Published on January 24, 2014
I don’t like mid-winter melts. — Photo by Paul Smith/Special to The Telegram
Published on January 24, 2014
Snowshoes on — snowshoes off. — Photo by Paul Smith/Special to The Telegram
Published on January 24, 2014
The first thing a setter does is build a good comfortable outhouse. This is mine. — Photo by Paul Smith/Special to The Telegram
Is it possible that my descendants might live on Mars? Will they fly fish in summer and snowshoe in winter like I do here on Earth?
They might build cabins in the Martian forest or own sailboats on lovely glacier-fed lakes. Who knows what the future holds?
I think it is inevitable that humans will eventually fly to Mars. It’s our nature to explore. There will always be the few amongst us who crave the ultimate adventure. The green grass on the other side of the hill is today, and always has been, irresistible to the spirited adventurous human soul.
It is why Columbus set sail in the Santa Maria, in spite of more reserved folks telling him and his crew that they would sail to their deaths off the edge of the world.
The early Viking explorers, even more bold than Columbus, left their homes and families in Iceland and journeyed all the way along the coasts of Greenland and Labrador to overwinter on the northern tip of Newfoundland. They were brave fearless explorers, navigating through the fiercely treacherous North Atlantic in mere wooden long boats powered by oars and a single square rigged sail.
Going to Mars in the 21st century is very much like setting sail to discover new lands and plunder foreign resources in the olden days of sail, wooden ships, iron men and discovery. There was never much of a guarantee that you’d ever return to your homeland and loved ones. Some did, but many either perished at sea or spent the remainder of their lives on foreign soil.
Mars One, a commercial project ongoing right now, claims that people will fly to Mars and begin colonization by the year 2025. That’s just 11 years in the future and many would agree a pretty optimistic timeline considering the formidable challenges they face.
It will be no picnic. And for those interested in going, they must come to terms with a one-way ticket. There will be no return flight. Like many who came to Newfoundland from Ireland and England to fish and settle our rocky shores, they are in their new home to stay.
At least those settling in North America could daydream about returning home some day, if ever they were rich enough to afford holiday passage. On Mars, until technology advances by light-years, it will be impossible to fly home. It will be difficult enough to launch a spacecraft from Earth and fly it to Mars, the reverse is all but technically impossible.
So, the first planetary pioneers will live out their days on the red planet. On the bright side, they can email home and get a response in minutes. The mail from Newfoundland to Bristol was much slower in the 1700s.
Life on Mars
Am I crazy suggesting that folks might someday fly fish on Mars. Not really — depending, I suppose, on whom you believe. The idea is to eventually terraform Mars to an Earthlike planet. It will take at least a thousand years, but that is the long-term plan. Some scientists say it’s absolutely crazy; others think the notion is entirely possible.
I’ve got a background in physics, but this is way beyond my expertise. All I know is that right now, Mars is not a very hospitable place to build a cabin.
Mars is bloody cold. The surface temperatures range from a chilly -87 up to a balmy -5 C. Maybe ice fishing is more likely to be popular with settlers, at least until they get the place warmed up. Martians will live in sealed bubbles for many generations.
To begin a path to living outdoors, they first have to release carbon dioxide into the Martian atmosphere, either by melting the ice caps or utilizing emissions from the settler’s enclosed factories. The resulting greenhouse effect will warm the planet. Then greenery can be planted that will turn carbon dioxide into oxygen. It will rain, lakes will form, and trout can be introduced from Earth. The next thing you know Martians will be ordering fly tying materials from home.
Maybe, someday. But there are many problems, most notably Mars having no magnetic field to deflect away streams of deadly radiation. That’s the toughest obstacle of all, I think.
I walked to my cabin yesterday. It took twice as long as normal due to the midwinter melt we are suffering through. Earth really is warming up, I think, in spite of the odd cold snap that we still experience now and then. Our winters just haven’t been as cold as in the old days.
For years, the ponds here on the Avalon Peninsula haven’t really been safe for snowmobiles or ATVs, at least not for more than a couple of weeks throughout the entire winter. Years ago, we’d have a solid ice cover for months; folks would be hauling firewood over the ponds just about all winter long.
It’s fortunate that not many of us depend on cutting our own firewood for fuel anymore. It would be tough going with unsafe ice.
Isn’t it ironic that carbon emissions, our environmental nemesis here on Earth, is the key to preparing Mars for fly fishing? Go figure on that one.
Up at the cabin
I was tuckered out and soaked with sweat after sloshing and slugging to the cabin for two solid hours, snowshoes on, snowshoes off, three feet of snow one minute and bare ground the next. It was a bloody mess. A crappy winter might encourage a person to move to Mars.
The first order of business at the cabin was to light the stove. The splits crackled and the warmth of the fire broke the morning dampness. I’d definitely miss a wood fire on Mars. There would be none of that in the bubble, maybe an electric fake fireplace in the living area.
I flicked the switch and on came the ceiling light, solar powered, just like on Mars. Rob tuned the radio to his favourite country channel. I prefer rock, but settle for country on the weekends at the cabin, more appropriate somehow, I believe.
I guess digital music of all sorts will fill the Martian bubble. NASA can likely stream The Stones live from Earth, maybe even in holographic 3-D with Mick Jagger jumping around the virtual stage and Keith strumming his Les Paul in open G. That will be no problem.
I sat back, lit my pipe, and poured a strong black cup of Costa Rican coffee. Now here’s the deal breaker. They will have to either grow coffee beans and tobacco on Mars or bloody well have a regular supply shipped from the good old Earth, or I for sure will not be going.
I’m probably too old to be considered for Mars colonization anyway. I’ll be in my 60s by the time they get a spaceship full of humans on the way. But I hope I live to see it.
I’ve always been fascinated with space travel. I stayed up all night when I was just a wee boy to see Apollo 11 land on the moon. Back then we thought people would be living on the moon within a decade. We were wrong. I think we lost interest. This Mars thing has me excited all over again.
I’ll give them a piece of advice. The first thing they should do up there is build a damn good outhouse. I’ve built a few backwoods cabins in my day and that’s the first critical element. Every explorer, woodsman and adventurer knows this. Facilities first is the backwoods way; why would settling a planet be any different?
Richard Proenneke settled in the Alaskan wilderness and built a log cabin with zero help when he retired from his day job at age 51. He lived there alone for 30 years and wrote “One Man’s Wilderness,” a book about his adventure.
He fashioned everything he needed with his hands. including simple tools, from door hinges to a fireplace.
He was a man of unmatched self-reliance and ingenuity. He made a point of building his outhouse first and encouraged any settler to do the same.
I suggest the first Martians read his book. They’ll have plenty of time on that nine-month voyage.
Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard’s Bay,
fishes and wanders the outdoors at every opportunity. He can be contacted