by Chris Wayan, 2013-
for the fox in The Innkeeper's Song
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The Hawaiian Sea is the largest landlocked sea on Abyssia--a bit bigger than our Mediterranean-Black Sea complex, and somewhat similar in climate. There's even an equivalent of a Black Sea, smaller and deeper inland: Lake Hess. From a human viewpoint, the eastern shore is more desirable--plains and gentle hills with no barriers to travel or exploration, consistently rainy enough to be fertile. Beyond the Hawaiian Basin to the east is the rainy, densely forested, rather muggy and hurricane-prone coast of East Pacifica.
The western shore of the Hawaiian Sea is drier, but prairie and semiarid, not true desert; though if you go far enough, into western Pacifica, you'll find the biggest, hottest deserts on Abyssia. Still, fertile prairies run a thousand km or more from the Hawaiian Sea.
While relief is mostly low, there are tall, snowy mountains in the northwest, past Lake Hess: the Emperor and Chinook Ranges, topping out at 2-3,000 meters (7-10,000').
The Hawaiian Sea differs from the Mediterranean in a couple of important ways. At present, rainfall isn't quite enough so it brims over and drains to the ocean; only a canal connects it. Like our Caspian Sea, it's brackish, neither quite freshwater nor sea-salty. In slightly warmer eras, rains are a little more intense, and the Hawaiian Sea spills naturally south into the ocean; during such eras the sea flushes out some of its salt. But it's just too big to flush out entirely. The brine, being heavier, retreats to the deeps, under a surface skin of sweeter water. Brackish not fresh; I doubt it ever got drinkable, at least to human taste. Though the Pacificans, whether burrowing Foxtaurs or vultury Pitians or leathery Tree-squid or huge flightless Aepyornises, may have quite different salt tolerances and water needs. Still, I didn't want you to think that this Abyssian echo of Homer's "wine-dark sea" had suffered a reverse transubstantiation to plain water--there is no backwards Abyssian Jesus undoing all the wine. Ugh, what a sobering thought!
So the Hawaiian Sea deserves its name: not just big, but briny. Just... not as briny as some.
The Hawaiian Basin has another invisible peculiarity, one most of us would see as normal--but which isn't on Abyssia. Quakes are common all over Abyssia; its land is mostly associated with rift zones. Abyssians don't build skyscrapers or cathedrals. Pyramids, maybe--they don't fall over. Now, the continent of Pacifica is no seismic exception; nearly all the coasts are quake-prone. But the Hawaiian Basin has fewer quakes (and their associated tsunamis) than the coasts with their deep trenches. Build here, and you may go generations without a good shaking. And quakes here stay local, in contrast to places like the eastern USA, where quakes are rare but severe and vast in extent--that tightly welded plate resounds like a bell for thousands of kilometers. Central and Eastern Pacifica is broken into strips, at least limiting the extent of the damage along the coast, though a shock may propagate far inland.
One intelligent species may even originate in this region--on its western shore, on the prairies around the Hawaiian Sea. Well, under them at least--foxtaurs like to burrow. This savanna looks ideal for these intelligent child-sized omnivorous centauroid canines I postulate as a likely mammalian candidate for civilization.
In the low-orbital photo below, north is to upper left; the following tour (STILL JUST SKELETAL) will start in the south west and sail clockwise around the western shores, up to Lake Hess, then down the east coast and end with the wonder of the age, the Hawaiian Canal.
The West Arm
A long section to come on the shores of this large quasi-sea, some 40% of the total area of the Hawaiian complex; larger than our Black Sea.
The south shore--big scalloped Rional Bay.
Lake Wake, and upstream.
Possible canal from the South Wake River to the headwaters of the sluggish, winding Sculpin River winding southwest to the Kapingamarangi Sea.
North shore of the West Arm. Hig Bay, round Hig Point to Ewing Bight, Cape Stetson, Resolution Bay...
Inland to the long narrow parallel Resolution Lakes and long valleys. Arid steppe beyond. The border of the Wild West...
Here's the Dawn-Star scene from Follow the Dream, a foxtaur dance-play set on the Resolution Steppes, about a shaman led by her dreams across the endless dry grass to a hidden lake, village, and eventually, soul-mate.
