This invasion of the continent of Antarctica was named ‘Operation High Jump’ and comprised of some 4700 military personnel, six helicopters, six Martin PBM flying boats, two seaplane tenders, fifteen other aircraft, thirteen US Navy support ships and one aircraft carrier; the USS Philippine Sea (left).
It seems incredible that so shortly after a war that had decimated most of Europe and crippled global economies, an expedition to Antarctica was undertaken with so much haste (it took advantage of the first available Antarctic summer after the war), at such cost, and with so much military hardware - unless the operation was absolutely essential to the security of the United States.
At the time of the operation, the US Navy itself was being taken apart piece by piece as the battle-tested fleet was decommissioned with its mostly civilian crew bidding farewell to the seas forever. The Navy was even reduced to further recruitment to man the few remaining ships in service (1).
Tensions across the globe were also mounting as Russia and America edged into a Cold War, possibly a Third World War that the US would have to fight with "tragically few ships and tragically half trained men (2)." This made the sending of nearly 5,000 residual Navy personnel to a remote part of the planet where so much danger lurked in the form of icebergs, blizzards and sub-zero temperatures even more of a puzzle. The operation was also launched with incredible speed, "a matter of weeks (3)." Perhaps it would not be uncharitable to conclude that the Americans had some unfinished business connected with the war in the polar region. Indeed this was later confirmed by other events and the operation’s leader, Admiral Richard Byrd, himself.
However, the official instructions issued by the then Chief of Naval Operations, Chester W. Nimitz (right), himself of German descent, were: to (a) train personnel and test material in the frigid zones; (b) consolidate and extend American sovereignty over the largest practical area of the Antarctic continent; (c) to determine the feasibility of establishing and maintaining bases in the Antarctic and to investigate possible base sites; (d) to develop techniques for establishing and maintaining air bases on the ice, (with particular attention to the later applicability of such techniques to Greenland) and (e) amplify existing knowledge of hydrographic, geographic, geological, meteorological and electromagnetic conditions in the area (4).
Little other information was released to the media about the mission, although most journalists were suspicious of its true purpose given the huge amount of military hardware involved. The US Navy also strongly emphasised that Operation Highjump was going to be a navy show; Admiral Ramsey’s preliminary orders of 26th August 1946 stated that "the Chief of Naval Operations only will deal with other governmental agencies" and that "no diplomatic negotiations are required. No foreign observers will be accepted." Not exactly an invitation to scrutiny, even from other arms of the government.
Admiral Byrd (centre), was a strategic choice as he was a national hero to the Americans; he had pioneered the technology that would be a foundation for modern polar exploration and investigation, had been repeatedly decorated, had undertaken many expeditions to Antarctica and was also the first man to fly over both poles.
However, the task force itself, remained strictly under the military command of Rear Admiral Richard Cruzen (above, left).
The ships of the central group entered the ice pack off the Ross Sea on 31st December 1946 and found conditions as bad as had been noted for over a century. Icebreakers such as the USCGC Burton Island (below), a ship that had only recently been commissioned and was still undergoing sea trials off the Californian coast when Operation High Jump was launched, fought to cut a way through the ice to help the men land. (Again, pulling a newly commissioned ship off trials adds to the sense of the urgency of the overall operation.)
The main force was divided into three groups. The Central Group comprised of the USS Mt. Olympus (communications); USS Yancey (supply); USS Merrick (Supply); USS Sennet (submarine); USCGC Burton Island (Icebreaker) and USCGC Northwind (icebreaker.) The East Group consisted of the USS Pine Island (seaplane tender); USS Brownson (destroyer) and the USS Canisteo (tanker). Finally there was the West Group which was made up of the USS Currituck (seaplane tender); the USS Henderson (Destroyer) and the USS Capapon (tanker.) (The operation also had the aircraft carrier USS Philippine and a Base Group headed by Commander Clifford M. Campbell.
Following its arrival at Antarctica, the force began a reconnaissance of the continent. Byrd himself was onboard the first of the planes to take off on 29th January 1947. Rocket propulsion tubes (JATO bottles) had been attached to the side of the aircraft and the carrier was manoeuvred for a 35mph run to help get the planes airborne. "From the vibration of the great carrier", Byrd later wrote, "I knew when the captain had got the ship up to about 30 knots (35 mph). We seemed to creep along the deck at first and it looked as if we would never make it … But when our four JATO bottles went off along the sides of the plane with a terrific, deafening noise I could see the deck fall away. I knew we had made it (5)."
