Ep 14: Nazis & UFOs [Pt 4]: Admiral Byrd, Operation Highjump & Hollow Earth
Welcome back to the UFO Rabbit Hole Podcast. I’m your host, Kelly Chase.
Today we begin part 4 of our series on Nazis & UFOs with what is perhaps one of the most mysterious and beloved chapters of UFO lore—the existence of a secret Nazi base in Antarctica.
It’s is a matter of established historical record that in 1938 Nazi Germany launched an expedition to Antarctica—mere months before the beginning of WWII.
On December 17, 1938, the New Swabia Expedition left Hamburg for Antarctica aboard the MS Schwabenland. The secret expedition had 33 members plus Schwabenland’s crew of 24. A month later, on January 19, 1939, the ship arrived at the Princess Martha Coast in an area which had recently been claimed by Norway as Queen Maud Land.
But the Germans paid little mind to this claim. Nazi German flags were placed along the icy coast claiming it as their own. They named this territory Neu-Schwabenland.
But what were they looking for a world away at the ice-covered south pole? What was so important that they would divert those resources to make this expedition at the dawn of the second World War? And what did they find?
In the last episode, we explored some of the possibilities ranging from the lost civilization of Atlantis to secret, and potentially ancient, alien bases hidden beneath the ice. And as outlandish and surprising as those theories may be, there is another possibility that is stranger and more tantalizing still.
This theory has captured the imagination of many who have explored the icy depths of this chapter of UFO lore perhaps more than any other—not just because of its mystical and mystifying nature, but because of the fact that despite its seeming impossibility, this theory appears to be well supported through real historical records and events.
And that theory is that what the Nazis found in Antarctica was the entrace to a vast and dazzling interior world hiding deep underground—the entrance to Hollow Earth.
What Is Hollow Earth?
The Hollow Earth theory is the idea that the Earth is partially or mostly hollow. Most models of Hollow Earth show the planet with two large entrances at each of the poles with a small star hanging suspended in the interior. (1)
The geography of the inner Earth is said to be similar to that of the surface, with mountains, rivers, forests, and even oceans. The centripetal force from the spinning Earth acts like gravity for anything that lives on the surface, creating a mirrored world beneath our feet.
But this mirrored world isn’t just a reflection of our world. Within it there are plants, animals, and entire biospheres that would be as exotic to us as anything that we’d find on another planet.
And within Hollow Earth there are said to exist entire civilizations of beings—some described as looking very human, and some that can only be described as beings something more. There even are sometimes said to be cryptids like the Sasquatch and even alien beings like grays and mantids. And these beings are far more advanced than humans, having found a way to exist in harmony with nature.
Where Did Legends Of Hollow Earth Come From?
So where do these stories about Hollow Earth come from?
It appears that stories about secret interior realms can be found in ancient myths and legends from peoples around the world. It’s an archetype that’s seemingly been with us for as long as we’ve been telling stories.
According to the Ancient Greeks, there were caverns under the surface which were entrances leading to the underworld. Thracian and Dacian legends tell similar tales, and it is said that there are caverns occupied by an ancient god called Zalmoxis.
Ancient Celtic legends tell of a cave called “Cruachan”, also known as “Ireland’s gate to Hell”, a mythical and ancient cave from which strange and eldritch creatures would emerge and be seen roaming the surface. Also in Ireland, there are also stories of medieval knights and saints who made pilgrimages to a place of purgatory, the entrance to which was located in a cave in County Donegal. And in County Down, Northern Ireland there is a myth which says a subterranean race of people were responsible for introducing Druidism to Ireland, before disappearing back underground.
In Hindu mythology, the underworld is referred to as Patala. And the Angami Naga tribes of India claim that their ancestors emerged in ancient times from a subterranean land inside the Earth.
The Taino from Cuba believe their ancestors emerged in ancient times from two caves in a mountain underground. And Natives of the Trobriand Islands also believe that their ancestors had come from a subterranean land through a cavern hole called “Obukula”. Mexican folklore also tells of a cave in a mountain five miles south of Ojinaga, in which lives devilish creatures who come from inside the Earth.
In Native American mythology, it is said that the ancestors of the Mandan people in ancient times emerged from a subterranean land through a cave at the north side of the Missouri River.
The elders of the Hopi people believe that a Sipapu entrance in the Grand Canyon exists which leads to the underworld. There is also a tale about a tunnel in the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona near Cedar Creek which is said to lead inside the Earth to a land inhabited by a mysterious underground tribe. It is also the belief of the tribes of the Iroquois that their ancient ancestors emerged from a subterranean world inside the Earth.
Brazilian natives, who live alongside the Parima River in Brazil, claim that their forefathers emerged in ancient times from an underground land, and that many of their ancestors still remained inside the Earth. Ancestors of the Inca supposedly came from caves which are located east of Cuzco, Peru. (2)
I could go on. Clearly, although the idea of Hollow Earth may seem bizarre and exotic to many of us now, this is a myth that is as old as human history.
But could it actually be true?
Could The Earth Really Be Hollow?
As many of you already know, I am an unabashed and unapologetic Hollow Earth enthusiast. I love Hollow Earth so much. In the grand pantheon of conspiracy theories and high strangeness, it resonates with me on a level that almost nothing else does.
I’ve often made the argument that Hollow Earth is the spiritual opposite of Flat Earth. Flat Earth is a deception that implies that our world is both less than it appears to be and more sinister. The Antarctic ice, rather than being a place of wonder and long-buried secrets, is a vast wall of ice stacked miles high hemming us in from the outside. Flat Earth is a prison manned by unseen wardens—its purpose unknown, but undeniably malevolent.
Hollow Earth implies a world that is more than it seems—one with a deeper and richer history, and incredible secrets yet to be discovered. The inhabitants of the Earth’s interior are highly advanced and largely benevolent beings who at times shepherd and protect humanity. Their very existence points to a possible future for humanity where we live in peace and with technology that brings us into harmony with our planet instead of engaging in ever-escalating violence against it.
The Best Evidence For Hollow Earth
However, the mere fact that an idea is pleasing doesn’t make it true. Without evidence, Hollow Earth is just an enchanting story, nothing more.
So what evidence is there that Hollow Earth might be real? Believe me, I’ve gone deep down the rabbit hole on this one to find the best evidence out there. Here’s what I’ve found:
For me, some of the most compelling evidence is the myths, legends, and esoteric histories that we find literally around the world.
