The scenario; suddenly a modern human world finds their nice, simple, understandable spherical world/solar system going poof overnight, and it being replaced by a mine-crafting plane world. Everyone there was [transposed?] to the transformed world/universe, continents unwrapped and applied similar to unwrapping a globe without massive continent stretching. This world extends in the cardinal directions until infinity, and is stable. The how and why this happened is unexplained (and really cheeses off the scientists of the world). Everything that's man made in “orbit” simply falls down (really sucking for some astronauts). The sun and moon, however, still appear at their regular intervals, driving most remaining scientists to drink.

The terrain beyond the “explored” parts of the world appears to be completely new, with new flora and fauna being observed not even a handful of miles beyond the “borders.”

After the requisite upheaval of society and its reformation, some enterprising corporations and/or governments decide that there might be gold in them-theiar hills. The land “near” established areas certainly has a high premium in terms of value, but it is realized that there’s literally an infinite amount of it out there, if you could only get at it.

This presents a problem for exploring/prospecting/generally getting “there”;

  1. Boats work ok for areas that can be reached by water, but are unsurprisingly not that good at crossing land masses

  2. Planes can travel pretty far, pretty fast, but without a prepared landing area no pilot wants to set down, limiting how far out they can go before they have to turn around and come back the hard way.

In this new era of exploration, it is determined that expeditions are well served still by wagons … big, metallic, monstrous, possibly-nuclear-powered wagons. My question is:

What form do these expeditionary ‘wagons’ look like?

Are they single monolithic vehicles or a hive of smaller ones? Do I stick an oil rig on treads and call it done, or get ten thousand Ford Broncos? They should be built with more or less modern technology and avoid hand-wavium where possible. The goal of these vehicles and their expedition is to take men and materials out into the wilds, traveling for months and possibly years, with all the potentially heavy tools they would need for exploration and survival (and depending on which government, come back.)

The main issue is do the expeditions invest in one massive factory vehicle that can, for example, have a built in oil drilling platform and hydroponics? (Ex; aircraft carrier on wheels.) Or do they take hundreds of smaller specialized vehicles? Or something else entirely? I would like logical reasons for avoiding investing heavily sea and air travel for these expeditions, but if the reasoning is overpoweringly pro-water or pro-air travel I can accept that too, but would like the reasoning.

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    $\begingroup$ The first thought that comes to mind relates to eggs and baskets and how you shouldn't put all of the former in one of the latter. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Feb 26, 2016 at 15:57
  • $\begingroup$ True, but whats the likelihood the large thing just going poof? If the big thing can break, certainly you can get dozens of small things breaking at the same time too. I'm not saying your wrong, but I'm sure stuff on an aircraft carrier breaks from time to time too, and that gets dealt with. $\endgroup$
    – Marky
    Feb 26, 2016 at 16:03
  • $\begingroup$ The big difference is that, with a convoy, I can plan around my vehicles having a 10% chance to break down every 1000 miles. I know how far I need to go, and at what rate I'll lose vehicles. I can plan on cannibalizing them for parts to repair the rest of the fleet and abandoning what I can't use, so I can figure out how many vehicles I need for a given trip. With a single large vehicle, it can't break down, or your expedition is over. $\endgroup$
    – ckersch
    Feb 26, 2016 at 16:24
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know if this is enough for a whole answer, but I'm thinking something along the lines of a zeppelin/airship would be more useful. It can use helium, hydrogen, or even vacuum as a lifting agent. You can can carry supplies, people, cargo, and even smaller ships/helicopters/balloons. It can be solar-electric powered and have some sort of pressure mechanism as opposed to ballast. It should probably be armed to protect from dangerous new aerial species. It's better than a convoy of land vehicles because it can basically ignore terrain, allowing it to travel faster. $\endgroup$ Feb 27, 2016 at 3:21
  • $\begingroup$ Charles Stross' novella Missile Gap uses a similar-ish world, with hundreds of copies of the Earth dotted about an ocean that stretches for hundreds of thousands of miles. The Soviets use a huge, fission-powered ekranoplan to explore--faster than any surface vehicle, more efficient and lower-maintenance than an airplane, endurance for years and capable of water landings. That only works in a world that is mostly ocean, or at least desert, though. $\endgroup$ Jan 19, 2018 at 3:05

2 Answers 2


Get a convoy.

A single large vehicle requires firmer ground, is harder to transport over water, and is more susceptible to mechanical failure. If one of your Broncos breaks down, your worst case scenario is that you ditch it and load up the rest a bit more heavily. Large land vehicles tend to have more trouble with steep grades or with rough terrain, as well, which you're likely to run into if you're travelling long distances over undeveloped land.