Over the next four weeks the planes spent 220 hours in the air, flying a total of 22,700 miles and taking some 70,000 aerial photographs (6).
Then the mission that had been expected to last for between 6-8 months, came to an early and faltering end. The Chilean press reported that the mission had "run into trouble" and that there had been "many fatalities". (The official record, though, states that one plane crashed killing three men; a fourth man had perished on the ice; two helicopters had gone down although their crews had been rescued and a task force commander was nearly lost (7).)
The Chilean claims to one side, it is known that the Central Group of Operation Highjump were evacuated by the Burton Island ice-breaker from the Bay of Whales (above) on 22nd February 1947; the Western Group headed home on 1st March 1947 and the Eastern Group did likewise on 4th March, a mere eight weeks after arrival.
Quite what was going on is still not a matter of public record, however it is known that Byrd was immediately summoned to Washington and interrogated by the Security Services on his return after being initially ‘welcomed back’ by Secretary of Defense James Forrestal (left) on 14th April 1947. (Forrestal was late to commit suicide.)
On 5th March 1947 the ‘El Mercurio’ newspaper of Santiago, Chile, ran the headline ‘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 defence measures against hostile regions. The Admiral further stated that he didn’t want to frighten anyone unduly but 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.
Admiral Byrd repeated the above points of view, resulting from his personal knowledge gathered both at the north and south poles, before a news conference held for International News Service." Bearing in mind that all this occurred (the search for craft that could fly from pole to pole at ‘incredible’ speeds) a year after the war had ended with Germany defeated, makes it all the more intriguing.
So who was the enemy that owned or flew these flying objects? Germany was apparently defeated, and there was no evidence that the new emerging enemy, Russia, had such superior technologies. Certainly there was no other known country whose activities that could explain the US invasion of Antartica nor for the development of any craft that could fly "fly from Pole to pole with incredible speeds." Rumours began to circulate that whilst Germany had been defeated, a selection of military personnel and scientists had fled the fatherland as Allied troops swept across mainland Europe and established themselves at a base on Antarctica from where they continued to develop advanced aircraft based on extraterrestrial technologies. (It is interesting to note that at the end of the war the Allies determined that there were 250,000 Germans unaccounted for, even taking into account casualties and deaths.)
Incredible as it may sound, there is considerable supporting evidence for these claims about a German base for, on the very eve of the Second World War, the Germans themselves had invaded part of Antartica and claimed it for the Third Reich.
In fact Hitler had authorised several expeditions to the poles shortly before WWII. Their stated objective was to either to rebuild and enlarge Germany’s whaling fleet or test out weaponry in severely hostile conditions. Yet, if true, all of this could have been achieved at the North Pole rather than at both poles and been much closer to home.
The Germans had long held an interest in the South Polar region of Antarctica with the first Germanic research of that area being undertaken in 1873 when Sir Eduard Dallman (1830-1896) discovered new Antarctic routes with his ship ‘Grönland’ during his expedition for the German polar Navigation Company of Hamburg. (The Grönland also achieved the distinction of being the first steamer to operate in the southern ocean.)
A further expedition took place in the early years of the twentieth century in the ship the Gauss (which became embedded in the ice for 12 months – above), and then a further expedition took place in 1911 under the command of Wilhelm Filchner (left) with his ship the ‘Deutchland’.
Between the wars, the Germans made a further voyage in 1925 with a specially designed ship for the Polar Regions, the ‘Meteor’ under the command of Dr. Albert Merz.
Then, in the years directly preceding the Second World War, the Germans laid claim to parts of Antarctica in order to set up a permanent base there. Given that no country actually ‘owned’ the continent and it couldn’t exactly be conquered as no-one lived there during the winter months at least, it appeared to the Germans that the most effective way to ‘conquer’ part of the continent was to physically travel there, claim it, let others know of their actions and await any disagreements.
Captain Alfred Ritscher (right) was chosen to lead the proposed strike. He had already led expeditions to the North Pole and had proved himself in adverse and critical situations.
For the mission Ritscher was given the ‘Schwabenland’ (below); a German aircraft carrier that had been used for transatlantic mail deliveries by special flightboats, the famous 10 ton Dornier Super ‘Wals’ since 1934.
These ‘Wals’ were launched by catapult from the Schwabenland and had to be accelerated to 93mph before they could become airborne. At the end of each flight a crane on the ship lifted the aircraft back on board after they landed in the sea.