Don’t get me wrong—I don’t think that we should be treating all of these stories as though they are literally true. However, I think that we are equally in error when we discount these stories entirely as mere fairy tales.
When we look at our ancestors through a modern lens, it can be hard to truly understand that role that storytelling played in their culture. Whether we look at the works of Socrates and Plato or at the traditions of the First Nations in North America, we see the same respect and veneration for these oral traditions. (3)
Both stories and storytellers had distinct lineages. You didn’t just tell a story, you first disclosed the provenance of the story—this was told to my great-great grandfather who told it to my great grandfather who told it to my grandfather who told it to my father who told it to me.
A very common argument for writing off these myths is to describe them being told around the campfire, with each subsequent teller of the story adding his or her own embellishments and details in an intergenerational game of telephone. This sort of paradigm, by its very nature, would ensure that the stories passed down couldn’t possibly point to anything true.
But when we look at cultures around the world who have rich oral traditions that they can trace back thousands of years, we see that this simply isn’t the case. Being entrusted with the myths and histories of your people is an honor within these cultures. And the stories that are told aren’t told casually around the campfire with each person giving their own spin.
They are told in very specific ways and at very specific times by very specific people who have been through training and often gone through some sort of initiatory experience to prove that they are able to faithfully retell the sacred stories of their people.
So I don’t think it makes sense for us to assume that the stories that were important to ancient people were all a bunch of superstitious nonsense that was never meant to be taken seriously. Stories were the technology that ancient people used to transmit important information down through the ages, and so while we should caution ourselves against taking them all as literally true, we should be looking at them seriously to try to decipher what truths our ancestors were trying to preserve and why.
And if in the case of Hollow Earth, we find stories all around the world, in cultures separated by vast distances of both space and time about advanced beings who come from a world underground—we might want to take another look at what these stories were intended to tell us.
UFOs & Hollow Earth
There’s one other place where there seems to be some evidence to support the idea of Hollow Earth. Surprisingly, some of the best of this evidence can be found in the reality of the UFO phenomenon itself.
As you’ll recall from episode 11 and our discussion about the emergence of modern UFO lore, when UFOs first arrived on the scene of the public consciousness, there was considerable debate about what they might be—and most importantly, where they might be from.
Over the last several decades, the popular conception of UFOs has coalesced around the idea of highly advanced visitors from another planet, but that hasn’t always been the case. In the early days of the “flying saucer” craze that gripped the world in the years following Kenneth Arnold’s sighting, it wasn’t necessarily assumed that UFOs were extraterrestrial in origin. That was an interpretation that developed and solidified over time.
And as you’ll also recall—although the modern UFO phenomenon is considered by many to have begun in the summer of 1947 with Arnold’s sighting, the Roswell incident, and a flap of sightings across the nation and beyond—there is a strong argument to be made that the phenomena that we now associate with UFOs are nothing new. In fact, this is an ancient, and perhaps integral, aspect of the human experience.
And so although we have culturally come to associate UFOs with extraterrestrials, there’s actually considerable reason to believe that some, if not all, of the intelligences behind the phenomenon may not be from “out there” at all—but from right here. After all, considering that humans appear to have interacted with the phenomenon throughout our history, we have to assume that the Others, whoever they are, have been here at least as long as we have.
Famed ufologist and former head of Project Bluebook, J. Allen Hyneck said in the August 1976 issue of UFO Report: “In recent years I have come to support less and less that UFOs are spacecraft from other worlds. There are just too many things going against the theory. I think we must begin to reexamine the evidence. We must begin to look closer to home.”
So if at least some of the UFOs being reported are coming from our planet—where are they hiding? If there was another intelligent species on this planet, wouldn’t we know it?
Although we most often talk about “unidentified flying objects” there are reports around the world of “unidentified submerged objects”, or USOs, many of which show the ability for transmedium travel, transitioning easily from the water to the air. So it could be that whoever the Others are, that they live in our oceans. (4)
And there’s one other possibility, that is mentioned less often, but that still pops up in the lore with relative frequency which is that UFOs could be coming from secret bases underground. There are stories throughout the lore of craft with the ability to extend transmedium travel to include the ability to fly through solid surfaces, as well, including directly into the sides of mountains.
So could UFOs be coming from Hollow Earth?
Listen, I know that the evidence is thin, but I still think there’s enough there for us to fairly say that we can’t rule it out. And for this Hollow Earth fan, that’s more than enough for me to keep it on the table.
But could there be even more substantial evidence for the existence of Hollow Earth? One story stands out in the lore as potentially having the key to putting Hollow Earth back in play in a very serious way—and it centers around an American explorer and military hero named Admiral Richard E. Byrd.
Admiral Byrd, Operation Highjump & Hollow Earth
As we did in episode 12 with the UFO lore that emerged from Nazi Germany during WWII, we’re going to take our first pass at this story as it is typically told in all of its elaborate, conspiratorial grandeur. We’ll get to the part where we analyze the actual events and attempt to determine the extent to which they may or may not be true. But we’re also here to have fun, dammit—and there is almost no story in all of UFO history that is quite as fantastical and mesmerizing as that of Admiral Richard E. Byrd and Operation High Jump.
So let’s get into it:
Admiral Richard E. Byrd: American Hero
Richard Evelyn Byrd Jr. was born on October 25, 1888 into a prominent Virginian family that traced its lineage back to the earliest days of the American Colonies. He was a descendent of John Rolfe and his wife Pocahontas—yes, that Pocahontas—as well as several other colonial governors and early statesmen. (5)(6)
After serving as a lieutenant for the naval air force in WWI, Byrd turned his eye to exploration. A combination of factors conspired to make the years after the first World War a heady and exciting time for explorers. For one, the war had brought about paradigm breaking advancements in flight technology. Whereas human flight had been only a dream just a few decades before, suddenly humans were able to move about the globe in ways they’d never before imagined.
This didn’t just open up new opportunities for exploration, but brought a new urgency to these endeavors, as well. From the perspective of nations around the world, the new realities of human flight created new security concerns. How do you secure your borders in a world where your enemies can take to the skies? The sands were shifting dramatically under the foundations of national security, and there was a flurry of activity from nations around the world—and from the superpowers in particular—to adjust to this new paradigm.
