Monday, July 24, 2006

A Hot Spot

Again I haved reached a place with regular internet access, so the dispatches will come more quickly. I have seen and learned so much that one doesn't know where to start! This Snowcat is one of those vehicles we mostly see in the movies. What a thrill to see this equipment in person! The weather has been foggy and very cold, but I photographed some local flora.
Macquarie Island (54 30' South, 158 57' East) is a Sub-Antarctic patch of land 34 km long and 5 km wide. The average temperature is 4 degrees Celsius. Like my Big Island of Hawaii, this place is geologically young. Barely 600,000 years ago the island was thrust from the sea by the collision of two plates. Macquarie Island is considered geologically active, with many earthquakes. This is the only place on Earth where rocks from the mantle (6 km below the ocean floor) are exposed. It's like a journey to the centre of the Earth.
Below is a patch of Macquarie Island cabbage. It's not fit for eating; there is very little here that humans could survive on.
In Antarctica we have found subglacial lakes thousands of feet below the ice. The water is kept in a liquid state by hot geothermal vents. We are only beginning to explore these worlds without light, but they are already considered likely homes for life.
Today it is announced that our Cassini spacecraft has found hydrocarbon lakes near the North Pole of Titan. Last year Cassini found a lake the size of Lake Ontario at Titan's South Pole. The hot spots of Titan are clustered near the poles. Like the South Poles of Titan and Enceladus, cold Antarctica sits atop a geologic hot spot!
In 1935 KING KONG producer Merian C. Cooper made a nearly-forgotten film of H. Ryder Haggard's SHE. In this version there is a tropical kingdom at the North Pole, warmed by a source of energy far greater than anything man has imagined. Many other fantasy stories have placed similiar oases here at the South Pole. We have a subconscious desire to seek hot spots in the cold places. Why fight the desire to explore? It is the natural tendency of life to explore further outward while evolving into more complex forms.
Expansion of Space is indistinguishable from the forward flow of time.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Expansion of Space is indistinguishable from the forward flow of time."

Crystal clear cold water flows from snowy peaks on mountains, forming cold rivers, teeming with life further down in warmer temperatures, finally emptying out into the salt laden seas

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The average temperature is 4 degrees Celsius.

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