The ship was refitted for the expedition in the shipyards of Hamburg, and around one million Reichmark – nearly a third of the entire expedition budget - was spent on this refit alone.
The crew was prepared for the mission by the German Society of Polar Research and as these preparations neared completion, the organisation invited Admiral Byrd to address them, which he did.
The Schwabenland left the port of Hamburg on 17th December 1938 and followed a precisely planned and determined route towards the southern continent. In little over a month the ship arrived at the ice covered Antarctica, dropping anchor at 4° 30¢ W and 69° 14¢ S on January 20th 1939 (8).
The expedition then spent three weeks off Princess Astrid Coast and Princess Martha Coast off Queen Maud Land (9). During these weeks, the two Schwabenland aircraft, the ‘Passat’ and ‘Boreas’, flew 15 missions across some 600,000 square kilometres of Antarctica, taking more than 11,000 pictures of the area with their specially designed ‘Zeiss Reihenmess-bildkameras RMK 38’. (One of these photographs, below left.)
These pictures showed that some of the older Norwegian maps of the area from 1931 were not only inaccurate, but occasionally fabricated, as the original ‘maps’ bore no resemblance to the photographic images now obtained. (In fact the Norwegian expeditions that had prepared these earlier maps had never actually gone as far inland as some of the areas detailed on their maps.)
Nearly one fifth of Antarctica was reconnoitred in this way and, for the first time, ice-free areas with lakes and signs of vegetation were discovered.
This area was then declared to be under the control of the German expedition, renamed ‘Neu-Schwabenland’ and hundreds of small stakes, carrying the swastika, were dumped on the snow-covered ground from the ‘Wals’ to signal the new ownership.
Ritscher and the Schwabenland left their newly claimed territory in the middle of February 1939 and returned to Hamburg two months later, complete with photographs and maps of the new German acquisition.
The true purpose of this expedition has never been satisfactorily explained; we are merely left with a series of puzzles, related reports and snippets of information that are no longer open to verification. What is not open to doubt however, is that in the decade preceding the Second World War, the Germans did almost nothing that did not put the entire structure of the country on a war footing.
This activity affected all aspects of German life; military, civilian, economic, social and foreign policies, engineering, industry etc. Given that the seizing of Neu-Schwabenland occurred on the very eve of the war, it can only be concluded that that the polar expedition was of major importance and significance to the goals and development of the planned 1000-year Third Reich.
And this ‘invasion’ was certainly not the end to German activity in the area; rather the prelude, providing support for the idea that Germany might have established a base on the apparently frozen wasteland.
That German activity continued around Antarctica through the war years is a matter of historical record. In 1939, the ship ‘Schleswig-Holstein’ is reported to have inspected Iles Kerguelen, Ile Saint-Paul, Ile Amsterdam, Iles Crozet, Prince Edward Islands, and Gough Island and later visited Cape Town (10).
During the period 1939 – 1941 Captain Bernhard Rogge of the raider ship ‘Atlantis’ (pictured left in the icy waters off Antarctica) made an extended voyage in the South Atlantic, Indian and South Pacific Oceans, and visited the Iles Kerguelen between December 1940 to January 1941 (burying a seaman at Bassin de la Gazelle).
The Atlantis is known to have been visited by an RFC-2 (the ‘UFO’ style craft which had served as a reconnaissance aircraft since late 1940.) The ship then adopted a new disguise as Tamesis before being sunk by HMS Devonshire near Ascension Island, on 22nd November 1941 (the Atlantis was also known as Hilfskreuzer 16 and was, at various times, disguised as Kasii-Maru or Abbekerk. (11).)
Although the activities of the German ship Erlangen, under the captaincy of Alfred Grams, do not appear to be of consequence during 1939-40, the same cannot be said of the Komet which was commanded by Captain Robert Eyssen. Following her passage along the Northern Sea Route in 1940, this commerce raider operated in the Pacific and Indian oceans, including a voyage along the Antarctic coastline from Cape Adare to the Shackleton Ice Shelf in search of whaling vessels during February 1941. There she met the Pinguin and supply vessels Alstertor and Adjutant. (Komet was also known as Hilfskreuzer 45 and was sunk off Cherbourg in 1942 (12).)