And for explorers there was another tantalizing motivation in the fact that there were seemingly few “firsts” left to claim. While the previous 500 years of western history had been defined by aggressive conquest and colonization, for the first time in history we were running out of new lands to conquer. For young men like Byrd looking to leave their mark on history, it surely must have felt like they were running out of time.
You can feel this urgency in Byrd’s personal history.
In 1919, he volunteered to be a crew member in the U.S. Navy’s aerial transatlantic crossing. This historic mission was to be the first time the Atlantic Ocean was crossed by an aircraft. Unfortunately for Byrd, it was decided that only men who had not served overseas would be allowed on the mission— and his previous tour of duty in Newfoundland ended up disqualifying from being onboard the flight. He was, however, able to make a valuable contribution, as his expertise in aerial navigation resulted in his appointment to plan the flight path of the mission. Of the three flying boats that started from Newfoundland, only Lieutenant Commander Albert Read’s NC-4 completed the trip on May 18, 1919, achieving the first transatlantic flight.
Disappointed but undeterred, in 1921, Byrd volunteered to attempt the first solo nonstop crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. However, Byrd’s ambition was ultimately dashed by then acting Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., who felt that the risks outweighed the potential rewards and canceled the flight.
Byrd was then assigned to the ill-fated dirigible ZR-2. Yet, as fate would have it, Byrd missed his train to take him to the airship on the day of the flight. Although this compounding disappointment must have felt like a curse to Byrd in the moment, it ultimately saved his life. The airship broke apart in midair, killing 44 of 49 crew members on board.
Then finally in 1926, after years of near misses while chasing glory, Byrd finally caught it. On May 9, Byrd and Navy Chief Aviation Pilot Floyd Bennett became the first to complete a flight over the North Pole. When he returned to the United States from the Arctic, Byrd was welcomed as a national hero. Congress passed a special act on December 21, 1926, promoting him to the rank of commander and awarding both Floyd Bennett and Byrd the Medal of Honor for their historic achievement.
But Byrd wasn’t done trying to leave his stamp on history. In May of 1919, New York hotel owner Raymond Orteig announced the Orteig Prize—a $25,000 reward that would be given to the first Allied aviators to fly noon-stop from New York City to Paris. In 1927, fresh off the heels of his successful North Pole flight, Byrd announced that he had the backing of the American Trans-Oceanic Company to attempt the trip.
Once again, Byrd named Floyd Bennett as his chief pilot. However, during a practice takeoff the Fokker Trimotor airplane, America, crashed, severely injuring Bennett and slightly injuring Byrd. As the plane was being repaired, Charles Lindbergh won the prize by completing his historic flight on May 21, 1927.
But like a man possessed, Byrd continued with his quest to cross the Atlantic nonstop. He replaced Bennett, who had not yet fully recovered from his injuries, as chief pilot and attempted the flight on June 29, 1927. The flight made it to France, but they were prevented from landing in Paris by cloud cover, and they ultimately crash landed without fatalities on the coast of Normandy on July 1.
When looking at this story, it’s hard not to wonder what was driving Byrd? He risked death and dismemberment again and again to strive further and accomplish more than anyone before him and to leave his name forever pressed into the pages of history. As we’ll see in the next episode, this period of technological development fueled by the emergence of the aviation age is filled with stories like this—of men and women seemingly possessed by a mission, driven by mysterious forces to the brink of both greatness and madness.
But for now, what’s important is that all this adventuring meant that by the time he was 40 Byrd was one of the most experienced arctic explorers in the world and one of the decorated members of the U.S. Navy. In December of 1929, he was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral, making him the youngest person in history of the Navy to ever do so.
We’ll get back to Admiral Byrd in just a second.
Nazis In Antarctica
After the Nazis dropped their flags on the icy Antarctic shores in 1938, rumors began to swirl about what exactly they were doing there. Speculation emerged that they were building clandestine bases to be used for advanced weapons testing, flight experiments, and more. (7)
There were also rumors also suggesting that the Nazi leadership might have had longer term plans for the southernmost contintent. It was said that they had discovered several ice-free thermal inland lakes that created massive domes under the ice. From these lakes, warm rivers flowed through the ice and out to the sea providing secret tunnels for Nazi submarines to access this under-ice oasis. It was here that they built a sprawling top secret base that would come to be known as Station 211.
Around this time, German newspapers began to report on a “four year plan” to colonize Antarctica. Senior Naval Commander Admiral Karl Doenitz was quoted as saying, “My submarines have found a paradise on Earth. The German submarine fleet is proud of having built for the Fuhrer, in another part of the world, a Shangri-La on land, an impregnable fortress.”
By 1944, as the potential for Nazi defeat in the war loomed, a plan was put in place to save key members of the party leadership and to establish the Fourth Reich in a new location. This effort was code-named Operation Avalon. With this plan in place, large sums of money, advanced technology, scientists, and technicians were evacuated from the country along with members of party leadership to a secret location.
Could this have been Antarctica? Could the Fourth Reich have rebuilt itself deep under the ice? And could top Nazi leadership, many of whom were presumed dead including Adolf Hitler himself, have escaped to there at the end of the war?
It sounds like a crazy proposition. And yet, across the Atlantic, the United States seemed to be taking a keen interest in these rumors and in the Nazi activity near the South Pole. Could there have been something to this idea?
For many, the best evidence for the continued, secret Nazi presence in Antarctica after the war comes from one of the most mysterious naval expeditions in U.S. history—code name: Operation HighJump.
The official purpose of Operation Highjump was to conduct scientific research and military training in Antarctica to determine the feasibility of establishing a US base there. Given his status as both a decorated hero and as one of the world’s most experienced polar explorers, Admiral Richard E. Byrd was chosen to lead the operation.
However, the party that eventually arrived in Antarctica in December of 1946 certainly didn’t look like your typical scientific expedition. Equipped with nearly 5000 men aboard 13 ships including a state-of-the-art aircraft carrier holding planes, bombers & helicopters, Operation Highjump was by far the largest military operation since the end of the war. Why would an expedition meant to focus primarily on geological and archeological study of the region need that kind of fire power?