Nezza in Follow the Dream, central Pacifica
Foxtaur sculpted by Wayan, backdrop and dream-pole by Joy-Lily
Northeast shore and the Kalianapuu Peninsula. The Revelle Fjords. Long prairie ridges and sparsely wooded valleys, greener than the Resolution Lake valleys and oriented at right angles to them, but a similar scale--and like the Resolution complex, they run hundreds of km. I'm not sure what causes these--it's possible they're ancient dunes from a drier era, now anchored by dense prairie sod, fed by the rains off the now-larger sea.
Round Point Shepard and out of the West Arm. On toward the heart of Hawaii.
Central Hawaiian Sea
East along the La Croix Coast to Cape Voyager. Not cliffs, but scenic: ridges rise steeply from the sea, like our Big Sur or the dramatic south shore of Crimea.
Offshore: shall we detour to the Isle of Necker? Like Crete. Well, less mountainous, more fertile, and twice as long. Not very much like Crete.
And cosmopolitan--most of the shipping lanes fanning out from the Hawaiian Canal pass by Necker.
A slight detour at Cape Voyager--a week or so. Out into the Brooker Islands. Quite Greek, though a bit rainier. Not a bad thing.
La Perouse, a low twisting narrow island some 300 km long--bigger than Cyprus. Greener; more rain. La Perouse is right off one of our outer Hawaiian Islands (two really): the La Perouse Pinnacles. These are old volcanic plugs, the last eroded tips of once-gigantic volcanoes like Hawaii's. Why is there a deep trench right offshore, deep enough to form Abyssia's Le Perouse Island? We're in the middle of an oceanic plate, not the edge. Well...
On our Earth, the burden of the Hawaiian volcanoes made the surrounding seafloor sag. So on Abyssia, these inverted volcanoes form great puckering holes where crust is (for mysterious reasons) sucked under in a slow, stony whirpool. Seawater is of course lighter than rock, so deeps like these are lighter parts of the plate than the surrounding abyssal plains. Around these light spots, the crust bows up in response. In places it breaks the surface, like La Perouse. The locals are glad it did. Fertile (rainy for the region) and central, ideal for trading, La Perouse is densely settled, with towns every few miles along both coasts. A second Necker.
Back due west along the northern edge of the Brooker Archipelago. Small, many, each with its fishing village. .
Hawaiian Sea, West Shore
The greener shore of Kalianapuu Peninsula. Tamarin Bay. Lake Euphemia.
Into Lisiansky Gulf.
The Lake Midway-Lake Milwaukee chain. Uncertain about the situation upstream; I now think Lake Yuryaku will drain east into the Hess Sea, not south into Lake Milwaukee as I long assumed. This means the Midway chain will be something of a backwater, like the Musician Lakes, trading local produce only; ships bearing northern timber, copper and gems will come down through Hess.
Up the Liliuokalani River to...
The Hess Sea
The Hess Sea is bigger than our Caspian, nearly as big as the Black Sea. Our two inland seas don't get enough water to sustain themselves; only inflow from the Mediterranean keeps the Black Sea at sea level, and the Caspian is sunken and fluctuating. So a case can be made that Hess should be a sunken salt lake. Its basin is mostly shallow, but has several pits nearly 5 km deep, so the water could retreat a long, long way...
But the Hess Basin is not Central Asia: East Pacifica's smaller, and only low hills lie upwind, so the steppes and hills around Hess get much more rain than the Caspian's shores. A better analogy's the Great Lakes. So I've shown the Hess Sea full-sized and overflowing south into the Hawaiian Sea. This drainage implies Hess will be a gigantic freshwater lake. The outlet, the Liliuokalani River, will be navigable to fair-sized ships; this means that Hessians will look south to the Hawaiian Sea complex, just as our Black Sea is culturally a chilly annex to the Mediterranean world (yet despite its proximity and similar latitude, the Caspian is not--well, not since the Bronze Age, when rivers still linked the Black, Caspian and Aral Seas).
The shores of the Hess Sea have scattered woods. Inland it's prairie, seemingly endless--the same old story as the Hawaiian Basin. Not! A day or two up any of the rivers of the North Arm, and you'll hit the dark pine foothills of the Chinook Mountains, Abyssia's equivalent of the Black Hills. Taller, though; from near sea level the Chinooks rise to 2800 m (9200'); like the Aleutian Range to their north, they bear snow well into summer, though no glaciers.
