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Wil’s Harbor Theory

 

Webmasters note: The following material was originally part of the Scientific Paper now published by the Journal of Scientific Exploration. It was edited out of the first submission as the theory of water on Mars was not viewed as viable at that point in time. As recently as the middle of February 10/12 an announcement was made about an ocean having existed on Mars, so the science inches painfully forward.
 
6. Contextual Analysis and Description of Urban Form and Possible Function 1
 
 
Regional Context
 
The site of the complex of features we have identified as Parrotopia lies within the northwest quadrant of the Argyre Basin, which is centered on the planet Mars at about 50 degrees south latitude, 43 degrees west longitude. The result of an ancient impact, the Argyre Basin is the second largest cratered landform in the southern hemisphere of the planet. It is ringed by ramparts rising several kilometers above its central plain, known today as Argyre Planitia, and is of roughly circular but somewhat irregular outline likely resulting from environmental alteration subsequent to the primary impact event.  The encompassing Basin scarps and bluffs are in turn surrounded by the generally more greatly elevated Southern Highlands. Within the Basin is found a prominent but much fragmented zone of rugged elevations, the Neiridium Montes, mainly concentric with and extending from or near to the defining ramparts approximately one-quarter of the diameter of the Basin towards the central plain. The Neiridium Montes are sufficiently prominent to give a geophysical character possibly unique on Mars to the Basin itself, with prominent elevations alternating with much lower institial plains and valleys more closely approximating the lower elevations of Argyre Planitia. See Figure 12 for a graphic depiction of this description as well as the following discussion.
 
From a previously published study based on topographic data produced by the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter instrument (MOLA), it is now known that at least once and perhaps more often the Argyre Basin was an outflow source of water which emptied through a sequence of lower-lying landforms toward the north-northeast (Figure 12). A thorough assessment of the archaeohydrology of the Argyre Basin is beyond the scope of the present examination, but some study of selected associated factors is critical to the present hypothesis, since it can establish a firm basis for determining an equipotential elevation to which at one time the Argyre Basin was water-filled. By extension, this permits an evaluation of selected peripheral areas to ascertain the potential locally standing depth(s) of water.
 

Figure 12
MOLA image of Argye Basin.
(Annotated Map by Wil Faust)
 
It is helpful in the present context to conceptualize this Basin in terms of a maritime environment, for the evidence firmly supports that it was such during an ancient epoch. From the central and essentially level abyssal plain, the lowest surface elevation gradients indicate the interstitial areas of the Neiridium Montes zone slope gradually upward from the abyssal towards the Basin’s perimeter. The evident depth of water would have separated the mountains into archipelagos of islands in many locations, while in the Basin’s northwestern reaches the mountains present the form of primarily linear peninsulas, promontories and linear islands oriented radially inwardly with respect to the Basin’s rim. These would have formed a series of long, comparatively narrow inlets leading eventually near to the Basin’s defining scarps. The geomorphology of the Basin thus presents a dichotomy, with the northwest quadrant characteristically distinguished from the remainder by the presence of these high standing linear landforms, separating the inletting Sea into a series of narrow and, in some cases, fiord-like watery arms.
 
The present author has conducted an examination of topographic elevations in the vicinity of the previously identified outflow site. This leads through what we have identified as Hale Bay (see Figure 12) and, through a low-lying area of its rim, into Hale Crater. Within this broadly defined effluent channel can be seen a substantially deeper but much narrower valley that we interpret as a subsequent, but more sustained channel of outflow from the Argyre Sea.
 
Further examination of this specific location indicates, within the accuracy limits of the currently available MOLA data, that the highest standing of the outflow surface of the narrow channel lies at or very close to the areoid elevation. The areoid represents an equipotential datum in many ways comparable to the concept of “sea level” on Earth. The areoid elevation thus approximately defines the surface elevation of the Argyre Sea during the time sustained outflows were occuring.
 
The Argyre Sea was not only quite deep, but of large extent. From the narrowly-defined outflow at Hale Crater to the lower-lying areas of the abyssal plain, the difference in topographic elevation is on the order of 3,500 meters. If Hooke Crater, now situated on Argyre Planitia, existed concurrently with the Sea, maximum abyssal water depth would have been on the order of six kilometers. As one measure of the Sea’s extent, linear measurement from the Hale Crater outflow to the proposed site of Parrotopia indicates a distance of some 1,700 kilometers. In terms of necessary nautical travel distance, it would of course have been [substantially] greater.
 