Even more mysterious was the fact that, despite the significant investment of resources that was put into launching this operation, it was inexplicably cut short after just a few short weeks. Operation Highjump had left the United States equipped with enough supplies to stay in Antarctica for 8 months. But by February the mission had been aborted and Byrd and his men limped back to South America to regroup.
Once they were on dry land, rumors spread like wildfire about what the US forces had encountered in Antarctica, with many claiming that they had not only confirmed the Nazi presence on the continent but that several of their planes and boats had sustained serious damage after engaging with Nazi secret technology—the flying saucer.
But these stories were based on more than just rumors. A newspaper in Santiago, Chile ran a startling and chilling quote from Admiral Byrd himself saying that in the next war we would need to be able to defend ourselves from fighters who would be able to fly from one pole to the other with incredible speed.
However, once Byrd returned to the United States, he was debriefed and Operation Highjump was immediately classified as top secret. The government released a short summary of the operation’s achievements which briefly mentioned an unspecified number of fatalities—all of which were said to be accidents though none of them were explained. The bodies, the report said, had been buried in Antarctica rather than being brought home for burial on US soil. After his debriefing, Admiral Byrd never spoke of Operation Highjump publicly again.
Admiral Byrd & Hollow Earth
What I’ve told you would be more than enough to solidify the story of Admiral Byrd and Operation Highjump as one of the most thrilling and bizarre in all of UFO lore—and yet, we haven’t even gotten to the most incredible part of this story.
During Operation Highjump there was one incident where Admiral Byrd went missing for 3 hours during a routine flight. Officially, this strange disappearance was blamed on radio failure due to weather conditions.
Admiral Byrd’s Secret Journal
However, after Admiral Byrd passed away in 1957, his son came forward with his father’s secret journal that he said his father had given him on his deathbed. Admiral Byrd was well-known to have meticulously documented all of his travels and expeditions in journals. After he was debriefed following his return from Antarctica, all of his journals from Operation Highjump were confiscated and classified along with all other information regarding the expedition. (8)
His son claimed, however, that this journal was one that he had managed to hide from the government and that it was his last wish that it should be released after his death. And in this journal is the story of what happened during those missing three hours.
Flight Into Hollow Earth
According to Byrd’s journal, on the morning of the flight in question, he rose early, fueled up the plane, ran it through all its routine checks, and took off. At 8:15 he radios back to the base to check in and reports his altitude to be at 2300 feet.
Around 9:10 he radios in again to say that he has spotted what looks like some unusual color patterns in the snow and that he is going to investigate further.
At this point, both of his compasses start spinning and are entirely inoperable. However, Byrd is a seasoned pilot so he quickly reorients himself by establishing visual contact with basecamp and using the sun to navigate. Feeling confident that he has his bearings he notices what looks like a distant mountain range though no mountain range had been noticed there before. His controls feel a little bit sluggish and he’s concerned about ice on the wings, but intrigued by the mysterious mountain range, he keeps flying.
As he approaches the mountains he discovers something that leaves him thunderstruck—a lush green valley with a river running through it appears between the mountains below. And before him, great forests are growing on the mountainsides. Lowering his altitude to get a closer look he sees that the ground is covered with a kind of moss or tight grass.
The quality of the light changes, and he notices with growing alarm that, though he can still see the ground, the sun is nowhere to be found. Given that he was using the sun to navigate, that could quickly become a problem. But before he can begin to grapple with that situation he sees something even more astonishing. On the ground below him, a massive beast lumbers across a green plain. As he gets closer he thinks at first that it might be an elephant, but then discovers to his utter bewilderment that it appears to be a mammoth.
Byrd is so enchanted by what he sees that it takes him nearly 30 minutes to realize that it’s not cold anymore. The frost on his windows and the ice on his wings that had been concerning him earlier in his flight were gone. The windows were warm to the touch and the external temperature reading was a balmy 74 degrees Fahrenheit.
He continues to fly over what looks like a grassy green countryside until he sees something even more impossible than any of the wonders he’s seen thus far—in the distance there shines an advanced looking city.
Just as he makes this stunning realization, he loses control of the plane’s controls. Disc shaped craft surround his plane, seemingly escorting him along a flight trajectory that he is no longer piloting. The engines of his plane cut out, and yet it continues to fly uninterrupted, as though drawn through the air by an invisible force. Just then he notices a familiar symbol on the side of the craft escorting him—swastikas.
His radio, which has been unresponsive throughout his flight, suddenly crackles to life. A voice speaking English with a thick German accent says, “Welcome, Admiral, to our domain. We shall land you in exactly 7 minutes. Relax, Admiral, you are in good hands.”
As Bryd’s plane lands within the city, he’s met by several tall blonde men who escort him to a room where he is to have an audience with someone they refer to as The Master. They find him in a room seated at a long table. Once he sits, the Master tells Byrd that the city in which he finds himself is located inside of the Earth and that the people who live there are called the Arriani.
He says that they have been observing humans for a long time, but have remained hidden. The reason that they are choosing to interfere now is that humans have begun to develop atomic energy. The Master tells Byrd that humans are too immature for this kind of technology and are at risk of destroying themselves. He claims that they have tried repeatedly to make contact with humans, but that every time they do, the humans respond by trying to shoot down their craft, so Admiral Byrd has been chosen to carry their message back to the United States government.
After this conversation, Byrd is taken back to his plane which takes off on its own. After he’s in the air with the city disappearing behind him, a voice comes on his radio telling him that control of the aircraft is now his, and he flies back to basecamp.
According to his son, Byrd relayed this entire story to top brass when he was debriefed back in the states, but that he was told to remain silent about the operation. He obeyed his orders, but ultimately, he didn’t want the truth of what he had found to die with him. He believed that humanity had a right to know.
Deconstructing Operation Highjump
There is a lot to unpack with this story, so let’s start at the top and work our way through. Because unlike so many stories in the UFO lore that leave us chasing shadows, in the case of Admiral Byrd and Operation Highjump the recency and scale of these events leaves us with tantalizing clues and inroads to a truth that just might be stranger than any found in fiction.
Let’s begin with the details of Operation Highjump itself. Was this truly just a scientific expedition to Antarctica, or could Admiral Byrd have been charged with a secret mission—to seek out and destroy a secret Nazi base in Antactica?
The answer here is complicated—but also surprising.
Did The Nazis Have A Secret Base In Antarctica?
Let’s start with whether or not such a base even actually existed.
