As per the recent consensus reached at the Royal Geographical Society, we recognize five "continents" or rather what were in the ancient past continents. These are Borealis, Vastitas (the largest and the area which has been best explored), Eden, Argyre, and Hellas. They have uplands and lowlands, mountain ranges and valleys, riverbeds and lakes, "wood" lands and plains, and the abodes, farms, and cities of the Martians. They lack only the boundaries of oceans.
Those regions which we call "mares" were indeed once seas, but that was a very long time ago. Today they are the true lowlands of the Red Planet and most of them are dry deserts for much of the Martian year. Some more geographically restricted regions within these zones we are designated as a "sinus" or a "syrtis." Such areas have a higher capability at retaining water for a greater part of the year. Indeed, in some places the water table remains high enough for year round vegetation to thrive. The famous canals often lead to these regions and draw upon them to supply the needs of the City Dwellers during the calendar's drier seasons.
Much more remains to be learned and the Red Planet will doubtless draw the attentions of explorers and savants for many years to come.
Who's Who on Mars
The Civilizations of Mars are many and varied.
The City Dwellers are humanlike and the most common Martians. Their civilization clearly extends back for ages and is a strange mix of ancient cultural arts, everyday technology that is primitive by Earth standards, and amazing devices which they do not seem to be able to reproduce any more. Mired as they are in dreams of the past, they are considered by many to be a decadent and decaying people.
Cephalids, also known as "Invaders"
The Cephalids (or Invaders, as they are vulgarly known to Earthmen, or Dominators as they are known to City Dwellers) are the Martians who came to Earth in an attempt to extend their dominion in the terrible invasions of 1879-80. They are cold intellects, seemingly devoid of emotion, and
their technological wonders are considerably advanced over those of Earth.
TThe Wastelanders are large, loud, and aggressive -- and very dangerous to outsiders. Fortunately they are not commonly seem outside the desolate wastelands. Originally born in the germ plasm vats of the Cephalids, the Wastelanders were bred as soldiers. Some escaped their masters, fled into the wilds, and established self-sustaining tribes where they created a brutal, war-loving society.
Among the resources of Mars that attract human avarice is the usual mineral loot: gold, diamonds, and especially rubies, which are found in sizes substantially larger than on Earth. Most especially prized are the extremely rare Martian emeralds, stones of an unusually deep color. Kharisek fiber, extracted from a reed-like plant that grows along the canals, is tough and strong like silk. Martians weave it into a strong, cut-resistant cloth that is still soft and supple. These characteristics make the cloth highly desirable on both planets. Exports to Earth of the fiber are expected to lead to innovations in the cloth trade. So far all attempts to grow the Kharisek plant itself on Earth have failed.
Red tea is an "acquired taste," but those who have made the effort enjoy a mildly euphoric effect, similar to the inhibition relaxation of alcohol without the next day's penalty. Such a soothing and relaxing "cuppa" is already expanding the legions of tea drinkers in the British Empire and "conquering" new lands.
Jesheri seeds yield an oil that may be effused into a mist or used to coat other substances. Either way, it produces an opiate most efficacious in medical circumstances. Over-use can, like so many similar drugs, result in addiction as had already been seen among the denizens of low dives in the seedy areas near certain ethyr ports.
Hunting trophies, most especially in the form of various sorts of ivory, have drawn sportsmen as well as less high-minded hunters to the Red Planet.
The treasures of the past have their lure. And as Mars is so much older than Earth, the City Dwellers have a deep and many layered past into which the treasure hunter can delve. An eager demand for Martian artifacts of antiquity is growing.
And, of course, there is the obvious lure of power, especially when it can be traded in easy to touch, destructive Invader technology gleaned from the fallen foe or his abandoned places.