‘Martian Canals & Waterways & the Native Vessels Upon Them’ – Captain William Mudd RN
There is a wondrous beauty in the straight waterlines of this red planet. As meltwater flows from the planet’s polar caps, so you see the tidal surging, high and low, of the vast broad canals carved out of the surface by long forgotten masters. To have such power to score these lines is a marvel in itself. Today these waterways are the trading lifeblood for much of the heavier cargoes between the City States, and indeed if you are not blessed with the access to the waterways, with your docks, mills, bridges, viaducts, channels, ponds, acquifiers, weirs, gantries, promenades and embankments, many of those remote cities have settled into dust.
Syrtis Major and the Colony are blessed with well-maintained canals and waterways that have seen the city flourish, even more so now that we have brought the designs and formulaes of our Imperial trade and commerce. Fortunes are to be made upon these routes, many have relocated from the Empire on Earth to develop the trade routes on Mars.
And dear reader, think not of Birmingham canals with their tidy towpaths. These waterways are often two, three or even four or five miles wide.
The Martian watercraft, of which there is a breath-taking variety and number, are quaint contraptions from a bygone age back on Earth. Many are sail-craft, very much akin to the ‘dhows’ and ‘junks’ you would encounter from the Gulf of Aden eastwards to the South China Seas. Some are trading boats, fishermen, luggers, haulers, and some are even family residences. Many have some form of defensive armament, ranging from ballistae and catapults to small lightweight muzzle-loading cannon. All manner of cargo are carried from city to city, and to all the settlements along the well-irrigated and planted banks between the great residences.
Often you see the mightiest Martian vessels, the nobility’s own craft, quite literally you could call these vessels floating palaces. Some of these great rafts and barges will cruise for months upon end, touring the canals on some great parade, to demonstrate the wealth and rank of their owning clans and families. Some of these are transport hulks too, great freighters gliding silent in the Martian breezes, laden with goods of all forms and descriptions. While the skies still have much of the fast traffic, unfettered by the flow and direction of canals, the waterways still carry much of the everyday common trade.
The Martians have substantial naval vessels on the waterways as well. Many follow the similar design principles found on their aerial vessels. So that wind power from sails is still used for many boats, but so too will you find that the ‘handcrank’ has been connected to short stubby paddles. Great reserves of manpower from the lower Martian classes of the City dwellers provide the muscle needed. And of course, those same crew can easily be armed with all manner of weaponry. Frighteningly fierce boarding actions can erupt between hostile opposing clans. The Martian warships are an imposing presence in sight and sound, and thankfully the accounts of blatant piracy involving these vessels are very few.
Generally the Martian watercraft are simple straightforward designs, often locally built and fashioned from the wood resources not used for aerial vessels. Some are competently designed and built, some look more patched-up and ramshackle. Many of the smaller vessels are quite old, twenty to fifty years of service being a steady average life. With a minimal amount of marine life to worry about to degrade the vessels, much of the hazards to contend with are windstorms and tidal surges.
It is still most convenient to refer to the sections and components of any vessel – our own or the Martians – in the best terminology we have employed for the last few centuries.
While more humans employ and explore the benefits of the aerial ways, the canals and waterways will continue to prove to be the crucial arteries of this planet. For it is still Nature’s way that water – the life-giving liquid for humanity and Martiankind alike – remains the single most important asset in these lands.
‘Taken from an early issue of the renowned Parhoon Gazette, this copy of Captain Mudd’s article is available from the library of the Traveller’s Club, Parhoon.’
This is a sample of some of the background material I have drafted for our Space 1889 campaigns. It means the players can collect an informative folder of details and extras, always useful for future reference. I have a lot scribbled down in notebooks that either needs scanning or transcribing. Another set of tasks for the ‘to-do‘ list.