When it comes to the fabled secret Nazi base, Station 211, the direct evidence is pretty thin. While the lore is full of references to the sprawling base under the Antarctic ice, I haven’t been able to find anything solid to corroborate that.
Quotes from top SS officers talking about this base seem to lead back almost exclusively to that odd genre of highly speculative UFO literature steeped in neo-Nazi ideology that we discussed in previous episodes. Works within that genre tend to pull from and build off of each other in a symbiotic fashion, weaving a modern mythos around the events of WWII. But when you go digging for a bedrock of truth beneath these stories, you usually come up with very little of substance.
That said, I don’t think we can completely rule out the existence of this base for several reasons.
Subglacial Lakes In Antarctica
First of all, although the existence of subglacial lakes was purely a matter of speculation when Operation Highjump set sail for Antarctica in 1947, we now know that there are over 400 such lakes on the continent. And the size of some of these lakes is truly mind boggling.
The largest, Lake Vostok, lies 4,000 m (or 13,100 ft) beneath the ice. With an average depth of 432 m (1,417 ft), it has an estimated volume of 5,400 km cubed (1,300 miles cubed), making it the 6th largest lake in the world by volume. (9)
So while we may not have solid proof that Station 211 existed, it’s not impossible that Nazi uboats may have been able to find passage through the ice via underwater rivers running to the sea that would have lead them to one of these massive subglacial lakes. And while making such a strange, alien world livable for humans, even in the short-term, would have been an incredible, and perhaps impossible, challenge—if you could figure out how to make it work, it’s hard to think of a more secure location for a base.
And when I call this under-ice world “alien”, it’s not just a dramatic metaphor. What lies under the Antarctic ice may be as foreign to us as life from an alien world.
Take Lake Vostok, for example, not only is this a massive body of water larger than all of the Great Lakes besides Lake Superior, but it has been cut off by the ice from the outside world for somewhere between 15 million and 25 million years. What does an ecosystem that has taken an entirely different evolutionary path for tens of millions of years even look like?
The truth is—we have no
In 2013, Russian scientists managed to drill down through the ice and puncture the surface of the lake, and in 2015 they were able to successfully collect the first water sample. The preliminary results showed signs of bacterial life, including some that were thus far unknown to science. However, controversy over possible contamination has left those results in question.
And, for now, just the act of drilling through the ice to get a water sample requires such a massive outpouring of resources that it’s unclear when we might get more answers about what strange creatures may live in these icy depths. And, as you might imagine, there are also many ethical concerns that go along with potentially upsetting the unique and delicate biosphere that may exist there. So it’s not inconceivable that we could land a human on Mars while the secrets of Lake Vostok remain a mystery to us.
So that’s why it’s hard for me to rule anything out here—including the existence of Station 211—and why I think we have to keep an open mind. Because the reality is that anyone who tells you that they know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what does or does not exist under miles of ice on a landmass that is bigger than the continental United States is, quite simply, full of shit.
A Lost Arctic Nazi Base
However, that said, it’s also important to acknowledge that the very same factors that make exploration of Antarctica so challenging would have also made establishing a base like Station 211 a logistical nightmare—if not downright impossible.
Even 80 years later, exploration in Antarctica is a dangerous proposition. The conditions on Antarctica’s frozen tundras are some of the harshest in the world, and its remote location and lack of infrastructure mean that the slightest mishap or miscommunication can have fatal results.
And when we think back to the late 1930s when Nazi exploration of Antarctica first began, these challenges would have been even more extreme. Without any established bases and their supplies limited to what they could bring with them, it’s not a stretch to say that establishing and maintaining a secret base under the ice would have been an undertaking on par with colonizing the moon.
So is it really realistic to think that the German forces, limping out of WWII, could have escaped to such a place? Again, it seems unlikely, but I certainly wouldn’t rule it out. And we have more than just idle speculation and an abundance of caution to justify this position.
In fact, in 2016, Russian scientists actually found the frozen remains of a secret Nazi base—though in this case the base was located in the Arctic, rather than the Antarctic.
On Alexandra Land, a remote, uninhabited island north of Russia high up in the Arctic circle, a team of Russian scientists from the Russian Arctic National Park found the remains of Schatzgraber, a mysterious Arctic weather station that was built in 1942 after Hitler invaded Russia.
Its construction—and abandonment—were documented in the 1954 German book Wettertrupp Haudegen, but no one had ever found physical evidence that it existed until now, and it has often been dismissed as a war-time myth.
According to the written record, Schatzgraber was serviced from 1943, but was abandoned a year later in July 1944, after the staff at the site ate undercooked polar bear meat that was contaminated with round worm and poisoned themselves. The soldiers were rescued by a German U-boat, but the base was abandoned after that, and to this day, no one is entirely sure what the point of the base was, or, up until 2016, where it had been located.
So could the stories of Station 211, which had also been largely written off as a mere rumor, also potentially point to the existence of a real base? Absolutely. It’s possible.
But establishing a base is the unforgiving polar climate is one thing—and supporting human life there long term is another thing entirely. While there are no polar bears to eat in Antarctica, this example shows how something as simple as food poisoning could lead to the demise of such a remote outpost. And food poisoning would have been the least of the dangers they were facing. So even if such a base existed, it may not have lasted long.
Was Operation High Jump Really About Finding A Nazi Base?
So although the existence of Station 211 might not seem particularly likely at first blush, we can’t rule it out. It’s possible. The question then becomes—did the United States government have evidence of a secret Nazi base in Antarctica, and was Operation Highjump an attempt to locate and destroy this base?
And shockingly—there does seem to be some hard evidence to support this idea, starting with two very interesting articles in The New York Times. On Saturday, July 8th, 1939, an article entitled “President Directs Speed On Byrd Trip” proclaimed:
“President Roosevelt moved today to prevent possible extension of Germany’s claims to Antarctic areas into the Western Hemisphere by directing Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd to leave in October to territory within the sphere of the influence of the Monroe Doctrine.” (11)
And on November 30th, 1939, in an article in The New York Times entitled “Secret Orders Take By Byrd On Polar Trip” reported:
“Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd joined the vanguard of his South Pole expedition at the Panama Canal today with confidential orders from the White House. Officials say the Orders were a State Department secret….Even the existence of the orders, authorities said, had been kept secret. Admiral Byrd received them, informants say, on a hurried trip to Washington last week before departing for Panama.” (12)
These two articles don’t exactly rise to the level of a smoking gun when it comes to US knowledge of a secret Nazi base in Antarctica—but they come tantalizingly close. We have orders from President Roosevelt himself indicating that the extension of German territories in Antarctica is a concern and the suggestion of top-secret, last-minute orders being given to Byrd on the eve of his departure for Operation Highjump.
