As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago in my blog about Tombstone, Arizona, we also visited Biosphere 2 during that same weekend. Biosphere 2 is located in Oracle, Arizona, northeast of Tucson. I can remember reading about it in the early 90’s when the self-contained environmental system had the first group of humans (8) close themselves into the facility for two years (1901 – 1993). A second experiment of locking humans into the facility lasted from March to September of 1994. The original concept was to see the viability of an enclosed eco system for colonization in space. It is now fully owned by the University of Arizona where it is used for research, outreach, teaching and life long learning about Earth, its living systems, etc…Earth being Biosphere 1. That’s the quick run through, for more information: Biosphere 2 (Wikipedia).
I have attached 10 shots from the afternoon to give you an overall perspective of the complex (it is so worth a visit if any of your travels take you to Arizona).
The first picture is the view coming in from what I would call the campus (the campus is the entry point to the complex with a museum, restaurant and student housing). Notice the green of the glass…that’s all of the leaves from the plants in the “rain forest” ecosystem. I left my lovely wife’s head in the shot to give you a perspective of just how massive this structure really is and this is only part of many ecosystems and structures on the grounds.
The next capture is taken from the same perspective as the first, but just turning slightly left gives you a perspective of the topography of this part of the desert.
Picture number three is still from the same spot, but turning slightly to my right, which is the complex we were headed to for our tour.
The 4th shot, still from the same spot on the stairs, zooms in on the part of the complex we were headed to. I included it, because it shows one of the “lungs” of the eco systems. The white dome building is one of the lungs that support the equalization of air pressure within the enclosed environments. As temperatures change throughout the day, air pressure changes with the varying temperature….the lungs take in air from the enclosed environment and release air to them to keep the glass buildings from exploding with such changes. Located under the white dome is a flexible structure that covers a large pool of water…the ceiling of that structure rises and falls with the exchange. Touring the lung, takes you through a wind tunnel that is incredible powerful…this was a hold on to anything loose part of the tour.
The 5th picture shows the location where we started our tour. You get a better feel for the size of this structure when you see that door at the bottom left. The inhabitants that were part of the initial experiment had their living quarters in this structure. The quarters shared a large community kitchen and each had their own studio apartment with views into environments you see behind the white building (the three arched glass structures).
Capture number 6 shows you our entrance into the rain forest. Air locks are in place between ecosystem. Look how dense the growth is…
…and the 7th shot gives you even more of the concept. You see when you are inside how all of the tall plants press up against the glass roof creating the canopy of the forest.
Number 8 is in the coastal ecosystem. It actually supports a live reef and marine life. There is also a wave machine you can see and hear from this perspective to keep the environment true to coastal San Diego where the water and life came from. From this overlook, you can see back to the green glass housing the rain forest. I kept this gentleman’s head in the photo to give you a perspective again of the sheer size of this structure.
Picture 9 took us into a different structure where you can see a semi–arid ecosystem supporting grasslands.
The last shot is from a section of an arid desert ecosystem where the University was having students test hydroponics. The area had been cleared of plant life to make room for the experiments. This afforded me a shot looking out of the structures…notice in the background, a lung and also the rainforest across the way
As you tour this incredible complex, your mind is overwhelmed with the complexity of the engineering and the amount of detailed thought that went into the original design. Thoughts?
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