If ancient intelligent life was extant on Mars and located in this region conterminously with the presence of the Argyre Sea, then, it seems some maritime adaptation of its civilization would have been appropriate and possibly essential.
 
Specific Locational Considerations.
 
The authors posit that the Argyre Basin is the location of an urban archaeological site, together with an associated massive, intentionally shaped landform realistically representing a type of hook-bill parrot analogous to known Earthly species. The location of the identified site is supported by further consideration of aspects of the Argyre Sea described in the preceding section.  This section will examine a few pertinent factors to elaborate briefly on supporting issues in that respect.
 
With reference again to Figure 12, we have identified one inlet in the northwest quadrant of the Argyre Sea as Parrotopia Inlet. From its entrance facing the abyssal plain, this arm of the Sea extends [from its mouth facing the central Argyre Sea] some 210 kilometers through the Neiridium Montes, eventually narrowing into a channel that ultimately abuts the scarp of the Basin. It is at this interface of aquatic and upland environments that we have found the evidence of Parrotopia that is documented further in this paper. In examining the evidence available from the MOLA instrument it can be concluded that within the accuracy limits of the reference data, the proposed urban site is located exactly at the defined areoid elevation (see Figure 13). Portions of the site appear to lie just above the water level determined by the areoid. These include the archaeological site itself, together with the adjoining Parrot geoglyph. Other areas of the site (which as a rule we find are not distinguished by the characteristic archaeological features we describe) conversely appear to lie just below the areoid level, and thus such areas in our interpretation comprised water-filled channels linked to the Parrotopia Inlet.
 

 

Figure 13
The location of the proposed urban site (parrotpia)
MOLA image of Argye Basin by Wil Faust.
(Annotations by Jim Miller)
 
The question arises as to why such a relatively remote site would have been selected to construct an urban complex, in particular one with an inferred maritime orientation. To answer that, consideration must again be given to the character of the Argyre Sea. As previously noted, this was a quite substantial body of water, and as such it was fully subject to the effects of the Martian environment. For the purposes of this discussion, we assume that atmospheric conditions at the time were, within a presumed reasonable range of assumed values, roughly comparable to those of present-day Earth. In the case of Mars, tidal effects would have not been a consideration. There was not only the absence of a nearby, massive Moon to generate such effects, but the tidal effects of the Sun’s gravity (quite secondary on Earth with respect to tides as compared to the Moon’s) would have been only about half as great on Mars due to the greater average orbital distance between the planet and its parent star.
 
As a major factor, then, there remain the effects of only 38 percent of Earth’s gravity to assess the possible behavior of wave action on such a large body of water. Perhaps only in the realm of science fiction has this question been considered at all, since factual knowledge of the previous existence of such large water surfaces on Mars has been gained only recently (footnote). For present purposes the authors suggests that the resilient waveforms would have been markedly greater in amplitude, substantially higher in trough-to-crest elevation and with possibly significantly steeper wave fronts. The height and steepness of such waves would have become much more pronounced as they entered shoaling water depths, as commonly experienced on Earth due to friction of the moving water mass with the shoaling subsurface. However, the momentum of such a very large moving mass of water would typically have retained correspondingly more kinetic energy as compared to Earth. This would have posed serious issues for a maritime civilization, in the absence of well considered measures appropriately designed and effective in dissipating such energy. (It would doubtless have been a spectacular sight to see such waves breaking upon an unprotected shore!}
 
It seems reasonable that primary consideration would have been given to take every advantage of natural topography, locating the site of a port facility well within a protected area, one not exposed to the unabated force of wave action approaching an unprotected landmass. The length and location of the Parrotopia Inlet appear to meet these criteria. Further, in its upper reaches, the Parrotopia Inlet becomes a narrower channel with many changes in direction approaching the proposed City site. Such changes in [compass] azimuth bearing of moving wave fronts would have created numerous opportunities for natural wave refraction at the turning points to abate the energy of moving masses of water.
 
There is one more factor to mention. Figure 13 illustrates the location where the Inlet immediately approaches the Parrotopia site. The location of what we identify as the City proper is indicated, and immediately to its east can be seen what gives every appearance of being a constructed, curvilinear seawall, together with an associated upward-sloping incline within the water channel. This would have provided one last energy-dissipating turn and slope for the remaining swells of moving water. Beyond this feature is what we interpret as a sheltered port facility for the City of Parrotopia.
 
These regional considerations, both natural and seemingly engineered and built by the hands of intelligence, would appear to make this an excellent site for the needs of a seafaring civilization on planet Mars.