It would be easy to fill in the blanks here with the details of the story as we already know it and assume that Byrd was given orders to seek out and destroy Station 211. But when we put this information within its greater historical context, a more nuanced understanding of these orders begins to emerge.
The Monroe Doctrine
And to get that context, we need to look back to the early 19th century. On December 2, 1823 during his seventh annual State of the Union Address to Congress, President James Monroe first articulated what would become a cornerstone of American foreign policy, the Monroe Doctrine.
While the previous four centuries had been marked by aggressive colonization of the Americas by Western European nations, by the early 19th century the United States had a vested interest in locking that down. The new nation had established itself as a dominant power in the Western hemisphere and was engaged in rapid expansion westward. In short, the United States wasn’t interested in dealing with any more competition, and so foreign policy became increasingly focused on stopping the influx of new colonies in the Americas.
By 1823, nearly all Spanish colonies in the Americas had either achieved or were close to achieving independence. In his speech, Monroe asserted that the New World and the Old World were to remain distinctly separate spheres of influence, and that any further efforts by European powers to control or influence sovereign states in the western hemisphere would be viewed as a threat to U.S. security. In turn, the United States would recognize and not interfere with existing European colonies nor meddle in the internal affairs of European countries.
By the 20th century, Monroe’s declaration was seen as a defining moment in the foreign policy of the United States and one of its longest-standing tenets. So in that light, it makes sense that the exploration of Antarctica would bring new relevance to the Monroe Doctrine. After all, if a European nation were to colonize the portion of Antarctica that lies in the western hemisphere, they’d technically be in violation of this policy.
But still, there’s something about that answer that is unsatisfying. While it’s true that much of foreign policy—and even the very concept of nation states themselves—is based upon arbitrary lines drawn in the sand and then aggressively defended with military force, this arbitrary line feels particularly arbitrary. We’re talking about an ice-locked continent in the middle of the Southern Ocean. Would a German presence on the Western side of Antarctica really be a credible threat to the United State’s security and interests to the extent that it would warrant a massive military expedition like the one assembled for Operation Highjump?
As unlikely as that may sound, when we dig a little deeper, it becomes clear that both the Germans and the United States likely believed this to be the case.
One reason for this lies in the German concept of Lebensraum, which means “living space”. The basic idea was that for the nation to survive and thrive in the long-term, it would need to obtain the “living space” necessary to do so. This concept was one of the major motivations for Nazi Germany in initiating WWII—aquiring the necessary Lebensraum would require the violent conquest of surrounding nations and the mass genocide and relocation of the non-Aryan people living there. Entire indigenous populations of Central and Eastern Europe were decimated by starvation, allowing for their own agricultural surplus to feed Germany. (13)
As horrifying as this concept is, it’s sobering to recognize that it was heavily influenced by the American concept of Manifest Destiny. If you haven’t heard that phrase since elementary school, Manifest Destiny was the idea that the United States was basically on a divine mission from God to expand all the way to the western coast of the continent, to establish a superior society. And when you’re on a mission from God, you don’t let little things like, say, tens of millions of indigenous people get in your way. That’s what’s dangerous about missions from God—there’s very little that you can’t justify when you’re acting as a mere instrument for a higher power.
Adolph Hitler was deeply inspired by the furious expansion of the United States and envied its position as the controlling interest of the western hemisphere. Hitler was particularly fascinated by the genocide of Native American, and used this, in part, as his blueprint for German expansion. He believed that in order to transform the German nation into a world superpower, Germany had to expand their geopolitical presence and act only in the interest of the German people.
But it wasn’t just the means and will to take what it wanted that caused Hitler to envy the United States. The U.S. is also uniquely well-positioned on the globe, which gives it a significant competitive advantage over its rivals in several respects.
First of all, the United States is huge. At 3.7 million square miles (or 9.8 million square km), the United States is almost the same size as the whole of Europe. And with most of that sprawling land mass being in temperate climate zones, the United States has vast natural resources at its disposal, and plenty of room for growth into the future.
Secondly, the U.S. is the dominant force in the Western hemisphere. With all the other major superpowers on the other side of an ocean, the U.S. is able to extend its influence throughout the Americas with minimal interference from outside forces. There’s a reason that we’ve been so aggressive in protecting that sphere of influence—it’s extremely valuable.
And finally, the United States is exceptionally positioned from a defense perspective. Despite being the fourth largest country in the world, the U.S. really only shares borders with Mexico and Canada, neither of which has anywhere near the military firepower to want to go toe-to-toe with the United States. So no matter what other issues we might have with them, now or in the future, the prospect of having to defend those borders against military conquest seems pretty unlikely. That’s huge.
Even more crucially, our other major borders are oceans—and the few nations that would have the means and the will to truly take on the United States are all on the other side of them. This makes the U.S. very hard to sneak up on. If anyone tries to launch a massive assault on the country, we’d be very likely to see it coming.
It’s easy to understand why Hitler would have envied these things, and why he would have seen Lebensraum not just as an abstract concept, but as the key to building an Aryan nation that could stand the test of time.
However, by the mid 20th century, the world had changed significantly and Hitler’s situation was very different from that of the United States a century or two before. As bloody as the western expansion of the United States had been, if Nazi Germany were to carve out its Lebensraum from the European continent this conquest would have to be even bloodier. And with the U.S. and the U.K. bearing down on one side, and the Soviet Union looming on the other, the cost in life, labor, and capital would have been astronomical.
So while Antarctica may have seemed like an unlikely place for Hitler to set his sights as the possible location for a new German homeland, when you look at it in this light, you can begin to see the appeal.
First of all, there was no one there to fight. As we already discussed, when Germany got to Antarctica, the lands that they claimed had already been claimed by Norway. But what was Norway going to do about it? They just got rid of the Norwegian flags that had been planted there and replaced them with their own. Problem solved.
