Weeping Wall of Satori Crater, The

The Weeping Wall of Satori crater
Image from Steve Bowers
The Weeping Wall periodically expelled liquid water in a spectacular but short lived flood

As far back as the start of the first century a.t. there had been visual indications that water-formed gullies had been, and were being actively created on Mars, the fourth planet in the old Sol System. Mars, a fairly typical Arean Type world, was thought to be incapable of supporting surface liquid water, and so the formation of these gullies seemed to be a contradiction. Even through the early exploration period performed via unmanned probes, landers, rovers, and balloons, the mystery was not solved. In 62 a.t., with the arrival of the first manned exploration teams aboard the ships Discovery and Endeavor, the first hard evidence of a layer of subsurface ice was gathered. It was postulated that as the surface winds eroded away dirt and rock at certain cutaway points in the surface (such as valleys, craters, and ridges), this ice was suddenly released into the low pressure environment and exploded outward, flowing much like a liquid for a few hectic minutes. For the time being, the mystery seemed solved, if not to the satisfaction of all planetary scientists. Indeed, with the discovery of the CO2 and hydrocarbon layers in Noachis Terra, covered as they were by a thin layer of water ice, the mystery seemed to be reopened.

However, in 165 a.t. (2134 c.e. by the Old Earth calender), well after the establishment of Port Robinson, a remarkable feature was discovered in the previously unnamed 20 kilometer wide crater in Planitia. An exploration crew was surveying the crater, noting differences in the by now standard-appearing gullies, seeing how they had changed over the past Martian year. As the researchers' zeppelin circled above the northeastern crater wall, which held the greatest number of gullies, a sudden cloud of red dust billowed outward and downward. At first they had thought that it was their fortune to see a Martian landslide; active Martian geology, even as passive as a landslide, was rarely observed first hand. But when the dust settled, the scientists were stunned to see the sun shinning off of a literal wall of water, flowing down the crater slope, evaporating as it went, but flowing in such amounts as to nearly reach the crater floor, depositing a fresh curtain of rock and dirt in the process. Within ten minutes, the flow had ceased, the subsurface pocket of water frozen and sealed and already gathering an insulating layer of red dirt. Over the following decades this remarkable flow repeated itself at least once a year, reshaping wind-eroded gullies, depositing sedimentary layers, and proving that water still played a role, however small, in Martian geology.

Over the next few centuries, the Weeping Wall of what was finally named Satori Crater ebbed and flowed with the ongoing terraforming project. Although no cometary impacts were near to its location, there was worry that they would effect the yearly flows. However, as the surface pressure of the planet built up, the flows became more and more common. By the early 4th century a.t., the Weeping Wall was truly weeping in a continuous flow of water. A small lake eventually formed in the bottom of the crater, but fissures in the south side drained away the liquid before it could reach a level which would inundate the Weeping Wall. In 399 a.t. (2367 c.e.) the site was declared a protected "national park", and it began to see tourism on a large scale. But at this point, foliage had covered the soil, and the site was not much different from other regions on the planet. Terraforming had robbed Satori Crater of its uniqueness. But Humans are sentimental, and the site remained popular, considered to be a large part of Martian history.

During the Nanite Swarms of the 6th and 7th centuries, the crashing ecology of Mars saw the planet begin to revert to its natural state. The Weeping Wall again began to revert to its yearly flow. For a time, it was nearly forgotten. But historical records brought back humanity when the planet was again ripe for colonization. In the 1250's, when the planet was at its high point of terraforming, the site was completely inundated by a shallow sea. While data references continued to keep alive the memory of the Weeping Wall, its tears were, ironically, quenched with water.

With the final crash of the ecosystem in the late 1400's, the site was once more in open air. But the icy reserves for the Wall were gone, long since melted away. Even with a permanent moratorium on continued Martian terraforming, the Wall has not wept to the level of its historical past. Today the Wall is a monument to the ancient meddling and disasters of Mankind. While some water seepage does continue to occur, fed by deep wells, the ice reserves needed to feed the Wall will likely not be present for thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of years.

Today, the Weeping Wall of Satori, as it is now known, remains unlisted in most Martian entries. Indigenous populations know of it, and some ecological orders still pilgrimage to the site. But it remains a red and dusty emptiness, an echo of Mars' far grander natural past.

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Text by John M. Dollan

Initially published on 28 July 2009.