Saturday, September 17, 2011

Day 53: Biosphere 2, Not Like The Movie

September 17, 2011 - For the past couple of days, I have been reading about the University of Arizona's Biosphere.  The travel guides all spoke highly of the Biosphere, but all of the articles in the book were very cryptic or contained little to no information.  It was only after looking it up online, something I should have done in the first place, that I became excited to visit.  With my interest piqued and with Bruce in tow, we decided to take a drive out to see this unique tourist spot. 

The University of Arizona's Biosphere 2

The drive time took a lot longer than Bruce or I expected, but we managed to get to the Biosphere in time for the last tour of the day.  The trip to the actual Biosphere was pretty.  Lots of cacti and a couple of cows (so is most of the scenery far outside of the Tucson metropolitan area).  We finally managed to arrive at the entrance which is located a short walk away from the actual Biosphere itself.

The gift shop and museum were small in comparison to many of the places that we have visited on our trip, but offered a good amount of information to help us digest what the Biosphere was actually about before we took the guided tour.  Additionally, there was barbecue sauce to take home for my dad, which greatly amused Bruce.

As part of the tour, we walked through a model community that was designed and created with the ecosystem in mind, particularly the desert.  The homes were designed as cubes, with front gardens being covered in rock and sporting natural flora.  From the literature provided, the homes were created with recycled products and were extremely energy efficient.  In all, the model community was very interesting to walk through and offered a glimpse of an eco-friendly village.

The model community was very impressive... walking through a Pablo Picasso painting, very surreal.

We came out of the mock community to a small cliff that gave a view of the Biosphere in what can only be described as amazing.  A huge structure made of glass and steel shined in the afternoon light ahead of us.  Inside you could see tall trees that seemed to strain against the glass.  The effect was amazing. 

The main structure of Biodome 2; it looks like a step pyramid.

We followed the signs for the tour and ended up inside.  Here we awaited our guide through the actual Biosphere itself.

The tour took us through the different parts of the Biosphere; the jungle biome, the coastal biome (complete with a million gallon ocean), the Mangrove wetlands, the savanna, the fog desert, and the agricultural area.  It was amazing to see the jungle, especially one in Arizona.  In addition, the tour of the "guts" of the Biosphere was a unique opportunity to see the basic workings of this enormous science project.

A jungle in the middle of Arizona; I thought it was awesome.

The real ocean-front property in Arizona.  Comes complete with coral reef!

Oh my God! Let me out!!!

I'm glad to see somebody has a sense of humor...

The Biosphere 2 project is considered the largest closed system ever created.  Roughly the size of two and half football fields, this project was constructed between 1987 and 1991 as a means to study the interaction between the life systems of five biomes.  A team of eight scientist were locked inside from 1991 to 1993 in an attempt to live and work inside the Biosphere.  Though some troubles were faced, the team managed to survive on their own for two years by growing crops and living off the animals that were brought inside before the doors were sealed.

Some people ask where Biosphere 1 is, and after some research it turns out that the planet Earth is considered the original Biosphere, hence the given name of the facilities that we toured; Biosphere 2.
Here are some more shots of Biosphere 2 as Bruce and I were leaving.  The afternoon sun really shows up well, and the structures look likes something you might find on Mars.

Another picture of the main structure, which houses the jungle biome.

A better angle to show the rest of the structures.

The seldom photographed backside of Biodome 2.

I'd hate to be the guy that has to wash the windows.

We traveled back to Tucson after our visit, and stopped for a bite to eat before returning to Base Camp to plan the next couple of days.  On our way back, the beautiful Santa Catalina Mountains were too impressive not to take a picture of.

No, I do not work for the Tucson Chamber of Tourism.


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