The Pinguin itself under the command of Captain Ernst-Felix Kruder was a commerce raider that operated chiefly in the Indian Ocean. In January 1941 she captured a Norwegian whaling fleet (factory ships Ole Wegger and Pelagos, supply ship Solglimt and eleven whale catchers) in about 59° S, 02° 30W. One of these catchers (renamed Adjutant) remained as a tender and the rest were sent to France. This ship also made anchorages at the Iles Kerguelen and may have landed a party on Marion Island. (Pinguin was sunk off the Persian Gulf by HMS Cornwall0 on 8th May 1941 after she had captured 136,550 tons of British and allied shipping. She was also known as Hilfskreuzer 33, and disguised herself at various times as Tamerlan, Petschura, Kassos and Trafalgar (13).)
This island of Kerguelen (named the ‘Most Useless Island In the World’ in 1995) continued to feature prominently in Nazi plans. For example, in 1942 the German Navy planned to establish a meteorological station there. In May of that year the ship Michel (Hilfskreuzer 28) transferred a meteorologist and two radio operators with full equipment to a supply vessel Charlotte Schlieman that went on to the island, however the orders for the station were later counter-manded (14). (Kerguelen Island was also the centre of a mid 19th Century mystery. Then entirely uninhabited, except for seals and seabirds, British Captain Sir James Clark Ross landed there in May 1840. He found in the snow unidentifiable "traces … of the singular footprints of a pony, or ass, being 3 inches in length and 2½ inches in breadth, having a small deeper depression in either side, and shaped like a horseshoe." Similar markings appeared overnight in the Devon area of England fifteen years later and have also defied adequate explanation.)
Then in 1942 Captain Gerlach in his ship the ‘Stier’ investigated nearby Gough Island as a possible temporary base for raiders and a camp for prisoners. (Stier was also known as Hilfskreuzer 23.)
This ship activity does not appear considerable, however the level of U-boat activity in the South Atlantic was much higher. The exact nature and extent of how high will probably never be known, however some insight might be gleaned from the fact that between October 1942 and September 1944 16 German U-boats were sunk in the South Atlantic area (see Appendix I).
Apart from their normal patrols, some of these submarines did appear to be engaged in covert activities. For example submarine U-859 which, on 4th April 1944 at 04.40hrs, left on a mission carrying 67 men and 33 tons of mercury sealed in glass bottles in watertight tin crates. The submarine was later sunk on 23rd September by a British submarine (HMS Trenchant) in the Straits of Malacca and although 47 of the crew died, 20 survived. Some 30 years later one of these survivors spoke openly about the cargo and divers later confirmed the story on rediscovering the mercury. The significance being that mercury is usable as a fuel source for certain types of aerospace propulsion. Why would a German submarine be transporting such a cargo so far from home?
Although this is the known record of Nazi activity around Antarctica before 8th May 1945 when Germany surrendered unconditionally to the Allies, events after that date suggested something was happening that did not form a part of recognised world history. Something fuelled by a statement made by Karl Dönitz (left).
Dönitz (16th September 1891 – 24th December 1980) had become Oberbefehlshaber der Kriegsmarine on 31st January 1943 and he led the German U-Boat fleet until the end of World War II. (Dönitz also has the distinction of briefly becoming head of the German state for 20 days after Hitler’s death until his own capture by the Allies on 23rd May 1945.) His contribution to the mystery of post-war Antarctic activity came in a statement he made in 1943 when he declared that the German submarine fleet had rebuilt "in another part of the world a Shangri-La land – an impregnable fortress." Could he have been referring to the alleged base in Antarctica?
Certainly there are records of continued German naval activity in the area after the war had apparently ended. For example, on 10th July 1945, more than two months after the cessation of known hostilities, the German submarine U-530 surrendered to Argentine authorities. The background to this event is puzzling. It is known that the boat had left Lorient in France on 22nd May 1944 under the captaincy of Otto Wermuth for operations in the Trinidad area, and after successfully rendezvousing with the incoming Japanese submarine I-52, it headed for Trinidad before finally returning to base after 133 days at sea.
The boat’s official record states that between October 1944 and May 1945 it formed part of the 33rd Flotilla and on Germany’s surrender Otto Wermuth’s captaincy and the submarine’s career came to an end. Yet two months later it arrived in Rio de la Plata in Argentina and surrendered to the authorities there on 10th July 1945.
History also records that the U-boat, U-977, left Kristiansand in Norway on 2nd May 1945 for combat patrol in the English Channel. After Germany’s surrender, Captain Heinz Schäffer decided to head for the South Atlantic but he first gave the married men on board the chance to go ashore; 16 of them took Schäffer up the offer.
After a 66-day submerged trip, and a further run on the surface, U-977 arrived in Mar del Plata, Argentina on 17th August, and later surrendered to the US in Boston on 13th November 1945 three months later. Its activities during this period are unknown.
