Monday, May 2, 2011

Prehistoric Predatory Paradise



Skull Island, formerly part of ancient Gondwana, was a stretch of land near the coast of the great Tethys Sea abundant in life. When this landmass broke away, many prehistoric ancestors of the island’s modern inhabitants rode with it guaranteeing their survival when catastrophe and ecological change wiped them out everywhere else in the world. Others joined later rafting, swimming, or flying to the island sanctuary. Land bridges came and went bringing new fauna (much like prehistoric Australia), each adding to the diversity of the island. Over the millennia the island eroded. As habitat was lost, life was concentrated into ever-shrinking areas. Competition became fierce. The island saw an evolutionary arms race erupt, forging a menagerie of nightmares.

World Map of prehistoric continents and the Tethys Sea
Skull Island can be broken down into several ecosystems, all shifting and changing as the competition among local fauna escalates. These ecosystems (listed below) are all equally fascinating and frightening in their own right, contributing to the remarkable biogeography of the island.
  • The Crumbling Coast Land: A savage war front between land and sea where heavy oceanic swells buffet the shattered coast. By the twentieth century the few humans that lived on Skull Island scraped a living on this barren shore, their village perched on a thin sliver of rock jutting into the sea, beyond the warding great wall. On the far side of the island a slow sinking has brought the sea gradually inland. Where once lowland forests and floodplains stretched, high tides have drowned the land. 
  • Blood of the Island: Water is the lifeblood of any ecosystem, and nowhere is this more evident than on Skull Island. High rainfall for much of the year ensured that a constant flow of water worked its way across, into, and under the land. This constant flow sculpted the landforms, carved deep gullies, and leveled the grasslands into floodplains. It filled holes to create pools and murky swamps and fed the ravenous jungle that swathed most of the island. It defined and sustained much of the land’s geography and fed all of its inhabitants.
  • A Garden of Titans: The tangled jungles of Skull Island are, without doubt, the most impressive forest complexes on the planet. All kinds of organisms, plant, animal, or something in between, twist around and through each other in a savage dance for survival. This is an extreme environment that rewards extreme adaptations and evolution in its inhabitants. (Below is a video showing the epic clash between Kong and the island's supreme predator, the Vastatosaurus Rex)
  • Life in the Gloom: Latticing the southern half of Skull Island are deep fissures and chasms, the result of violent quakes and water erosion. Exposed by the splitting rock, underground rivers and vast grottoes were opened and deep springs disgorged tepid water that mixed with the dripping fluid and rot from the surface, creating a steamy soup rich in minerals and thick with organic slop. These abyssal rents and blisters in the crust of the island were world unto themselves. (The video below shows the nightmarish inhabitants of Skull Island's chasms. The crew of the SS Venture could have never been prepared for horrors like the giant cricket Weta Rex, or the vile worm Carnictis)
 
  • The Roof of the World: Rising above the green shag of the jungle the great spine of Skull Island is the mountainous ridge that ran its crooked length. Flanked by ruin-studded lesser peaks and black crags, the central rise is a row of jagged summits. Harsh elemental forces of wind and rain pruned back the jungle’s insistent efforts to colonize these rocky heights. Into this landscape of grand vistas and buffeting winds, the last of the great apes retreated to make his refuge in the safest haven the island had to offer. Leave it to the monkey to get it right. 
Kong's cliff top home and sanctuary



Thursday, April 7, 2011

An "Ideal" Tropical Getaway

Nothing has ever seemed normal for Skull Island except for the climate. When studied in detail the island's climate and weather patterns give some form of order to its chaotic existence.Lying far west of Sumatra in the heart of the Indian Ocean at approximately -12 S,78 N Skull Island is profoundly affected by its proximity to the Earth's equator, and its position in the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). 
Map image illustrating Skull Island's approximate location
Skull Island owes its rich tropical rain forest climate to the systems of global air convergence that cause the formation of the planet's global rain belts. Specifically, the island is dominated by the tropical rain belt which oscillates from the northern to the southern tropics over the course of the year roughly following the solar equator (largely a manifestation of the ITCZ). The tropical rain belt lies in the southern hemisphere of the Indian Ocean and western Pacific Ocean roughly from October to March providing the island with a pronounced "wet" season during those months. The island's precipitation is largely generated by convective uplift of warm, moist equatorial air (mE). A distinctive diurnal pattern of cumulus cloud development in the morning, precipitation in the early afternoon, followed by dissipating clouds towards the late afternoon is typical. 
Explorers navigate through Skull Island's thick rain forest
Anne Darrow plays "hard to get" with a handsome stranger
The humidity in the island's rain forest can be oppressive with dew point temperatures ranging from 59oF- 68oF. Since humidity is so high during the day, when cooling occurs at night, early morning radiation fogs form and heavy dew drips from the rain forest vegetation. These condensation products evaporate into the air as the sun rises, thus increasing the air's humidity. Skull Island's coast is also perpetually affected by Advection fog, a product of the westerly trade winds and cool currents. This gives the island its notorious reputation for being dangerous to locate, and near unnavigable. These traits were experienced first hand by the crew of the SS Venture who were the first human's outside of the island's inhabitants to discover the land mass.  


