It’s the last great unexplored wilderness on the face of planet Earth and is shrouded in icy mysteries. But what’s the truth about the frozen continent of Antarctica?
For scientists, it’s a freezing cold time-capsule that contains clues about life on the planet before meddling humans came along and ruined everything.
But for conspiracy theorists, the icy continent contains much, much more than just a few frozen bacteria and a hidden lake. The wilder minds of the internet have made a series of sensational claims about the South Pole, suggesting to be the home to alien bases and even a lost human civilisation.
Few readers are going to have the chance to explore Antarctica any time soon, so we’ve collected together some of the mysteries which have intrigued scientists — and a few of the wild theories which have lit up the internet.
A wound-like gash that spurts red liquid out of the Taylor Glacier has puzzled scientists since its discovery in 1911. An Australian geologist stumbled upon the Antarctic waterfall in 1911 and put forward the theory that the “blood” was just water that had been stained by microscopic red algae.
Researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Colorado College claimed that Blood Falls is flowing from a large lake which has been trapped under the ice for one million years.
This mystery is far from solved, however, because scientists haven’t been able to fully explore this lake, which has remained liquid when it probably should have frozen over. It’s believed that oxidised iron gives the water its rusty tinge.
THE LOST CITY OF ATLANTIS
You won’t find this theory in any science books, but a quick Google search will throw up screeds of bizarre claims that Atlantis is frozen in Antarctic ice.
Strange patterns were found in the snow in Antarctica. Theories suggest that these patters are man are man made and has sparked the idea of the city being buried in the frozen tundra. Scientist have a different theory about the patterns. They call it Sastrugi – sharp grooves formed on the snow by strong winds.
A NAZI SPACE BASE
Some conspiracy theorists believe the Nazis claimed an area of Antarctica as German territory and sent an expedition there. German scientists then mapped the area to discover a network of rivers and caves, one of which led to a large underground lake.
A city-sized base was built near the lake called “Base 22” or “New Berlin”, which was supposedly home to not only Nazis, according to Vladimir Terziski, from Bulgaria, but this theory loses credibility quickly because it’s claimed the base was used to launch missions to the moon.
Colin Summerhayes, a geologist at the University of Cambridge, has previously published an entire paper dedicated to quashing rumours about a secret Nazi space base. However, the Nazis really did have a base in the Arctic, which was abandoned more than 70 years ago when its crew was poisoned by polar bear meat.
A HIDDEN MOUNTAIN RANGE
With ice and snow everywhere, you’d think the Gamburtsev Mountain Range would be perfect for skiing or sledging. But the whole mountain range is frozen under ice near the “southern pole of inaccessibility” — the point on the Antarctic continent which is furthest away from the Southern Ocean. The mountains are believed to be roughly the same size as the Alps, standing 2,700 metres high and 1200 kilometers long.
They were first discovered in the 1950s but were fully mapped in 2009. It’s believed they first formed more than one billion years ago and should have been eroded down to nothing by water and ice but were brought back to life by the collision of two continents.
THE SITE OF AN ASTEROID ‘MEGA IMPACT’
A huge and mysterious “anomaly” is thought to be lurking beneath the frozen wastes of an area called Wilkes Land.
This “Wilkes Land gravity anomaly” was first uncovered in 2006, when NASA satellites spotted gravitational changes which indicated the presence of a huge object sitting in the middle of a 480km-wide impact crater.
One team of NASA boffins suggested it is the remains of a truly massive asteroid which was more than twice the size of the Chicxulub space rock which wiped out the dinosaurs. If this explanation is true, it could mean this killer asteroid caused a “mega impact” which resulted in the Permian — Triassic extinction event that killed 96 per cent of Earth’s sea creatures and up to 70 per cent of the vertebrate organisms living on land.
However, the wilder minds of the internet have come up with their own theories, with some conspiracy theorists claiming it could be a massive UFO base or a portal to a mysterious underworld called the Hollow Earth.
MYSTERIOUS LIFE FORMS
Researchers have spotted some truly bizarre creatures in Antarctica, although we haven’t yet found any aliens.
In 2014, it was revealed that tiny life forms are living in a lake locked under half a mile of ice. This lost world has not seen sunlight or fresh air for more than one million years. Yet it supports more than 4,000 species of organisms and suggests life could survive almost anywhere — even on other planets or moons.
“It’s the first definitive evidence that there’s not only life, but active ecosystems underneath the Antarctic ice sheet, something that we have been guessing about for decades,” said lead researcher Brent Christner, professor of biology at Louisiana State University.
“I think that this does nothing but strengthen the case for life on other icy bodies in solar system and beyond.”