This incident occurred shortly after the end of the war, however, there continued to be accounts of German activity for a considerable post-war period. The French ‘Agence France Press’ on 25th September 1946 stated "the continuous rumours about German U-boat activity in the region of Tierra del Fuego [‘Feuerland’ in German] between the southernmost tip of Latin America and the continent of Antarctica are based on true happenings."
Then the French newspaper, ‘France Soir’ gave the following account of an encounter with such a German U-boat. "Almost 1 – ½ years after cessation of hostilities in Europe, the Icelandic Whaler ‘Juliana’ was stopped by a large German U-boat. The Juliana was in the Antarctic region around Malvinas Islands [The Falklands] when a German submarine surfaced and raised the German official Flag of Mourning – red with a black edge.
"The submarine commander sent out a boarding party, which approached the Juliana in a rubber dingy, and having boarded the whaler demanded of Capt. Hekla part of his fresh food stocks. The request was made in the definite tone of an order to which resistance would have been unwise.
"The German officer spoke a correct English and paid for his provisions in US dollars, giving the Captain a bonus of $10 for each member of the Juliana crew. Whilst the foodstuffs were being transferred to the submarine, the submarine commander informed Capt. Hekla of the exact location of a large school of whales. Later the Juliana found the school of whales where designated."
Could it be possible that other German U-boats, in addition to U-530 and U-977 were continuing to operate in the area following the war? There are no formal records of such activity, however it is known that 54 German U-boats ‘disappeared’ during the war, of which only 11 are likely to have met their fate at the hands of mines (see appendix II).
The future may well reveal that fate of more of these submarines, however given the French and South American reports, and the number of missing U-boats, it may not be unreasonable to conclude that at least some of them relocated to the South Polar area.
History also gives us further clues as to a Nazi-Antarctica connection, for it records that Hans-Ulrich Rudel (above) was being groomed by Hitler to be his successor. It is known that Rudel made frequent trips to Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America nearest Antarctica. And one of Martin Bormann’s last messages from the bunker in Berlin to Dönitz also mentioned Tierra del Fuego.
Then there are claims about Rudolph Hess (below), Hitler’s best friend who went to England and was arrested as a war criminal on 10th May 1941. Following his arrest, Hess was held in Spandau Prison in isolation until his death. Such unique treatment is suggestive that he had information that the Allies considered dangerous. Indeed, in his book ‘Secret Nazi Polar Expeditions’ Christof Friedrich states Hess "was entrusted with the all-important Antarctic file … Hess, himself, kept the Polar file…" (15)
However, for Operation Highjump to have been an attempt to ferret out a remaining Nazi base on the Antarctic continent, there would have been two prerequisites. Firstly, Operation Highjump would have to provide evidence that the mission included a reconnaissance of Neu-Swabenland and secondly, there would have to be an area of the frozen continent that could allow such a base to exist throughout the year. And indeed both criteria are met.
Both the Eastern and Western Groups of Operation Highjump had been active around Neu-Schwabenland. So was a Russian boat that "proved to be unfriendly" (16).
The Eastern group were frustrated in their efforts to make a reconnaissance of the area, despite incredible efforts to secure photographs for later examination. However by then "it was very late in the season ... The sun had only been briefly glimpsed in the past few weeks, but everyone could tell that the continually grey skies and clouds were darkening daily. In another month all light would be gone from Antarctica…. The waters girdling the continent would begin to freeze rapidly, binding unwary ships in a crushing embrace … Dufek [the commander] was loath to surrender. He ordered his ships northwards away from the pack. Perhaps one or two more flights might be possible. But on the morning of 3 March … virgin ice was seen to be forming on the water’s surface [and the] Eastern group steamed out of Antarctica. (17)"
The Western Group, however, were to make a remarkable discovery. At the end of January 1947 a PBM piloted by Lieutenant Commander David Bunger of Coronado, California, flew from his ship, the Currituck and headed towards the continent’s Queen Mary Coast. On reaching land, Bunger flew west for a time, then, coming up over the featureless, white horizon, he saw a dark, bare area which Byrd later described as "a land of blue and green lakes and brown hills in an otherwise limitless expanse of ice." (18)
Bunger and his men carefully reconnoitred the area before racing back to the Currituck with news of their find. The ‘oasis’ they had discovered covered an area of some three hundred square miles of the continent and contained three large, open water lakes along with a number of smaller lakes. These lakes were separated by masses of barren, reddish-brown rocks possibly indicating the presence of iron ore.
