Atmospheric pollens are more troublesome than anticipated. All of us are noticing minor symptoms, and I’ve never had hayfever before. Vicinius has had the most severe reaction. The combination of the thinner atmosphere and congestion in his lungs left him bedridden for 25 hours, this despite confining him to the ATV and increasing the oxygen level. Medical records of any colonists being sent to the surface should be checked for history of allergies or respiratory compromise. Priority should be given to producing anti-histamines for those most affected. Recommend alpha pods include medical personnel with training in respiratory issues.
Local life forms include some using iron based blood (birds), and others using copper based (hemocyanin) blood (lizards). Some animals and plants also have increased selenium levels which may cause problems in using them for food. Others use phosphorous. Biosensors may need to be altered to monitor selenium levels; further research needed on safe levels for adults, children, and in pregnancy.
The animated trees (Murder Maples) are much more complex than we expected. Almost like one of Vendell’s coral reefs. When Adams approached one in a sealed suit (to avoid its infrared detection) and lopped of a limb, a large number of beetles streamed out of its roots to attack him. The suffocation swarm beetles are drawn to opening, which they cover with their sticky bodies. They are difficult for a person to remove by hand and are so numerous that even a strong person would be rapidly overwhelmed. AUD1 killed most of the swarm with an electric discharge. We also saw a human sized slug exit another opening, examine the wound, and return. At night, AUD1 saw previously unnoticed small mammals in its branches, unmolested by the tree. They were eating insects on its bark. When AUD1 approached too closely, a bird came out of another opening and attacked him with a disorienting sonic cry. The suffocation swarm also responded, but could not harm him. The hole we saw opening for smaller mammals may be to provide attractive nests – the mammals may act like clownfish or remora, cleaning the tree in return for protection. Late on the first TN night, a swarm of small bugaloo roar through the area – the tree’s mammals, suffocation swarm, and slug, cooperate to fight them off. The tree does not have any obvious fruit, tho perhaps it may grow berries near its base, to lure herbivores close to it. If it is using an attraction scent, we haven’t noticed it.
Adams tested the core wood and bark of the tree. The bark is flame, and acid retardant. The wood does burn normally for freshly cut green wood. The sap includes trehalose sugar. This is found in rare plants and micro-organisms that go dormant, rehydrate, and are back on their feet. Other plants have this quality to their sap. The electrocuted bug samples (and all samples) will be presumed dormant until proven dead. Analysis of the wood “muscle” will take time and more than our field lab.
The bloodvine, so far, is not as complex. At night, it closes up into a beehive shape, with hard outer leaves protecting it from the bugaloo swarm. The grass walks into the river to avoid the swarm. (Personal note, I have been testing our grass sample with a small maze to see if has intelligence, is trainable, or can learn. So far, no success.)
[Personal note: I had second night-watch with AUD1, while Vincius recovers. The sky is almost unimaginably dark and clear. Aute’s star is barely visible with magnification. For a moment, looking at it, with not a familiar night noise to be heard, it was clear how far from home we are and that we have no choice but to make this work.]
There are pollinators – small feathery butterflies. And a purple tulip-like flower that eats them.
Soil samples show high levels of selenium and continue to show low levels of phosphates.
Marak finds only granite samples, no useful minerals.
At best, this site is suboptimal for colonization. We explore upstream. There are a number of discussions about the extremely active local flora (and fauna) – we may need to consider sites with less competition from the native life, perhaps near the dessert, at high elevations, or nearer to the poles. Vicinius still recommends caves for our crops. Marak and Adams think we can get by with greenhouses.
We find a smaller murder maple and take a full sample, including a hosted mole-like nocturnal animal (tree mole, for now). We also encounter a heard of large bipedal reptiles – about 15’ long. They stop when they see the ATV, then fan out as pack hunters. We decide to continue onward. If we find a straggler, then it may be worth getting samples.
Marak sent the recon drone to follow the bugaloo swarm. They grow rapidly, nearly doubling in size in a planetary day. Many are consumed, but the remainder will likely grow into a new herd.
At a fork in the river, we are attacked by a vast (½ mile in diameter) river plant. Fortunately we are near the bank and at the fringes of its reach. Its fronds are coated with something that is sticky when wet – had it gotten a solid grip on the ATV, we might have been held down for quite some time until it realized the ATV is indigestible.
Not far from there, we have found an arid valley with a small pond filled by a natural spring. There is a herd of bugaloo here, and the remains of one near the edge of the grass. Testing a bit of chitin, we are astonished that it produces electricity –a natural solar panel. There are colorful thorn bushes, which the bugaloo avoid – they have not seemed animate. When Marak and AUD1 go to get more samples of the dead bugaloo, they are attacked by, and subdue, a large tusked reptile. Will examine it alive before dissection.
We have been here for 5 local days (10 AuDays). Our current plan is to spend a local day/night in the valley. If we don’t encounter any unmanageably lethal surprises, we will likely recommend an Alpha Pod for this location. Without geological examination, we don’t know if the water supply could support a colony, but so far the location seems less dangerous than the river side and we could use some full-time scientists to process samples and figure out more of this planet’s improbable biology while we proceed to the Beta and Gamma sites.
Vicinius and I are both pondering our first papers for volume 1, issue 1 of the first scientific journal of Terra Nueva. I propose the Journal of Improbable Biology as its title. I have never been one for teaching or publishing, but this place is inspiring.