And this story really underlines the primary reason that Hitler was so interested in Antarctica which really boils down to the fact that beggars can’t be choosers. While the previous 500 years of human history had been largely defined by colonization and empire building, by the mid-20th century we’d basically run out of places to “discover” and conquer. Antarctica was basically the last remaining place on Earth where there was still land up for grabs.
And besides being available, the fact is that Antarctica had a lot of things that Hitler was looking for—a land mass almost the size of the United States, a lack of neighbors to squabble with, secure borders, and an easily defensible position far removed from its enemies. So although there were obvious and considerable challenges to humans surviving in Antarctica for even a short period of time, to say nothing of actually building a nation there long-term, you can see why Hitler would have been deeply invested in trying to make it work.
And you can also see why the United States would have been equally invested in keeping this from happening. Naziism had just been more-or-less stamped out in Europe at a tremendous cost. The idea that the Fourth Reich could potentially rebuild on an icy continent at the bottom of the world where we had extremely limited ability to monitor what they might be up to must have been an unsettling one.
And so when we take the 30,000 ft view of this situation, President Roosevelt’s orders to Admiral Byrd with regard to Operation Highjump make a lot of sense. Invoking the Monroe Doctrine was the United State’s way of making clear that the whole of Antarctica wasn’t actually up for grabs, and that we’d have a say in what went on—at least on the western half of the continent. And it also sent the message that if Nazi Germany intended to create a long-term presence there, that they wouldn’t be without neighbors. For all intents & purposes they’d basically be in our backyard.
The Strategic Significance Of The Poles
There’s one more layer to this that we need to consider to get the full scope of this situation, which is the strategic significance of the poles.
As we briefly touched on earlier in this episode, the advent of flight and the advances in aviation technology that came out of the first World War fueled a fever of daring exploration and innovation with the likes of Admiral Byrd striving to be the first to accomplish many feats that had only very recently become possible.
But being the first to fly over the poles or the first to fly across the Atlantic Ocean wasn’t just about bragging rights—at least not for the countries who were funding these expeditions. This was a matter of national security.
For the United States, in particular, the prospect that other nations would soon have the ability to fly across the ocean to reach our shores in a matter of hours was an absolute game-changer in the worst possible way. And it became critically important to securing our borders that no one beat us to the punch in that achievement.
But even more threatening was the prospect that our enemies in the Northern hemisphere might be able to sneak up on us by coming over the poles. The Arctic at that time was largely unexplored, and its relative inaccessibility meant that we didn’t really have to worry too much about what was going on up there. After all, if no human had managed to fly over the North Pole, then you didn’t really have to worry about anyone coming from that direction.
However, as soon as flight over the poles had been accomplished, the region that had been one of our strongest barriers against foreign attacks suddenly became one of our biggest blindspots. That’s a major problem. And while, for obvious geopolitical reasons, the South Pole doesn’t hold quite that same level of strategic risk for the United States, it still represented a potential threat coming into play in a remote, hard-to-monitor area that we had grown used to ignoring.
So let’s circle back to our original question—was Operation Highjump really about finding a secret Nazi base?
And although we don’t necessarily have solid evidence of the existence of Station 211, I think that there is more than enough evidence to suggest that the United States had a very credible concern about Nazi occupation of Antarctica. And whether or not they had any solid intel about the actual location of such a base, it doesn’t seem unreasonable at all to assume that Byrd was, at the very least, charged with running recon to see if such reports could be true.
Did Operation High Jump Really Encounter UFOs in Antarctica?
So could it be that Admiral Byrd and his men actually did find a secret Nazi base in Antarctica? And could the reports of the UFOs and highly advanced weaponry they allegedly encountered be evidence that this base, not only existed, but that the Nazis had escaped there with long-fabled secret technology?
Was Admiral Byrd’s Quote In The Chilean Newspaper Real?
The evidence that is most commonly cited to support this idea is the quote from Admiral Byrd to a Chilean newspaper immediately following Operation Highjump’s early departure from Antarctica. Here’s how that story is usually told:
On 5 March, 1947 the “El Mercurio” newspaper of Santiago, Chile, had a headline article “On Board the Mount Olympus on the High Seas” which quoted Byrd in an interview with Lee Van Atta:
“Adm. Byrd declared today that it was imperative for the United States to initiate immediate defense measures against hostile regions. Furthermore, Byrd stated that he “didn’t want to frighten anyone unduly” but that it was “a bitter reality that in case of a new war the continental United States would be attacked by flying objects which could fly from pole to pole at incredible speeds.”
Pretty compelling stuff, right? The problem is that this isn’t actually what he said. That version of the quote is based on a pretty clearly misleading translation. Here’s what the article actually said:
“Admiral Richard E. Byrd warned today that the United States should adopt measures of protection against the possibility of an invasion of the country by hostile planes coming from the polar regions. The Admiral explained that he was not trying to scare anyone, but the cruel reality is that in case of a new war, the United States could be attacked by planes flying over one or both poles. This statement was made as part of a recapitulation of his own polar experience, in an exclusive interview with International News Service. Talking about the recently completed expedition, Byrd said that the most important result of his observations and discoveries is the potential effect that they have in relation to the security of the United States. The fantastic speed with which the world is shrinking–recalled the Admiral–is one of the most important lessons learned during his recent Antarctic exploration. I have to warn my compatriots that the time has ended when we were able to take refuge in our isolation and rely on the certainty that the distances, the oceans, and the poles were a guarantee of safety.”
See what I mean? When you translate the article correctly, it’s a lot less juicy—and there’s nothing there to suggest that Operation Highjump encountered anything anomalous.
What About The Mysterious Deaths During Operation Highjump?
But what about the mysterious deaths that occured during Operation Highjump? Could those have been the result of a clash with secret Nazi tech?
A bunch of the documents associated with Operation Highjump have since been declassified and released, and based on official reports contained within them it looks like the deaths that occurred during the operation had mundane explanations.
According to these reports, seven men died during Operation Highjump: three died during a plane accident, one was crushed during an unloading accident, two were killed in a car accident while on leave in Sydney, and one drowned in the Panama canal after being overleave and trying to avoid detection by swimming back to the ship. So not only were these deaths not the result of any sort of combat, but three of the seven didn’t even happen in Antarctica.
Why Did Operation Highjump Come Back Early?
But what about the heavily damaged ships? And what caused Byrd to end the expedition months ahead of schedule?
