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As anyone who has looked outside a window in the past two centuries will tell you, the world we live in is without any sort of large landmass. And as those who have read my previous treatises will know, the only safe places to live are in the skies, for living upon the oceans is next to impossible considering how dangerous and chaotic they are. However, the sea, as dangerous as she is, is our only true supply for almost every need, even in the world of minerals and other bounties of the deep earth. Metals, Gems, Oils, and even the dangerous Unobtanium, are all drug out from the earth to fuel our civilization. For mineral wealth, there are three known ways of harvesting them, and one theoretical method. For oil, we only have a single recourse.
Mineral wealth, such as ore, gems, and unobtanium, can only be obtained in 3 ways that we know of, and 1 way that we suspect. These are by dredging for salvage and mineral bearing rock, by mining the skylands themselves, and by mining skylets. The one theoretical method would be to mine the few mountain tops that surly still manage to peak above
Dredging is the riskiest of the known methods of mining. It requires that the sea be calm enough that a dredging net can be safely lowered down, and further, it has to be in an area of the ocean shallow enough to support the net. These nets sweep up debris litering the ocean bottom such as aircraft and ship wrecks, and even the occasional artifact from the Age of Magnus. It also can dredge up mineral bearing rocks that are not effected by unobtainium energy fields. Dredging is risky because any aircraft that lands on the water or flies low enough to dredge risks being swamped by a sudden wave or squall, especially in the shallower areas of the oceans. Further, there is always the chance the dredging will bring up nothing but silt, fish, coral, and other fairly useless substances (though the fish can often be sold, as can the silt for fertile soil to replenish what is lost on a yearly basis from the skylands).
The second method is far safer, but it is well known that it is a limited solution, and far more tedious. Most skylands have some sort of mineral load within themselves, but mining these is an incredibly tedious affair. Profits are consistent but low by this method, since every skyland is most careful to check where it mines, to prevent faults from forming or growing, and to basically insure the mining operations do not disturb the integrity of the skyland itself. Horror stories are told amongst miners on such skylands about how careless miners used explosive, or drilled the wrong way, and caused their entire skyland to slowly fall apart under the introduced cracks and stress. While rarely so spectacular, it is a very real worry amongst such operations, and as such, all are conducted with the utmost carefulness with months of calculations going into any new shafts to be dug to ensure that they do not accidentally breach the side of the skyland, or worse, endanger the integrity of the entire skyland. It should be noted that mining also provides another much needed resource to all skylands: Space. Unused shafts are carefully propped up, secured, and generally checked on a regular basis, then used for storage or industrial purposes to save space upon the surface of the skyland for habitation.
The third method of mining is a mix of the other two, and the surest method of mining for unobtainium. As everyone knows, skylets form in one of two ways, the first is that they break off from a skyland, or from a larger skylet, the second is that they emerge from the sea, usually brimming with unobtainium, though loads on the size of the one that threatened Tortuga in the recent past are freakish, and highly unusual. While dangerous, these newly formed unobtainium laden skylets are not a danger to entire skylands, or even larger aircraft. Any newly discovered skylet are carefully inspected and prospected by scout balloon, to determine what they are to be used for. Pure stone that has just been heavily effected by unobtainium energy fields is usually converted into building materials for construction on skylands, or to replenish lost landmass upon them. Soil bearing skylets are often towed back for agricultural purposes, either by forming a new agricultural skylet if large enough, or by being fused with other small skylets to form a larger one. Those that are found to bear minerals are towed INTO a larger ship to be carefully disassembled, so none of their mass is lost. Minerals and Gems are extracted, any unobtainium is very CAREFULLY processed for purification, and the remaining strata is used to replenish lost mass of skylands and orbital skylets. This method requires hunting for new skylets in the pirate infested skys, and the hidden fleet has become an even greater danger since their fortresses can be disguised as skylets quite often, but never the less, this is the most common and profitable means of gathering minerals, gems, and unobtainium for the use by skytopian citizens.
The fourth method is purely theoretical, and is simply a return to mining as we once did, upon the land. This method would only work if we were able to locate a mountain top from which to make such a base of operations, and part of me hopes we never do, for such a location would surely become a point of major struggle between ALL the factions, even pirates and the hidden fleet would realize how important such a location is and flock towards it in order to secure it for their own purposes. If such a place were to be found, it would mark a turning point in our history, the first dry land to be discovered at sea level in 200 years? A stable place to live and work? to never worry about the skyland falling or of a shortage of food brought on by blockade? I find it hard to believe that such a place would be marked as anything less than a utopia by most skytopians.
Oil is, if anything else, even more important than mineral wealth to Skytopia. Oil, once processed, forms the fuels that run out aircraft and industry. The Azure League has dabbled in alternative resources such as solar power, magnets, wind power, and even unobtainium fueled engines. Even so, most of their designs remain SUPPLEMENTED by oil based fuels. To this day, there remains only one method of gathering oil from deep within the earth, and it requires us to pre fabricate specially automated facilities upon our skylands, then drop them in locations where we believe oil to exist. Luckily, the people of the pre-upheaval period seem to have been equally dependent upon oil based fuels, or at the very least dependent enough to build their own refineries and pumps. While ancient, decripid, and often broken down. Whenever a new ruin of these ancient devices is found the factions and fuel companies flock to the location to air drop specially crafted "stilts" to mark down the locations of their automated rigs. These stilts are massive, long poles tipped with clockwork and engine driven drills that moor the stilts deeply into the rock. Atop these stilts are placed sturdy yet light platforms, and then the actual pumps, drills, and various other automated apparatuses meant to suck out the black gold from the depths of the earth. These oil platforms are specially built to survive and sway with even the roughest waves without breaking, the oil within them pumped into special tanks that can be lifted up and replaced in a swift movement as an aircraft flies back, an apparatus attached to the bottom of the craft to preform the switch. Often a specific sort of "gear lock" is implemented so that anyone attempting to "steal" these tanks without the right key will find their aircraft stuck upon the swaying, incredibly strong, platform. From there, the waves literally batter the trapped thieves to pieces over a period of hours or days. Not to say that it isn't impossible to steal oil from these pumps, but it is quite difficult, and beyond the capabilities of MOST pirates, and even most skyrates.
From these examples, we can see how the modern Skytopia is supported by the earth's bounty, even when we are unable to tread upon her while she remains below the waves. Pumps for oil, and dredging, skyland and skylet mining, and even the near mythical mountain top mining, are all viable methods of gathering mineral based wealth for the greater good of Skytopia, to keep her planes aloft, and our skylands strong and healthy.
~Introduction to A Treatise on Mining Without Land by Hetros S. Wukon