The Fergus Dessert is an enormous region on Velor, covering 1/8th of the planet’s northern hemisphere and is also the surface’s largest concentration of iron.
Fergus is also known as the Region of Rust because, unlike the rest of Velor’s deserts, the sand in Fergus is metallic rather than mineral and has a tendency towards deep red or black colouring, particularly after the wet season.
Iron is present in such quantities that the region has its own magnetic field, which is strong enough to cause problems in unshielded equipment and navigation is almost impossible without satellite positioning. The field’s unexpected strength is due to wind action which, being a largely linear force induces magnetism by picking up particulate iron and ‘stroking’ it across the ground, thus aligning the electron structure.
A pleasing consequence of this is that the region’s magnetic field is viewable from space in the form of thin dark bands, although these are not the sand but rather forests of Ironwood trees which have grown where the like aligned iron particles have been drawn together.
Although these forests serve to ensure sandstorms are less common in Fergus than in much of the rest of Velor, Weather in the region can still be dramatic as friction between flying grains creates electromagnetic fields in addition to heat. This tends to create spectacular year round lightning storms and beautiful sand arcs as magnetic vortices are created and released. The former in particular helps to feed a thriving tourism industry, especially when the rare sandstorms are promised as Velorians flock to experience the intense lightning first hand.
Although most macro-scale geological features are replicated on Velor’s sister planet, Aria, the absence of an analogue to Fergus has led Velorian scientists to believe that the desert is a recent addition, probably within the last three million years. Speculation over the cause is rife and the most popular theories involve iron meteorites or unusual volcanic action. Unfortunately, over the last century mining has begun to take its toll on the area with noticeable thinning of the Ironwood forests and diminished storm strength. This has caused the government to step in and limit further development in order to preserve this natural wonder for future generations.