Tag Archives: terraforming

Chuck Darwin, steampunk terraformer to Her Majesty Queen Victoria

Everyone’s been linking this one (though I saw it first at Chez Ken MacLeod), but it’s too good a story not to mention: the rich ecosystem of Ascension Island is not natural, but the result of a collaboration between Charles Darwin, the Botanical Gardens of Kew and the Royal Navy.

Ascension was an arid island, buffeted by dry trade winds from southern Africa. Devoid of trees at the time of Darwin and Hooker’s visits, the little rain that did fall quickly evaporated away.

Egged on by Darwin, in 1847 Hooker advised the Royal Navy to set in motion an elaborate plan. With the help of Kew Gardens – where Hooker’s father was director – shipments of trees were to be sent to Ascension.

The idea was breathtakingly simple. Trees would capture more rain, reduce evaporation and create rich, loamy soils. The “cinder” would become a garden.

So, beginning in 1850 and continuing year after year, ships started to come. Each deposited a motley assortment of plants from botanical gardens in Europe, South Africa and Argentina.

Soon, on the highest peak at 859m (2,817ft), great changes were afoot. By the late 1870s, eucalyptus, Norfolk Island pine, bamboo, and banana had all run riot.

And here’s your science fictional end-of-story conceptual slingshot bit:

In effect, what Darwin, Hooker and the Royal Navy achieved was the world’s first experiment in “terra-forming”. They created a self-sustaining and self-reproducing ecosystem in order to make Ascension Island more habitable.

Wilkinson thinks that the principles that emerge from that experiment could be used to transform future colonies on Mars. In other words, rather than trying to improve an environment by force, the best approach might be to work with life to help it “find its own way”.

Watch closely for Mars-themed short stories over the next twelve months; I’ve got five bucks here that says a lot of them will feature a capital city or main base called Darwin. 🙂

Nasa finds doorway structure on Mars

is this a remnant of an alien civilisation or a trick of the light?It’s amazing the things you can find in the universe. Images of our neighbouring red planet by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter picked up this little space oddity: a teardrop shaped mountain with a rectangular dark patch that, to the human observer, looks like a door.

The oddly shaped mountain, in the frozen ocean region of the planet, was discovered by a Russian reader, rather than a member of the NASA project. The blog article also has some interesting quotes about Mars terraforming plans.

“They’ve done some experiments and have noticed that some types of plants can grow under the low pressure CO2 atmosphere on Mars,” Australian physicist Charles Lineweaver noted when asked about the prospect of altering the atmosphere of our red neighbour.

Of course, this doorway is probably not the path to some alien civilisation gifting us with its future tech but one can dream…

[via Daily Galaxy, image by NASA]

Greening the Red Planet – scientists test plausibility of Martian trees

treesIf we were to colonise Mars, we’d need to give it an atmosphere. The best way to do that would be to duplicate the creation of atmosphere here on Earth – by letting plant life do the work for us. With this in mind, scientists are investigating
the trees that grow on a lofty extinct volcano in Mexico, to see if their ability to survive in the thin atmosphere could be transferred to the Martian surface
. [Colony Worlds] [Image by Redvers]