Your convoy of vehicles will also be far more useful once you get to your destination. Something like forestry or mining will require lots of vehicles doing lots of tasks for things like transporting personnel, hauling materials, building roads, etc. Even if your giant vehicle is capable of doing everything, it can only be in one place in one time, unless it's Voltron. A fleet of small vehicles could simultaneously build houses, mine for gold in them hills, and report back to civilization.

Small vehicles will also be far cheaper to obtain. They already exist, and production lines to build them are already in place. Even rugged, expedition-type vehicles are being produced in large numbers in the modern day. At worst, refitting these vehicles for increased range, or to run on RNG-based electric energy, would require minor refits of existing vehicles, rather than construction of something completely new. It would be significantly cheaper.

You should also build lots of outposts.

Your convoy will also work best if you don't send it blindly on a one-way mission into the unknown without support. Many exploratory missions in the past have been aided by the creation of a series of outposts or supply dumps along the way. Food for the return trip, for example, doesn't need to be carried for the whole journey if it will only be eaten during the last week before your convoy gets back. Likewise, repair parts and fuel will generally be consumed at a steady rate, so parts for the return journey would best be left at outposts.

With sufficient personnel, the best way to handle your outpost would not be as lonely supply dumps, but as full fledged towns left along the way. Repair facilities, food storage, medical facilities, and the like could all be constructed at an outpost, which will serve not only as a one time source of supplies, but as a stopping point for future missions out into the unknown. The construction of hardened roads between these outposts will reduce the costs of future trips, and make resupply easier, as will railroad construction.

The goal of your company, after all, is to extract resources, not just to go on a single mission. A fleet of a thousand trucks may be the best way to rapidly explore and stake a claim on a distant ore deposit, but some serious infrastructure will be required to extract all of that ore and ship it back to civilization.

How far could outposts stretch?

The distance between the outposts will depend on how heavily traveled the route will be, and what the primary travel method between the outposts is. If it's seldom traveled, with only a few vehicles coming through every week or month, probably about a day apart, since outpost commerce won't be self-sustaining, and the company maintaining the road will have to pay for them. If there's a constant stream of trucks, probably a couple hours apart, like driving in the American west, since there would be enough commerce to sustain them.

On the other hand, if trains are the primary means of transporting people and goods, they might be a few days apart by train regardless of how much traffic there is, since it's harder to stop a train and less need to do so, since conductors can rotate shifts and there's usually space for passengers to eat and sleep without disembarking. With aircraft, large outposts could be thousands of miles apart, though these would likely be connected by widely spaced outposts on emergency roads, as well. A chain of outposts will stretch out until the cost of getting the goods back to society exceeds what they can be sold for. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that if fuel is not harvested locally, fuel costs will increase exponentially with distance, since fuel will be required to transport more fuel to distance outposts.

  • $\begingroup$ This makes a lot of sense. It also has the potential for outposts to go the rowdy-colonist route and break off from their parent. How far travel time wise would you figure outposts would between one another? And is there a practical limit to how far a "chain" of outposts can stretch? $\endgroup$
    – Marky
    Feb 26, 2016 at 17:03

If you are moving an entire civilization, you'd need a large infrastructure in place when you get there. That would mean your vehicle needs to be some large monstrous thing that is literally moving a city (or can unpack into a small settlement at least).

It is more likely that as modern humans, we would send rovers out first to scout and report back. Since the sun still works, they can be solar powered and would be small -- their purpose would be to map resources/terrain and find a place for this new settlement.

If you are just exploring with humans instead of rovers, then the vehicles would need to be small and relatively agile; they have no idea where they are going to end up and need to be able to make it through terrain without pre-built roads.

The likely scenario is that you would have all three things. You will have rovers that find the destination and the best route to get there. Then you send out the construction crews to build the road to the promised land. And finally, the big monstrous settlement-in-a-can would be able to take said road to their new home, set everything up, and provide all the people.

This would be the process, and settlements would leapfrog to infinity as resources run out or enough enterprising people get together and decide their current situation needs a little spice.

  • $\begingroup$ very interesting, and it makes sense. I'm thinking more along the lines of Star Treks "5 year mission" of exploration, rather then picking up New York and moving it, however. $\endgroup$
    – Marky
    Feb 26, 2016 at 15:55
  • $\begingroup$ I'm actually not sure how that would be probable. You'd need to establish settlements along the way in order to extract the natural resources we use for fuel. In order to move any kind of extraction rig to the location, you'd need a road to transport the setup. In the scenario you are thinking about, you would likely have a trail of settlements following them as support structures. The Star Trek idea still required them to stop and get supplies at colonies/extract them -- and space has much less terrain than Earth, so traversing rough terrain wasn't as much of a problem. $\endgroup$
    – dannuic
    Feb 26, 2016 at 16:02

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