Several days later, Bunger returned to the area, and found that the water was warm to the touch and the lake itself was filled with red, blue and green algae giving it a distinctive colour. Bunger filled a bottle with the water which later "turned out to be brackish, a clue to the fact that the ‘lake’ was actually an arm of the open sea." (19)
This is important for two reasons; warm, inland lakes connected to the surrounding oceans would be perfect for submarines to hide within, and similar lakes have been noted in Neu-Schwabenland, the site of the alleged Nazi base.
There is no conclusive evidence of a Nazi base on Antarctica, however that something untoward was happening on, or around, the frozen continent appears, on balance of probabilities, to be likely. The evidence is there;
i) The Germans invaded and claimed part of Antarctica on the very eve of the war when all of their activity was geared towards the war machine and the establishment of a 1000-year Reich.
ii) There was ongoing ship and submarine activity in the South Atlantic and polar regions throughout and after the war had apparently ended.
iii) The US invaded the continent itself with considerable naval resources leaving mainland America exposed and vulnerable as the world edged into the Cold War. The task force limped home as if defeated only weeks later, and the local South American press wrote of such a defeat.
iv) Admiral Byrd spoke of objects that could fly from pole to pole at incredible speeds being based on Antarctica.
v) Hundreds of thousands of Germans and numerous U-boats were missing at the end of the war.
The connection between Antarctica and the UFO phenomenon was sealed with claims made by one Albert K. Bender who stated that he "went into the fantastic and came up with an answer … I know what the saucers are."
Bender ran an organisation called the ‘International Flying Saucer Bureau’ a small UFO organisation based in Connecticut, USA and he also edited a publication known as the ‘Space Review’ which was committed to the dissemination of news about UFOs. In truth, the organisation had only a small membership and the publication circulated amongst hundreds rather than thousands, but that its members and readers valued it was in little doubt. The publication itself advocated that flying saucers were spacecraft of extraterrestrial origin.
Then, in the October 1953 edition of ‘Space Review’, there were two major announcements. The first was headed ‘Late Bulletin’ and stated "A source which the IFSB considers very reliable has informed us that the investigation of the flying saucer mystery and the solution is approaching final stages. This same source to whom we had referred data, which had come into our possession, suggested that it was not the proper method and time to publish the data in Space Review."
The second announcement read "Statement of Importance: The mystery of the flying saucers is no longer a mystery. The source is already known, but any information about this is being withheld by order from a higher source. We would like to print the full story in Space Review, but because of the nature of the information we are very sorry that we have been advised in the negative." The statement ended in the sentence "We advise those engaged in saucer work to please be very cautious."
These announcements were of little significance in themselves. What gained them wider attention was the fact that immediately after publishing this October 1953 issue, Bender suspended further publication of the magazine and closed the IFSB down without any further explanation.
Bender might have known "what the flying saucers" were, but he later revealed in a local newspaper interview that he was keeping his knowledge a secret following a visit by three men who apparently confirmed he was right about his UFO theory, but put him in sufficient fear to immediately close down his organisation and cease publication of the journal. It has been argued that the story of being visited by three strangers and being ‘warned off’ was a front to close a publication that was losing money, however the fact that Bender had been "scared to death" and "actually couldn’t eat for a couple of days" was verified by his friends and associates.
However, in 1963, a full decade after his visit from the three strangers, Bender was seemingly prepared to reveal more of his story in a largely unreadable book entitled ‘Flying Saucers and the Three Men in Black.’ The book was scant on facts however intriguingly described extraterrestrial spacecraft that had bases in Antarctica. This was apparently the truth Bender was terrorised into not revealing. Bender also provided images of the saucers he was aware of. Yet again we see a drawing of his UFO with the three bubbles underneath, reminiscent of the Haunebu II alongside a cigar shaped object, of which more later.
Ernst Zundel, a German scientist turned author who had entered the US under Operation Paperclip at the end of the war and who worked at Wright Field (later Wright Patterson AFB where the alleged Roswell debris was housed), also made claims about the nature of the activity in Antartica.
In the 1970s Zundel wrote a book ‘UFOs: Nazi Secret Weapons?’ in which he claimed that UFOs were secret Nazi weapons developed during the Second World War, and some of them had been shipped out towards the end of the war and hidden at the poles. Publication of the book coincided with a tidal wave of renewed interest in all things spiritual, and Zundel was invited on to countless talk shows to share his views on spaceships, free energies, electromagnetism, emergent technologies and some of the positive contributions made by the Germans under the Third Reich in these fields (26).