That may not be true of the larger Emperor Range west of the Chinooks--Pacifica's closest analogy to the Rockies. But not a perfect one; the Rockies, scarred and sculpted by the Ice Age, rise to over 4000 meters from a plain already a mile high, and only a few thousand km from Greenland's surviving icecap. The Emperors rise only a little higher than the Chinooks, to 3000 m (10,000'), from a prairie barely above sea level, on a milder, ice-free Earth. So the Emperors are pine-forested ridges balding to alpine meadows on the heights; snow-crowned well into summer, but briefly bare in fall. No glaciers here either; not even horns or cirques. Those are Ice Age relics, and ice hasn't carved Abyssia as it has Earth. Not just now; ever. With no polar caps, climate here doesn't fluctuate as much.
Still, all this country beyond 40° north is unnatural by Abyssian standards: civilization here ("Such as it is", southerners would add) is unispecific; almost entirely foxtaurs, with just scattered eccentrics of other intelligent species. It's the winters--not rough by Terran standards, but most Abyssian peoples can't take any snow at all. These rugged, rocky but not even Alpine hills are, to Abyssians, exotic and a little scary.
This species-monotony has consequences. A conservative and pious society, nature-worship focused on the all-important cycle of the seasons, rather like old Japan's many seasonal rituals. Less innovation; for example, the perennial favorite spring-play, an erotic dance called Bursting Through Old Snow, isn't local; it was created three millennia ago in the Southern Ring, a band of small, rather Siberian continents circling the South Pole. The reason's simple; a dozen intelligent species comparing notes are more likely to come up with insights than one alone. And the southern-temperate population's much larger than this northern-temperate one--the land base is bigger and more diverse.
|Nezza in Bursting through Old Snow, a spring mating dance, northeast Pacifica; foxtaur sculpted by Wayan, quilted backdrops by Joy-Lily|
The local production may be traditional, but the sets are beautiful and the dancing very sexy (assuming you like foxtaurs). Opportunity and innovation may concentrate in big, diverse ports; but talent rises everywhere. Bursts, one might say, through old snow.
North Shore and Musician Lakes
Out of the Liliuokalani River into the Nootka Bay. Round King George Peninsula (who, what? Foxtaurs and kasowars aren't patriarchal and don't have kings! But of course there are always glorious nut cases. "King George" was a local hat salesman (a fussy, difficult trade among foxtaurs; you have to get the earholes just right) who went mad with frustration and declared himself a mythical ruler called a 'king'; everyone went along with his crazy proclamations because he was oddly lovable--much better as a mad king than as a hat salesman. He's still remembered all over the North with affection. (Yes, I'm adapting the history of Emperor Norton, who really deserves a seamount, but so far hasn't gotten one. Nope, another dreary king got this one.)
Three days east along a low, fairly straight coast. Then it veers south and gets a bit hillier: the Musicians Peninsula. Round the tip into Schuman? Blacktin? Haydn? Sound. Islands, capes, fjords.
To the north for 1000 km: the Musician Lakes. This is a marshy basin, alternating deep lakes with broad reed-marshes, surrounded by low, broad whalebacks of prairie. Like the Midway-Milwaukee chain of lakes, it's peaceful, fertile but a bit of a cultural backwater; exporting only some specialty foods. The Shire, basically. Just foxtaurs instead of hobbits. They're about the same size. WIth equally hairy feet.
The only cultural peculiarity of the basin is that, since so much of it is low-lying and marshy, construction here is mostly aboveground instead of the burrows common in the drier west. Low round lodges with thatched roofs. Don't bang your head on the rafters, set just at human eye-level. Quite like Bag End.
In contrast, on Liliuoakalani Plain between the Lakes and the Hess Sea, the shortage of wood, the wide swings of heat and cold, and the drier soil combine with foxtaur instincts to make make hobbitlike burrows (not above-ground houses) popular. True hobbitness!
They're not called the Musican Lakes because of the fox-troubadors and little dance bands touring on their reed-boats. These exist, but they exist all over the Hawaiian Sea; you hear good music, but nothing standout. Blame the Terrans. They named the seamounts in this stretch of the Pacific after classical and show-tune composers, then dubbed the chain the Musician Seamounts--no, not Composer or Songwriter Seamounts, that would be consistent, we can't have THAT. The upper basin includes a Lake Berlin and Lake Hammerstein. Songwriters, not performers.
