Dam Mischief

I was a bit naughty yesterday, but I’m not sorry. Everyone should be a bit naughty every now and again. I’m not advocating murder or anything. Nothing illegal. Just a bit of mischief, which harms no-one and which keeps your heart young.

As ever with a big news story in the modern era, everyone wants to be the first to share the latest developments and fresh angles. There’s a certain gratification to be found in being the one to tell your friends about the breaking news you have just read. They didn’t know. You informed them. You’re the man (or woman). Noddy badge of honour time.

The water crisis is dominating the news here at the moment, as it has monotonously for several months now. There are no new angles anymore. Even Helen Zille’s tweets are only generating transient, short-lived outrage.

Still, when I put out this tweet yesterday, I was rather surprised when people quickly shared it.

Several people remarked on it and shared it, often with a sad emoji, because it clearly doesn’t look like a major reservoir feeding a city of 4 million people should.

Of course, that’s because it’s actually a picture of Mars.

This composite image looking toward the higher regions of Mount Sharp was taken on September 9, 2015, by NASA’s Curiosity rover. In the foreground — about 2 miles (3 kilometers) from the rover — is a long ridge teeming with hematite, an iron oxide. Just beyond is an undulating plain rich in clay minerals. And just beyond that are a multitude of rounded buttes, all high in sulfate minerals.

So, no. This isn’t Theewaterskloof dam “from the Villiersdorp road”. It’s another planet about 55 million kilometres away.

Still, there are some similarities:

The changing mineralogy in these layers of Mount Sharp suggests a changing environment in early Mars, though all involve exposure to water billions of years ago. Further back in the image are striking, light-toned cliffs in rock that may have formed in drier times and now is heavily eroded by winds.

This was never meant to be a social experiment. I lobbed it up there as a bit of a joke. Perhaps naively, I expected everyone to see it exactly for what it was. Instead, there were only a couple of engagements which suggested that*. The remainder simply clicked the Retweet button apparently without even thinking.

I’ve learned something from this, but I suspect I might be just about alone in that.

 

* One of them was from Jonathan Meyer**
** He’s very anxious for me to point that out to you