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CLARITAS RANGE

by Chris Wayan, 2003

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

Called Claritas Fossae (cracks) on old maps, this is really one of Mars's highest and longest mountain ranges. From the Noctis Labyrinthus at the head of Mariner Canyon, the Claritas range runs south, then east as the Coracis Fossae, then north again as Melis and Nectaris Fossae, ending on the brink of Mariner Canyon; an arc of some 2500 km (1500 mi). The highest peaks reach over 6000 m (20,000 ft); even the lower east end is Alpine.

As the name Fossae suggests, it's an odd sort of range, full of cracks, grooves, scarps, winding ridges, solitary peaks and rangelets, many at right angles to the overall curve. In many place Mars has clear, drastic features where one geologic (or meteoric) force overwhelms all others. Not so in Claritas. The least clear topography on the planet! What happened here?

Claritas rivals our Andes, and the peaks are nearly as barren--the heights of Claritas generate snowstorms, but the summer snowmelt is modest, and streams quickly sink underground--porous soil. The land would be dead, and perhaps glaciated, if it weren't so near the equator. Even so, it's so high the air is thin; animal life is sparse. Grass and even low pine woods fill some sheltered valleys, but the heights are nearly as stark as Tharsis.

Orbital photo of a terraformed Mars 1000 years from now: upper Mariner complex and the Claritas range. Model by Wayan. Click to enlarge.
The Solis Plateau, between Claritas and the Mariner canyons, is high, cool steppe land, with no surface streams. Slow-growing bunch grasses feed herds of Tibetan antelope. In the northeast, near the Mariner rim, rising air causes thunderstorms, which feed the Sinai Forest, a thousand-kilometer strip of aspen woods hugging the brink of the abyss. It's like the north rim of Earth's Grand Canyon--only Martian in scale.

In the photo's center is Oudemans Crater, small (by Martian standards) but deep; an oasis of dense forest around a lake, draining north into the Noctis Labyrinthus.

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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