Sorry to be so touchy about it. I'm a good songwriter/composer but a bad musician; to me the distinction is obvious. People don't generally confuse photographers with models or screenwriters with actors--what's so difficult?
Poor Abyssians! Stuck with the real, flawed names for things.
Eastern Pacifican kasowar
Hawaiian Sea, East Shore
Here in the milder marine climate, winters are entirely snow-free south of the Mendo Hills; we start to see a significant minority of kasowars: flightless birds native to the equatorial forests to the south. Tall, skinny, a little touchy (that is, they jab you if you touch them). Omnivores tending vegetarian--rather like chimps. Variously crested and wattled and brightly colored. The model here is the cassowary. Their feathers shed rain well, and while not entirely waterproof, make them reasonable swimmers; they're confident sailors. Well, but they're confident everything.
Almost everything. A kasowar won't crawl in one of those nasty foxtaur holes! A natural reaction; in the rainforests and swamps where kasowars evolved, such burrows would flood and collapse. And of course mildew you to death. A horrible way to go.
Kasowars can and will fight, but they're rather more solitary than humans; organized violence is not their thing. Organized anything is not their thing. Though flightless, remember thay have hands; some may be able to climb trees like our forest apes. Alone among the flightless birds, kasowars (and a couple of similar rainforest birds on smaller continents) will think in three-dimensional webs, not limited to linear paths on a mere plain of possibilities. Such pattern-masters may come into their own only when Abyssia advances to the point it really needs starship navigators, climate modelers, polyphonic composers, or (highest calling of all, in any civilization) librarians. Cassowaries map the data jungle!
Anyway, with the advent of the kasowars, the weight of Pacifican civilization shifts from inland (for foxtaurs are savanna creatures at heart) to the coastal forests--and ports.
Eastern Hawaiian Sea
The Pioneer Hills, long fracture-zone ridges. Between them, the long straight Pioneer Valley. Our Appalachian valleys like the Shenandoah look a bit like it, though their roots are quite unlike. Pioneer's a young, raw, still-shifting fracture zone; Appalachia's the worn-down bones of Himalayan mountains. A mix of forest and meadow, growing opener inland; first farms, then ranch. Considerable mining all through the Pioneer Hills--the many exposed, fractured cliff-faces make prospecting easier than in the forests.
Around the Hawaiian Deep are the Counterweight Hills. These peculiar curving ranges about 1 km high (3300') are easier to explain in reverse. On our Earth, the burden of the Hawaiian volcanoes made the surrounding seafloor sag. So on Abyssia, the puckered-in crust of the Hawaiian Deep makes this great hole--not a trench, but a series of pits 6-10 km deep (20-33,000')--lighter than the surrounding continental crust; and the Counterweight Hills bow up in response.
The Counterweight Hills block rivers from easily entering the Hawaiian Sea; a series of lakes pool at the feet--Lake Wini, Brian, Crosley, and Shepard. Storms off the ocean snag on the Counterweights, unburdening half their rain on the lakeside of the Hills; this leaves the narrow coastal strip along this lobe of the Hawaiian Sea relatively open for this rainy latitude--grassy with scattered woods.
Kamehameha is a broad, sunny land--an isthmus 1000 km wide between Eastern and Southern Pacifica, with Palmyra Sound to the southwest and the Hawaiian Sea to the north.
The Hawaiian Canal
The north and northwest are the driest lobes of Cooper Rainforest--not a true monsoon wood turning dusty and dry in winter--but the rains do ease for many months. Still green, but withouth the relentless rain, heat and damp of the south. Forgive my bias; I'm a savanna creature like the foxtaurs, not a kasowar.
In the north near the Hawaiian Sea, open woods and meadows line the fingerlakes on and around the busy Hawaiian Canal. These lakes (and bays like Marshall and Johnston) are the equivalent of our northern Line Islands--well, mostly seamounts in that long chain that don't break the surface. They aren't a simple line but several parallel chains.
The Hawaiian Canal carries all shipping to and from the great inland sea--Abyssia's Strait of Gibraltar. 95% of the Canal is natural of course; a watermaze of long lakes like Segundo, Karin, Novelty, and the Harrison Lakes nearly link the seas now, and probably do so directly in slightly wetter eras when the Hawaiian Sea brims a few yards higher.
It'll be dug. Too easy not to.
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