth chaos has been flooded entirely: Ganges Gulf (far left, upper photo). It's now a wide, triangular, cliffwalled bay.

To the north, in the Mariner Delta, the land changes suddenly from gritty to smooth--here, all was rounded and scoured by the floods creating the Mariner canyons. One great crater, Oxia Pallis, has walls smoothed and sculpted into an oval, almost a teardrop; proof just how massive these floods were.

Catastrophism is the Martian theme song! If complex life had survived and evolved on its own, I wonder if native scientists, in a world so obviously ruled by chance (or angry gods) would ever have noticed natural selection. On Mars, fitness looks like luck.

A trough of low broken land, not all true chaos, but rugged and slumped, extends south along a crater-chain all the way to the Argyre Sea. These lakes and marshes will become a north-south migration corridor significant in Martian evolution, if of course our descendants refrain from meddling long enough for species to evolve on their own.

And, of course, if the new biosphere gets built well enough to last! Mars has already proven it lacks a lifetime guarantee. It loses air and water the way some people lose their glasses.

Old planets get absent-minded, I guess...

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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