Zundel was actually only really interested in promoting his holocaust theory, described in his book ‘Did Six Million Really Die?’ however found that his Nazi and ‘Hollow Earth’ ideas proved a greater attraction to television producers. Zundel explains: "I realised that North Americans were not interested in being educated. They want to be entertained. The book was for fun. With a picture of the Fuhrer on the cover and flying saucers coming out of Antarctica it was a chance to get on radio and TV talk shows. For about 15 minutes of an hour program I’d talk about that esoteric stuff. Then I would start talking about all those Jewish scientists in concentration camps, working on these secret weapons. And that was my chance to talk about what I wanted to talk about." (27)
The idea however, gripped the popular imagination and took on a life of its own. Zundel’s publishing company, ‘Samisdat’, started to make a name for itself by issuing newsletters and books on the subject. An expedition to Antarctica itself was even proposed to seek out ‘Hitler’s UFO bases’ there. (See advert, above.)
Yet such claims would have died out had they not been based on at least some real events. That something strange was happening around the foreboding continent took an interesting turn in the 1960s when the Argentine Navy was charged with the official investigation into strange sightings in the sky. A 1965 official report prepared by Captain Sanchez Moreno of the Naval Air Station Comandante Espora in Bahia Blanca stated:
"Between 1950 and 1965, personnel of Argentina’s Navy alone made 22 sightings of unidentified flying objects that were not airplanes, satellites, weather balloons or any type of known (aerial) vehicles. These 22 cases served as precedents for intensifying that investigation of the subject by the Navy (20)." Following a series of sightings at Argentine and Chilean meteorological stations on Deception Island, Antarctica, in June and July 1965, Captain Engineer Omar Pagani disclosed at a press conference that "the unidentified flying objects do exist. Their presence in Argentine airspace is proven. Their nature and origin are unknown and no judgement is made about them." (21)
More details of these UFO sightings were given in a report in the Brazilian newspaper ‘O Estado de Sao Paulo’ in its 8th July 1965 edition. "For the first time in history, an official communiqué has been published by a government about the flying saucers. It is a document from the Argentine Navy, based on the statements of a large number of Argentine, Chilean and British sailors stationed in the naval base in Antarctica.
The communiqué declared that the personnel of Deception Island (left) naval base saw, at nineteen hours forty minutes on 3 July, a flying object of lenticular shape, with a solid appearance and a colouring in which red and green prevailed and, for a few moments, yellow. The machine was flying in a zig-zag fashion, and in a generally western direction, but it changed course several times and changed speed, having an inclination of about forty-five degrees above the horizon. The craft also remained stationary for about twenty minutes at a height of approximately 5,000 meters, producing no sound.
The communiqué states moreover that the prevailing meteorological conditions when the phenomenon was observed can be considered excellent for the region in question and the time of year. The sky was clear and quite a lot of stars were visible.
The Secretariat of the Argentine Navy also states in its communiqué that the occurrence was witnessed by scientists of the three naval bases and that the facts described by these people agree completely." (22)
In March 1950 Commodore Augusto Vars Orrego of the Chilean Navy shot still pictures and 8mm movie footage of a very large cigar shaped flying object that hovered over and manoeuvred about in the frigid skies above the Chilean Antarctic. Orrego stated "during the bright Antarctic night, we saw flying saucers, one above the other, turning at tremendous speeds. We have photographs to prove what we saw (23)." There have been other Chilean sightings.
Then during January 1956 an event was witnessed by a group of Chilean scientists who had been flown by helicopter to Robertson Island in the Wendell Sea to study geology, fauna and other features. This experience was the subject of a later article entitled ‘A Cigar-Shaped UFO over Antarctica.’ "At the beginning of January 1956, during a period of stormy weather, the party suddenly became aware of something which, in other circumstances, could have been very grave for them. This was that their radio had mysteriously ceased to function. This was not too worrying a disaster in so much as it was firmly settled that the helicopter would return to take them off again on January 20."
One of the scientists, a doctor, was in the habit of getting up in the night to observe anything of meteorological interest, but another of the group, a professor, did not like to be disturbed. However on the night of 8th January 1956, the Doctor decided to wake the professor. He "pointed upwards, almost overhead. Still in a bad temper through being disturbed, [the professor] looked as directed, and beheld two ‘metallic’ cigar-shaped objects in verticular positions, perfectly still and silent, and flashing vividly the reflected rays of the sun."
