Monday, February 25, 2008

2/24/08 A Day Trip to Biosphere 2

Bob and I had to get out of the park today. It had been too long since we had gotten out to see something of the area. So today we headed towards Tucson to tour Biosphere 2.

We had a great day to be out for a drive. A great day that is until we saw the sign at the local gas station! WOW...what happened to the price of diesel fuel? Granted, this is the trucker's price but ours is only eight cent cheaper! The cost of diesel has gone up 13 cents in the last week! I think the oil companies the snowbirds and winter residents are back on the road, a good reason to make those fuel prices jump!
We also noticed that the abundance of rain we've had has certainly "greened up" the mountains.
As we got closer to our destination we noticed a definite increase in traffic. Lots of cars, RV's, tour buses and shuttle vehicles. What they were going to we didn't have a clue but we knew something was certainly going on in the area. Even the Goodyear blimp was there!
We've heard on the news about the all snow different sections of the country are getting and we want you to know that we have snow here too! See the snow at the top of the mountain?
A better look. This is as close to snow that we want to get!

It wasn't long before reached our destination.
Biosphere 2 was built in the late 1980s with $150 million in funding from Texas oil magnate Edward Bass, it was designed as an airtight replica of Earth's environment. This 7,200,000-cubic-foot sealed glass and space-frame structure contains 7 areas, including a 900,000-gallon ocean, a rain forest, a desert, a savannah, a marsh, instense agricultural areas and a human habitat - seven complete ecosystems.

Our first views of the Biosphere 2. I'm glad I'm not the window washer here!
In September of 1991 eight scientists from all over the world, four men and four women, entered the Biosphere for a two year stay. At least they had a nice view!
We first entered into the "ocean" area. A million gallons of water were trucked in from the California coast and even a coral reef was built.

I thought my imagination was running away from me because I was sure I could hear "waves". It turns out I wasn't wrong. There was a wave machine there to keep the water moving and also so that the water would "roll" over the coral reef so that it could get nutrients from the water and thrive. There are also fish in this ocean but we didn't see any. The water is 25 feet deep so they must been down in the lower depths of the tank.

Remember the story where the Three Wise Men brought gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense? It seems when the scientists from other countries came to work and live in the Biosphere one of them brought three sticks wrapped in paper towels and told the powers to be it was frankincense. They thought, what the heck, and put them in dirt to see if they would grow. Sure enough, it did. So you know what gold is and now frankincense and I'm still trying to figure out what myrhh is. Until today I didn't know what frankincense was!

We moved on to the rain forest. I've always had a philodenren plant, mainly because it really takes a lot to kill them. I could not believe the size of the plants and leaves that are growing here!
Now you may look at the picture above and think whats the big deal. Let me put it in perspective for you. Pictured below is Bob's hand on one of the full grown leaves. You can even see how thick the stems on this plant are to the right of Bob's hand.
Other plants growing in the rain forest. Banana's grew very well here.

From the rain forest we went into one of the "lungs". From the outside they look like golf balls that were cut in half and placed on the ground. Look to the far side of this picture below.

There are two lungs and their purpose is to expand and contract with shifts in atmospheric volume/pressure. Otherwise, the warming and expansion of air during the day could blow out glass panes or break the seals on Biosphere 2. We had to walk through an underground tunnel to get to the lung.

Inside the lung. The rubber type roof was made by a company from our home state....Dupont. Take notice of the "legs" hanging down from the ceiling. They are there in case the ceiling has to come down that low. While we were there a door was opened and we could see the ceiling come down ever so slightly.

It was up to the biospherians, as they were known, to grow their own food, they were to be competely self sustaining. Here are lemons that are still growing.

When I heard that they had to be self sustaining I asked about "chocolate" did they get chocolate. Our guide said that they got very inventive in that they had friends on the outside and when things were brought to them (through an air-lock) for the purpose of experiments, false bottoms were built into the boxes where bags of M&M's were hidden.

So these eight individuals spent two years of their lives in this enclosed, sealed, establishment and yet the experiment FAILED! They couldn't grow enough food and said that they were continually hungry considering the very active lives they lead with workdays at 12 hours long with all the experiments they had to do. Also, they couldn't keep an even level of oxygen in the air. Microbes were put into the soil to keep it fertile and viable and the mircrobes sucked the oxygen out of the air.

Back outside in the open air these are some of the things we saw. These are colorful student housing buildings, there, when needed.

Bob checking out the Santa Catalina Mountains.

We're very glad we went to the Biosphere 2, it was extremely interesting and nice day for just the two of us.

Oh yeah, the traffic, the blimp, we found out afterwards we were in the neighborhood where the PGA tour was playing. If we had known this was happening we would have tried to get tickets to watch Tiger play. I guess we better start watching the news more and reading a newspaper once in awhile.

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