Journalist Report – August 2nd
Written by Anastasiya Stepanova
Where are we?
The sun never sets here this time of the year. The temperature never gets above the +20 C. The winds never stop and the ice never melts. Grey clouds, fog, rain and snow lasting for a weeks. Here is the cleanest air the crew could probably ever breathe. Here is the place where humans can be prey. No, I am not describing another planet. Yes, I am on Earth!
Welcome to the Arctic!
Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station is located at the edge of the Haughton crater at Devon Island. It is very similar to Endeavour crater on Mars and sometimes we do feel that we are living on another planet. We spend most of our EVAs at the 39 million year old crater, where life blossoms as the snow melts. The impact crater improved the opportunities for colonization for microbial life that otherwise do not exist in the surrounding terrain. Haughton crater is well preserved due to cold and relatively dry environment, which makes it a rare site to work at. Our scientists use this unique opportunity and work under minimal impact to wild nature. Together with the benefits of field research at Devon Island, scientist face the risks of encountering a polar bear, getting frostbite, hyperthermia and more.
Just imagine climbing the hills, digging the ground, soil sampling, always watching for a polar bear and all the time wearing a space suit. The data collected here will be twice as valuable and extraordinary.
The landscape is controversial. It can make a very cheerful person all of a sudden a melancholic, who questions the purpose of life. At the same time, this hostile terrain can also inspire grand ideas, reinforce the adventurous spirit and push your limits. The environment around the Hab is mostly low topographic relief and consists of grey-brown broken limestones, which are quite sharp and can cause a nasty wound if you fall. At first, it looks like a dead area but if you start exploring you will find yellow flat-top draba flowers; a few white lichens; hypoliths living almost under every limestone and 450 million years old fossils. All of this just right outside of the Hab, but if you come down to crater a new world awaits you. Here nature is celebrating the summer! Green-white-yellow grass fields with moss islands, unknown animal’s holes and bones, small black spiders and birds singing gives the feeling you might be on Earth. But few kilometers away you are on another planet. Here is the land of polygons with islands of purple saxifrage flowers, bright orange lichens covering cliffs, algae by the melt water streams. We have just started! More “alien worlds” to be discovered here in the Arctic and up there on Mars!