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Debunking the biggest Antarctica conspiracy theories

Image: Angie Agostino / Pixabay

From assassinations to terror attacks, mighty human achievements to the shape of the Earth, it seems anything is fair game when it comes to conspiracy theories. Now, Antarctica is under attack from those who don’t believe it’s just a desolate and barren frozen wasteland.

Social media is rife with claims that the world's coldest continent is actually alive and kicking with all kinds of life from dinosaurs to aliens and even Nazis.

The notion of the coldest place on Earth harbouring mysterious things is no modern phenomenon. Dating back centuries, people have claimed Antarctica might not be what it seems as a natural human response to something that is not yet fully understood.

Antarctica is still very much unexplored, allowing conspiracy theories to grow and spread like wildfire.

Conspiracy Theory #1: The Earth is hollow and Antarctica is the gateway

As their name suggests, Hollow Earthers believe that the world is hollow and within its depths lies a lush, tropical utopia that is home to a variety of creatures. Some claim dinosaurs are down there, others claim aliens, Vikings and even Nazis as the inhabitants of Earth’s core.

The only way to reach this world within a world is through the poles. Two gigantic holes exist at the top and bottom of the Earth. Each, if found, grants you access to the hidden paradise that lies beneath your feet.

Explanation: Science has categorically proven the Earth is made of rock and iron

The hollow earth theory dates back to English astronomer Edmond Halley who proposed the idea in the late 17th century. The theory gathered pace and was further promoted by American Army officer John Cleves Symmes during the early 19th century. However, scientists since the 1730s have disproven this theory and modern science can categorically prove that the Earth is made up of rock and iron.

Through the sophisticated reading of seismic waves, scientists have determined that the Earth is made up of four layers – the crust, the mantle, the outer core and the inner core. The former two are mostly made up of rock, whilst the latter two are formed of nickel-iron alloy in either a liquid (outer core) or solid (inner core) state.

Scientists have also measured the density of the Earth, with the interior outweighing the exterior crust. If the Earth were hollow, the opposite would be the case. Add in the fact that the pressure and immense temperature inside the Earth’s core would make life an impossibility, it seems the hollow earth theory just doesn’t add up.

As for those holes in the poles? Numerous satellite images from space reveal no such voids sinking into the darkest recesses of our planet.

Conspiracy Theory #2: A 15th-century map and modern pictures of pyramids confirm a lost civilisation lies under Antarctica’s ice

Compiled in 1513 by Piri Reis, an Ottoman cartographer, the medieval world map known as the Piri Reis Map seems to depict the northern coastline of Antarctica completely ice-free. During the 20th century, theories began to gather pace suggesting this map was actually based on much older maps that are now lost. The idea is that the very first map must have been drawn before ice covered Antarctica.

In the early 20th century, an American college professor by the name of Charles Hapgood put forward his theory of crustal displacement that suggests movements in the Earth's crust could have meant Antarctica was ice-free just a few thousand years ago.

Could the unfrozen land mass have been home to a now lost civilisation, perhaps even the famous lost city of Atlantis first mentioned by Greek philosopher Plato in the 4th century BC.?

What’s more, in 2016, Google Earth images circulated online depicting pyramids rising from the icy depths of Antarctica. Are these structures proof of the civilisation that once lived there?

Explanation: Antarctica hasn't been ice-free for over 10 million years

At the time, Hapgood’s theory was met with widespread scepticism and has since been widely disproven by scientists. Modern ice core data taken from the frozen continent confirms that Antarctica hasn't been free of ice for well over 10 million years, long before humans walked the Earth.

Furthermore, geologists have proven the Google Earth pyramids are just pyramidal peaks – angular, sharply pointed mountain peaks created by erosion and the divergence of several glaciers from a central point.

Conspiracy Theory #3: There's a secret underground Nazi base in Antarctica

On 30th April 1945, Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler shot himself in the Führerbunker in Berlin. Well, that's the official story anyway. Some believe that Hitler escaped Germany as the Allies and Soviets closed in and stowed away on a U-boat heading for the Antarctic.

There, on the frozen continent, was an already established secret underground base that the Nazis had been operating for several years. They'd been conducting experiments on abandoned extra-terrestrial technology. Today, conspiracists believe this base still exists and the Nazis, with alien weaponry, might one day mount an attack on the rest of the world.

Explanation: The Germans did go to Antarctica but there is no base

This one does have a slither of truth in it. In December 1938, Hitler sent an expedition to explore a region of Antarctica and claim it for the Third Reich. The reason? To build a whaling station so the Germans wouldn’t be so dependent on importing whale oil from Norway as the country geared for war. At the time, whale oil was a key ingredient in the production of soap and margarine.

The German researchers landed in an area that had recently been claimed by Norway and called Dronning Maud Land. The Germans charted the area, planted Nazi flags and even dropped iron swastikas from planes. They decided to call the area 'Neuschwabenland', named after their ship. In the end, the Nazi claim to the area was abandoned in 1945 and no permanent base or whaling station was ever built there.

Conspiracy Theory #4: Antarctica is an ice wall that surrounds the Earth

It’s the turn of the Flat Earthers this time who believe that the world is not spherical but perfectly flat. As for why we can't reach the edges of this flat world is where Antarctica comes into play. Supposedly, Antarctica is not a continent but a gigantic ice wall that surrounds the edges of our planet and the powers that be are preventing any of us from discovering what's on the other side.

Explanation: Satellite data has confirmed the world is round and Antarctica is a continent in the Southern Hemisphere

Copious amounts of satellite imagery from NASA, as well as other independent companies, have confirmed that not only is the Earth round but that Antarctica lies in the Southern Hemisphere. There is no wall of ice surrounding our planet.

Plus, thousands of people visit Antarctica every year and none have reported seeing an ice wall. The continent has also been circumnavigated, again an impossibility if the world were flat and surrounded by a wall of ice.