Sunday, February 01, 2009

Into the belly of the Biosphere

About 10 pm last night, a line from the "Gilligan Island's" theme song started running through my head - something about "a three hour tour."

We were deep in the subterranean levels of Biosphere 2, ducking our heads to enter a low triangular- shaped tunnel into one of two giant 'lungs.' The lungs are huge circular underground chambers, sealed with rubber-like bellows that allow the whole complex to breathe and prevent the Biosphere from exploding or imploding as air pressures change with the changing temperatures.

A group of us were getting the special tour following an all-day meeting of the UA-run iPlant Collaborative education, outreach, and training planning group. We had a wonderful dinner in the former rec room where the biospherians gathered during their infamous 2-year isolation experiment. [left, the sign says, "Lower Savanna Basement" and identifies water pipes under that environment in the overlying Biosphere]

Much of our tour was underneath the floor of the giant iconic glass structure. That also allowed us to walk the beach of the ocean lagoon, which is not open to the public, as well as seeing the incredibly complex guts of the operation.

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