The answer to both of these questions can be found in the unusually harsh conditions associated with the southernmost continent. Long story short, Operation Highjump encountered some pretty intense weather and challenging ice pack that caused damage to their ships and made it near-impossible at times to conduct even the most routine maneuvers. And with the winter months closing in, things were only going to get worse so they decided to pack it in and head home.
Did Admiral Byrd Really Find the Entrance To Hollow Earth?
Or, at least, that’s the story.
But could this have just been a cover on the part of Admiral Byrd? Could something else have caused him to cut the expedition short and rush back to Washington? Like, perhaps, a life-changing message for mankind that he had been charged with personally delivering directly to the president himself?
Is Admiral Byrd’s Secret Journal Real?
The answer, unfortunately, is no.
My obsession with Hollow Earth is well-documented. If there was any way for me to leave the door open for Admiral Byrd’s secret journal to possibly be real, I would find it. But sadly, there are just too many holes in this story for me to find any way to defend it. In fact, there are so many issues with this journal that we don’t even have time to go into them all—but here are just a few.
The flight in the diary takes place in the Arctic, not the Antarctic.
This is a pretty glaring inconsistency with the version of this story as it’s usually presented in the UFO lore, and one that is rarely ever mentioned. Even if we were to assume that the journal was real, we’d then have to admit that Admiral Byrd’s journey into Hollow Earth was not related to Operation Highjump. So right there we have a major issue—or do we?
As you’ll recall, most models of Hollow Earth assume that there is an entrance to the interior of the planet at each of the poles. So could it be that Admiral Byrd still found this entrance, just at the other pole?
Unfortunately, there is significant evidence to suggest that this wasn’t just a case of misidentifying the location of this incident—the whole thing appears to have been entirely fabricated.
Several log entries are identical to entries in Byrd’s published logs from his historic North Pole flight.
That is pretty damning. It doesn’t make sense that there would be identical entries in journals from two different flights. This suggests that someone must have plagiarized parts of the journal from Byrd’s existing logs.
So that certainly doesn’t look good. If someone plagiarized part of the journal, it seems like a pretty safe bet that the whole thing was fabricated. And it turns out that the logs weren’t the only parts that were plagiarized.
Most of what the Master said to Admiral Byrd was plagiarized from the 1937 film Lost Horizon.
Combine this with the fact that the entries are full of exclamation points—something that Byrd himself virtually never used—and what becomes clear is that Admiral Byrd’s secret diary isn’t so much an historical relic as it is a work of fanfiction. And the evidence points to this rather literally being the case.
In 1964, an author by the name of Walter Seigmeister released a book called The Hollow Earth under the pen name Raymond Bernard which frequently referenced Admiral Byrd’s accounts. And it just so happens that this same Raymond Bernard wrote the foreword to Byrd’s alleged secret diary.
So as much as I’d love for the story of Admiral Byrd and Hollow Earth to be true, it’s impossible to argue that it’s anything but a hoax—and not a particularly good one.
Did Admiral Byrd Lie About His North Pole Flight?
And even if we didn’t have a mountain of evidence to suggest that the journal was a forgery, and could prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the journal did belong to Admiral Byrd, it would still be difficult to argue for its authenticity.
Because, as it turns out, Byrd may have had a record of forging journal entries in order to corroborate an extraordinary personal accomplishment. In fact, there’s actually some considerable evidence to suggest that Byrd may have fudged his journal entries to hide the fact that he wasn’t actually the first to fly over the North Pole.
Doubts were first raised about Byrd’s historic flight in 1958 when Norwegian-American aviator and explorer Bernt Balchen cast doubt on Byrd’s claim on the basis of his knowledge of the airplane’s speed. Balchen also claimed that Byrd’s co-pilot Floyd Bennett had confessed to him months after the flight that Byrd and he had not reached the pole.
However, Bennett had died 30 years earlier on April 25, 1928, during a flight to rescue downed aviators in Greenland so there was no real way to corroborate these claims. And Bennett, for his part, had started a memoir, given numerous interviews, and wrote an article for an aviation magazine about the flight before his death that all confirmed Byrd’s version of the flight. So it’s hard to know exactly what happened or if Balchen was telling the truth.
In 1996, however, Byrd’s diary of the flight was released. It revealed that flight information suggesting that they may not have reached the Pole had been erased in the diary, but was still legible. These figures did not make it into the final report that Byrd submitted regarding the flight leaving many to suspect that he and Bennett may have lied.
So even if we didn’t have reason to question who wrote Byrd’s alleged secret journal, we’d still have considerable reason to question the truth of its contents. Unfortunately, the story of Admiral Byrd and Hollow Earth is one we’re going to have to relegate to the realm of fairy tales—but it is one badass fairy tale. You at least have to give it that.
So this is where we’ll conclude our series on Nazi UFO lore. And yet, like so much related to the phenomenon, the line we’re drawing here is somewhat arbitrary. While we’re moving forward with our story, there are several important throughlines from this bizarre chapter that we’ll carry with us. In many ways, the story that began to unfold during WWII is still very much alive today, its tendrils creeping insidiously through our cultural myths and realities in ways that we’re still trying to untangle.
We’ll see this in the next episode as we turn our attention to the space race and subsequent moon landing that defined the middle of the 20th century and ushered in a new age of exploration and possibility for the human race, and find ourselves asking the same questions we’ve been asking ourselves in this series—
What is the nature of the occult and secret knowledge?
What role, if any, have non-human intelligences played in our technological development?
And, what really happened to the Nazis?
Until next time.
- Is the Earth Actually Hollow? | Atlas Obscura
- Hollow Earth | Wikipedia
- Oral Traditions | Indigenous Foundations
- The Bizarre History of USOs | Popular Mechanics
- Richard E. Byrd | Wikipedia
- Richard E. Byrd | Naval History & Heritage Command
- Operation High Jump: UFOs, Nazis and Admiral Richard E. Byrd | Documentary
- The Secret Lost Diary of Admiral Richard E. Byrd and The Phantom of the Poles
- Lake Vostok | Wikipedia
- Secret Nazi Military Base Discovered By Russian Scientists In The Arctic | The Independent
- President Directs Speed On Byrd Trip | The New York Times
- Byrd Arrives In Panama | The New York Times
- Lebensraum | Wikipedia