The SS Venture barrels through the cloud of fog
SS Venture colliding with the jagged coastline (should have been more careful...)
It is thanks to Skull Island's unique global position, and tropical climate that the fascinating (albeit frightening) ecosystem has managed to thrive for so long, and remain isolated from the outside world. There can be no doubt that this naturally protected and hidden land mass could not exist anywhere else on the planet. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Wearing Down of Kong's Realm

As if Skull Island's tectonic chaos wasn't causing enough destruction to the land, numerous forms of weathering and erosion had been slowly degrading the island over the past thousands of years. The effects of weathering are obvious throughout the island's landscape. The rocks lining the coast and located in the interior of the island have suffered repeatedly from tectonic movement. This cracking of the rocks has formed many joints allowing weathering to take affect via water and plant organisms.

An image highlighting the joints formed at the island's coast
Due to its tropical climate the island receives a heavy amount of rainfall that has enabled water based erosion and weathering to occur to a great extent. Rain splash erosion is common near the coastal area as the bare rocks are impacted by rainfall and ocean water driving apart mineral particles and causing breakages as seen in the background of the image below.

Jack Driscoll cries out  "LOOK AT ALL THIS WEATHERING!"
Water erosion has also been key in the formation of the Skull Island's many river valleys, floodplains, and deltas. As with any location freshwater is the lifeblood of the island and its numerous organisms.The abundance in moisture has also facilitated a massive amount of plant growth island-wide. With no significant human populace vegetation has been allowed to run rampant causing rock breakages from root pressure and expansion into rock formations on the island. The link below shows when the original crew who first found Skull Island were caught in a Brontosaurus stampede, but when a viewer examines the valley they are in the significant amount of plant growth affecting the surrounding rocks is evident.  

http://movieclips.com/JvR3c-king-kong-movie-dinosaur-stampede/ 

Skull Island could possibly be classified as a transport limited landscape based on the exorbitant amount of plant life, but the apparent effects of both weathering and erosion is overwhelming.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Broken Land: Skull Island's Tectonic Turmoil

There is little wonder as to why Skull Island had laid undiscovered for so long. Jutting from the perilous sea far west of Sumatra, the island was in the heart of a region afflicted by intense magnetic anomalies and violent sea storms. The very rock of which the island was built was treacherous.
A view of the island's jagged coastline; evidence of its tumultuous formation
Once part of a much larger landmass, ancient Pangaea, Skull Island sits squarely on the turbulent boundary of the Indo-Australian and Eurasian tectonic plates. The plates continually converge with one another and the resultant stress causes violent fracturing of the Indo-Australian plate beneath the island. This in turn has lead to the formation of the majority of Skull Island's jagged coastline. In the past it is likely that significant volcanic activity ensued as a result of tectonic movement. Fissures and pressure spots created land and forced molten rock (magma) to the surface while, at the same time, great chunks of the island broke off and fell into the deep subduction trench that marked the plate's edge. As illustrated in the image below the island's convergent plate boundaries formed the central mountain peak where Kong would dwell.
Diagram illustrating the process of Skull Island's violent formation
Unfortunately due to this highly destructive tectonic process the island's coastline continually shatters and falls away causing the island to slowly sink. In the island's heart, dormant volcanic forces have brought water and mud bubbling to the surface while other areas are gnawed hollow from beneath, leaving a crumbling land full of jagged abutments and bottomless chasms. Ironically, Skull Island owes its creation to the same forces that were tearing it to pieces by the time of its discovery in the mid-twentieth century.
Image illustrating the dramatic extent to which the island has shrunk in the past thousand years

  • Images taken from The World of Kong: A Natural History of Skull Island

Monday, January 24, 2011

Introduction

This blog has been created by Will Lindsey! I'm currently a sophomore majoring in Geography/Urban Studies, and slaving away as a student ambassador for UC Denver.  
Picture of yours truly so that you can put a face to the name
The location I have chosen is the fictional landmass Skull Island from the movie King Kong. I will be focusing specifically on the version of the island from Peter Jackson's 2005 re-make of the classic film.


I chose this location primarily because I have always enjoyed the film immensely. I was also inspired by a companion novel that was released with the movie that revolves around a plot where scientists make a second expedition to Skull Island in an attempt to document the flora, fauna, and physical landscape. In my opinion, Skull Island is a representation of how beautiful, frightening, and captivating our world could be if nature were allowed to thrive unchecked by man. By choosing this fictional location I will have to demonstrate my knowledge and understanding of both the forms and processes we will be studying in class. I'm looking forward to the challenge of doing so, and the fact that I'll have to review the movie again for "research". 

Image from http://danielreeve.co.nz