Antarctica is a mysterious continent at the southern tip of Earth. Due to its isolation and extreme environment, it’s the continent we know the last about.
Whilst we’re discovering more Antarctic facts every year, you won’t be surprised to hear that it’s also the source of many conspiracy theories as we’ll share today.
1. Hitler Had a Secret Base in Antarctica
It might seem odd to say that this was one of the more realistic conspiracy stories about Antarctica, but it even took the work of two distinguished scientists to debunk this myth in a scientific journal.
There was in fact a German expedition to Antarctica between 1938 and 1939, just before the start of the second world war. The exhibition was on a ship named Schwabenland. However, this trip was not to establish a military base there but to try and secure future whaling activity.
At the time, the German whaling industry was booming and supplied oil, lubricants, and food, as well as essential ingredients for bomb-making.
Conspiracy theorists have long referred to a quote from Admiral Donitz where he mentions an “invulnerable fortress, a paradise-like oasis in the middle of eternal ice”, however, as pointed out in the journal article, this is likely referring to the Arctic, not Antarctica.
The cherry on the cake for those that believe this theory was when the United States sent a large fleet to Antarctica between 1946 and 1947 and when three nuclear bombs were set off later in 1958.
But, now that many documents have been declassified, we know that these were training exercises in case there was a war with the Soviet Union, and not the US destroying a secret Nazi base there.
2. There Are UFO’s In Antarctica
It seems that on an almost weekly basis there are some alien-looking objects appearing on Google Maps, including in Antarctica. These photos and videos are often accompanied by compelling stories which make it easy to believe.
There are two notable ‘sightings’ which went viral. The first was a video from the popular channel SecureTeam10 which claimed to show an alien ship crash landing as spotted on Google Earth.
However, the video was later disproven by a physical geography lecturer from Keele University who explained that it was simply a block of ice from an avalanche that had skidded further across the ice than the rest of the debris1 (source: Space.com).
Whilst there might not be alien life in Antarctica,, this doesn’t mean there aren’t any alien objects. According to the European Space Agency, at least 50,000 rocks from other planets have been found by teams in Antarctica that have fallen as meteorites. Not quite as exciting as alien lifeforms though.
3. Antarctica’s Lost Civilization
There are claims that Antarctica was once home to a pre-modern civilization that could be the mythical city of Atlantis.
The basis for this claim is the ancient Piri Reis Map, created in 1513, which appears to show the Antarctic continent before it froze over, the theory even made national news. Conspiracy theorists back up the claim with many Google Earth satellite images such as this one which people are describing as a motte and bailey castle.
As for the hard evidence behind this, we do know that Antarctica was formed when the supercontinent Gondwana broke up. At this time, Antarctica was tropical rainforest and could have sustained a civilization.
However, Antarctica had diverged from Gondwana, moved to its southern position, and froze over long before humans had even evolved in Africa around 2-6 million years ago2 (source: Smithsonian Institute). So the chances of another intelligent lifeform similar to humans existing prior to this are near-impossible. As for the ‘motte and bailey castle’ this is just a frozen lake.
4. Antarctica Has A Secret Passage To the Hollow Earth
According to this next conspiracy theory, the entire Earth is hollow and the only way to get inside is via 2253km (1400 mile) wide holes in Antarctica and the Arctic3 (source: University of Alaska Fairbanks).
The theory suggests that you could walk over the edge of the hole without even realizing it, just like an ant walking over the lip of a glass.
The idea of a hollow Earth was first mentioned in 1818 by John Symmes, an American navy officer. However, it gained traction when apparently a ‘lost diary’ of Admiral Richard E. Byrd was found that details his encounter with the underground race whilst trying to build a US research base at the south pole.
According to this ‘lost diary’, he visited the Pentagon to share news of this new race he had met but was ordered to keep quiet.
As for debunking this Antarctic myth, there really isn’t much to debunk. There is no evidence that the ‘lost diary’ is real and a giant hole twice the size of Greenland would surely show up on satellite images of Antarctica, wouldn’t they?
5. There Are Secret Pyramids in Antarctica
Another theory floating around the internet is that Antarctica is home to secret pyramids. This story is sometimes linked to the ‘lost civilization’ theory or ‘UFO’ theory.
The basis for the claim is this structure found on Google Earth which appears to show a pyramid sticking out of the ice. The ‘pyramid’ is located in the southern part of the Ellsworth Mountains which is an area known for its fossils.
However, this theory was disregarded by Professor Eric Rignot who specialized in Earth system science at the University of California. He told Live Science that it is just a mountain that has experienced many years of erosion which has caused the steep sides that resemble a pyramid.
6. Antarctica is Guarded By The Military
One myth that has come to light in recent years is that Antarctica is guarded by the military. This theory has been supported by photos of military personnel from various countries operating in Antarctica.
Whilst the photos are likely genuine, Antarctica is not Guarded. It would be illegal for military activity to take place in the region due to the Antarctic Treaty. This is the agreement between countries that operate in Antarctica that sets the ground rules for the continent.
It promotes peace and specifically prohibits any military activity in the region. However, it does allow countries to use military personnel and equipment in the region, as long as it’s for scientific purposes.
For example, the United States uses its airforce to supply its research bases in Antarctica from a supply base in New Zealand. This is why you will sometimes see photos of military personnel or equipment in Antarctica, not because it’s guarded.
However, there have been rumors that some countries have been conducting secret operations in Antarctica, such as China4 (source: A.Brady, China’s expanding Antarctic interests, 2017), but these are low-key and not aimed at guarding Antarctica.
7. Antarctica Doesn’t Exist, It’s Just an Ice Wall
Even with stories of aliens, secret civilizations, and Nazi bases, this one is still the most amusing and comes courtesy of the flat earthers.
Instead of being the large continent that we know, this conspiracy theory suggests that Antarctica is a large ice wall that goes around the flat Earth, preventing anything from falling off.
Speaking to Forbes, prominent flat Earther Robbie Davidson said, “When we look at Antarctica if you take a globe and you squish it down, the Antarctic would go all the way around the Earth. It’s kind of like an ice shore and it’s very, very large.”
The flat earthers are so convinced by the ice wall that they had planned their own trip to Antarctica to prove it.
For most of our readers who enjoy evidence-based information, we don’t really need to disprove this one. But just in case, NASA’s image gallery of Earth from space should be all the proof you need.