An inhabited world, home to the Vulcan race and a founding member of the United Federation of Planets. It is an arid, hot world mostly covered in desert.
In addition to the searing heat, Vulcan has a gravitational pull 1.4 times that of Earth, and a thinner atmosphere. The latter is due to the long-term effects of 40 Eridani A’s solar flare activity, which erodes the planet’s upper ionosphere. As a result, Vulcan’s surface receives more ultraviolet radiation than Earth. Over time, of course, the native’s physiology has adapted to this environment, providing them with a secondary eyelid to reduce glare and keep out foreign particles, as well as reducing the body’s daily needs for liquids and other nourishment.
From the equatorial dunes and ergs of Xial and Go’an to the gravel flats north of Nal’shin, desert is the most plentiful terrain on the planet’s surface.
Beyond the oceans, running or freestanding water is extremely rare; ancient city sites were almost always established around a natural spring. Because of the desert climate, Vulcan’s mountain ranges experience little erosion - this leaves them tall and forbidding. In many places, only rocky cliffs underscore the passage of the elements; strong wind blows cutting sand, making jagged and oddly-coloured formations like those found in the deserts of Earth’s Central America.
Vulcan has three continents. Two of these, Na’nam and Han-shir, are enormous landmasses each divided into a number of provinces, the boundaries of which date to the Age of Antiquity. The third continent, Xir’tan, is an island somewhat larger than Earth’s Australia. Xir’tan is the most tectonically unstable landmass on the planet, with frequent earthquake activity and over forty active volcanoes among its jagged hills. The island is in fact too unstable to serve as a permanent home for more than a handful of Vulcans. However, the constant seismic activity makes it an important source of metals and minerals. Legend states that a wanderer could once simply pluck fist-sized kevas stones off of the ground in Xir’tan. Now both the Vulcan Mining Institute and myriad private companies assemble exploration and excavation teams, to exploit the region’s resources. One small settlement on the northeast coast of the continent, K’lan-ne (“New K’lan”), serves as an embarkation/drop-off point and resupply centre for these expeditions. All the structures in K’lan-ne are less than a century old, as the former settlement site of K’lan sank beneath the sea in an enormous earthquake in 2265. K’lan-ne tends to attract the “misfits” of Vulcan society for whom the way of Surak is not completely satisfying, including many adherents of Tu-Jarok.
Of the remaining continents, the larger land mass of Na’nam contains Vulcan’s capital city of ShiKahr, the spaceport city of Vulcana Regar, and important religious landmarks like Mount Seleya and the Plateau of Tai-la. Na’nam, like its sister continent of Han-shir, is divided into provinces: Gol, Khomi, Kir, Na’Ree, Nal’Shin, Raal, Shi’al, Tat’sahr, Xental and Xial.
Formation of VulcanEdit
The larger world kept a significant fraction of the available iron-nickel. Though almost all of it was buried in the seething heat and pressure of the core, the tiny fraction that remained was erratically scattered as iron oxides in the planet’s crust. The other planet, short-changed on the denser elements, was able to settle into an orbit with its partner that would seem, to those unfamiliar with the physics and densities involved, to bring it dangerously close to Vulcan.
Federation scientists believe a series of solar flares exploded from 40 Eridani A. These ripped off the upper layers of the atmosphere, and volatilized much of the ocean. Without the protection of the ionosphere, and with water newly scarce, many of the plants and animals of Vulcan began to die off. Within a geological eye-blink the forests were gone, the oceans had become barren rock, and the atmosphere heated as it thinned.
The majority of Vulcan astronomers agree with certain points, but dispute that solar flares alone were responsible for the changes. They reason that 40 Eridani A, although a relatively energetic star for an orange-red dwarf, has historically never shown a level of activity anywhere near approaching what the Federation teams suggest occurred. Many Vulcan astronomers therefore theorize that a small but fast-moving rogue planet struck the star as it passed through the system. Because Vulcan was close to the sun when this happened, the planet not only got hit with the flares, but also with actual stellar material ripped from the star by the planet’s impact. In the perturbations, the orbits of the planets were drawn closer to the sun, and gravitational stresses may even have broken one apart (this planet would have become the system’s asteroid belt). Using this theory, the Vulcans account for not only the flares, but also the change in temperature and the tectonic shifting that has made so much of Vulcan geologically unstable.
Some Vulcan geologists, on the other hand, reject the solar flare theory entirely. They maintain that the internal tectonic activity on Vulcan is energetic enough to explain the changes by itself. They posit that an extremely violent period of volcanism (possibly following a cometary or meteoritic impact) altered the atmospheric chemistry, allowing 40 Eridani A to disintegrate the atmosphere. These geologists point to similar periods in Earth’s evolution, when its atmosphere changed from methane to nitrogen-oxygen, or when the ozone layer almost broke down in the early 21st century, as evidence that atmospheric changes created by ground conditions can alter planetary climate dramatically.