Soon after 7.00am, two other members of the party, an assistant and a medical orderly joined the two men. The group watched the two craft. "At about 9.00am object No. 1 (the nearest to the zenith) suddenly assumed a horizontal posture and shot away like a flash towards the west. It had now lost its metallic brightness and had taken on the whole gamut of visible colours of the spectrum, from infrared to ultra-violet.
"Without slowing down it performed an incredible acute-angle change of direction, shot off across another section of the sky and then did another sharp turn as before. These vertiginous manoeuvres, the zig-zagging, abrupt stopping, instantaneous accelerating, went on for some time right overhead, the object always following tangential trajectories in respect to the Earth and all in the most absolute silence.
"The demonstration lasted about five minutes. Then the object returned and took up position beside its companion in almost the same area of the sky as before, but now it was the turn of No. 2 to show its paces and do a weird zigzagging dance. Shooting off towards the east, it performed a series of ten dispointed bursts of flight, broken by brusque changes of direction, and marked by the same colour changes when accelerating or stopping, and so on. After about three minutes of this, object No. 2 returned and took up its station near its companion, and reassumed its original solid and metallic appearance.
"The scientists had with them two Geiger-Miller counters of high sensitivity, one of the auditory and the other of the flash-type. When the two objects had finished their dance and reassumed their stations in the sky, someone discovered that the flash-type Geiger counter now showed that radioactivity around them had suddenly increased 40 times – enough to kill any organism subjected long enough to it. The discovery greatly increased the anxiety felt by the four men …
"Although they had no telescopic lens, they did however have cameras with them, and they took numerous photographs of the objects, both in colour and black and white. We are not told in the report what became of these photographs." (24).
Five years later there was another documented account of a UFO sighting over Antarctica by Rubens Junqueira Villela, a meteorologist and the first Brazilian scientist to participate in an expedition to the white continent, now a veteran of eleven expeditions to Antarctica (two with the US Navy, eight with the Brazilian Antarctic Programme and another on the sailing ship Rapa Nui). Whilst on board the US Navy icebreaker Glacier (below) which had set sail from New Zealand at the end of January 1961, Villela claims that he witnessed a UFO event in the skies over Antarctica which he immediately recorded in his diary, even including the emotions felt by all those involved. During 16th March 1961 and after a fierce storm had forced the expedition to retreat to Admiralty Bay in the King George Isles, "a strange light suddenly crossed the sky, and everyone started to shout.
"‘It’s a missile!’ said one excited Marine. ‘No, it’s a meteor,’ barked another member of the crew. The excitement was wide-spread and growing. Trying to describe the light which appeared over Almirantado Bay wasn’t easy … I wrote in my diary: ‘Positively the colours, the configuration and contours of the object, as a bodied [sic] light, with geometric forms, did not seem to be from this world, and I did not know what could possibly reproduce it."
"The object was multi-coloured and had a luminous body –oval-shaped. It left a long tube-like orange/red trail. Suddenly, it split into two pieces, as if it had exploded. Each part shone even more intensively, with white, blue and red colours projecting ‘V’ shaped rays behind it. Quite quickly they moved away and could be seen 200 meters above the ground … Throughout the sighting no noise was heard by any of the witnesses."
"The US Navy officially registered the incident as "a meteor or some other natural luminous phenomenon" according to the report submitted by the Glacier’s captain, Captain Porter.
As a trained meteorologist, Villela easily dismissed the official line. "How could they mistake a meteor with an object carrying antennae, completely symmetrical and followed by a tail without any sight of atmospheric disturbance?" (25)
"The renowned sceptic and self-styled debunker, Phillip Klaus, believes this episode is a classic example of ‘plasma’, however the late meteorologist, James McDonald argued that the highly structured nature of the object and the low cloud overcast present at about 1500 feet were not compatible with Klass’s hypothesis.
The South Atlantic area was also host to another sighting on 16th January 1958 when the Brazilian naval vessel Almirante Salddanha was escorting a team of scientists to a weather station on Trindade Island. As the ship approach the island (or rather an outcrop of rock) a UFO reportedly swooped past the ship, circled the island, then flew off in front of dozens of witnesses.
One of these witnesses, the expedition photographer, took a number of photographs of the object, and later the film was handed over to the military by the Captain. After analysis, the Brazilian government released the film stating that they were unable to account for the images.
Whatever was going on in the Antarctic region, it certainly wasn’t happening in isolation.