Under the thick ice of Antarctica lies buried the remains of an advanced civilization, dating back 55,000-65,000 years. So startling was this discovery that world leaders were flown in to the perennially frozen continent to witness for themselves the proof of alien presence on our planet.
Or not. Well, really not. Not at all.
You don’t really believe that claptrap about Antarctica, do you? I tried to warn you about this malarky in 2013. It’s a hoax that just won’t die. Or rather a series of hoaxes.
No, there’s no buried civilization on the southern continent. Humans can barely survive there today with all the high-tech gear and clothing they bring. It’s been that way for the past 34 million years (its deep freeze began about 37 million years back and it’s been iced over the past 15 million).
By the time modern humans began to populate the planet, it was a solid mass of ice. It was even too hostile for the Neanderthals before us – had they even had the technology to reach it (they didn’t). The ice is as deep as 10,285 feet (3,135 meters) and covers 98% of the land. NO civilization now or earlier has built on its ground – only a handful of temporary shelters have ever been built and they rest on the ice.
No “flash frozen” remains of people and buildings have been found under the ice, human or otherwise. None. World leaders never visited archeological sites on the continent because there aren’t any. Nor are there “mysterious” structures or alien remains and there are no tanks or military units defending finds from curious eyes.
It’s all one of those wacky New Age alt-fact hoaxes that keep spreading online, the intellectual equivalent of herpes. This latest one – the flash-frozen archeological site – is from the mind (and I use that word loosely) of uber-wingnut Corey Goode, whose grasp on reality is somewhat shy of an infant’s grip on a car tire. But he has followers who hang on his every word, no matter how wacky and illogical his fantasies are. (and they are increasingly so… he believes there is an “Interplanetary Corporate Conglomerate” building bases down there and claims to have been abducted by “Sigmund from a USAF/DIA/NSA/NRO secret space program…”)
It’s easy to scoff and say this is just the fringe. Goode is clearly not playing with a full deck. You can guffaw and say that someone would have to be bonkers to believe this diaphanous piffle, but we’re a gullible society. You can’t take it for granted we are smart enough to spot a con job. We’re not. This stuff has to be debunked constantly so it doesn’t suck in more of the gullible.
Goode’s nutty notions about under-the-ice ruins are not alone. A story about an alleged “human settlement” found in the Antarctic under 2.3 km of ice keeps resurfacing (if you’ll forgive the pun) on social media and people still fall for it. But the clue to the hoax should have been readily apparent even to the hard of thinking. Look at this photo:
Here’s what the Hoax Alert site said about this particular nonsense:
Of course it is all bunk. The first clue is in the image that goes with the article, reproduced here. The left part is indeed an image from Antarctica, but it was made by Landsat 8. The second image is not even from the same continent: it is a Google maps image from Saqqara in Egypt, showing a buried pyramid.
Pyramids in Antarctica stem, it seems, from cheesy horror and fantasy stories. In H.P. Lovecraft’s 1931 story, At the Mountains of Madness where he describes a bizarre sight during an expedition to the continent:
…a Cyclopean city of no architecture known to man or to human imagination, with vast aggregations of night-black masonry embodying monstrous perversions of geometrical laws and attaining the most grotesque extremes of sinister bizarrerie… There were composite cones and pyramids either alone or surmounting cylinders or cubes or flatter truncated cones and pyramids, and occasional needle-like spires in curious clusters of five. All of these febrile structures seemed knit together by tubular bridges crossing from one to the other at various dizzy heights, and the implied scale of the whole was terrifying and oppressive in its sheer giganticism…
Pure fiction; fun fantasy, but it has a grip on the imagination of those who think he was writing fact. It’s one of the last places of mystery on the planet, so it’s a great place to set crank theories and hoaxes because few people have been there and can confirm or deny any nonsense. John Carpenter set his remake of The Thing in Antarctica. Alien vs Predator is set there. But they’re as real as any of it gets.
Pyramids are ancient, in human terms. There are – according to a peculiar type of wingnut – more recent “hidden” places. Bases. Remnants of Nazi skulduggery. Hidden art treasures stashed below the ice. A secret laboratory where wartime Germans developed flying saucers. The remains of one of a UFO that is really a Nazi flying machine.
Crazy? You bet. But that sort of nuttiness keeps surfacing and has been bandied about by wingnuts since the end of WWII. This month, Motherboard published a story about how this fake news refuses to die:
In the age of Fake News and flat earthers, it’s not hard to see how an outlandish idea could retain currency… rumors of a secret Nazi base harboring Hitler and his inner circle near the South Pole began to spread immediately after the end of the war. The occasion of these rumors was the arrival of a German U-boat at an Argentine naval base in July, 1945, two months after the Nazis surrendered. Newspapers around the world picked up a fallacious Argentine news report that the U-boat had carried Hitler and other ranking Nazis out of Germany to the secret base on Antarctica.
When you consider the “alternate facts” spewed by Kellyanne Conjob – an official in the office of the president paid to lie as part of her job – it’s little wonder that these hoaxes still gets purchase. It’s hard to tell what’s true these days. Well, except that it’s not when you do some actual research and reading about it in credible, reliable sources.
It doesn’t seem to matter how many times these hoaxes get debunked, they always find new wingnuts to keep them alive. You can rail on all you want about how the alleged “pyramids” under the ice are actually natural formations called nunataks, and show image after image to prove they’re just mountains, there are those who are more comfortable with the hoax than the science and logic.
As writer Dean Taylor, in Owlcation, says of the images, when they’re not obviously Photoshopped, they look like ordinary mountains, not pyramids:
The photos are not exactly compelling. The giant “pyramids” with clean edges are clearly mountains. In fact, these mountains look like any mountain range existing in extremely cold climates. The smooth edges and sides are more likely the result of two things: natural erosion and the proximity of the photographer from the mountain when the shot was taken.
Then there is the “giant staircase” hoax perpetuated by the alt-fact paper, The UK Express that purports to show proof of “an alien invasion…” Sigh.
The Express has published many alt-fact stories about the Antarctic, often about UFOs, alien structures and the like. One, in mid-2016, proposed a “14 mile structure ‘buried’ in Antarctica found on Google.” Like a lot of these hoaxes, these things get “found” online without anyone actually being on the continent to prove or disprove them. What’s most amusing are the comments from the so-called discoverer:
He points out brush-type movements over the mass which he says suggests someone is trying to cover something up.
He ponders if it is a research station before adding: “If this masking was removed would we seen the deck of a giant UFO mothership buried in ice?”
Scientists the world over conspire to cover up a giant UFO mothership under a blurry bit of satellite photography taken from 100 or so miles up? That only you could discover after dozens, maybe hundreds of trained scientists, technicians and engineers looking at it couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary? Sure…
Or the “alien ship” touted in the Daily Mail, apparently hidden in a cave, and described as “‘final proof of secret technology’ on Antarctica.”
The “discovery” (as opposed to the Photoshopping activity that actually created it) is ascribed to “UFO hunters.” UFO hunters are like ghost hunters, angel hunters, invisible pink unicorn hunters and paranormal investigators: either sadly deluded folk or con artists. You can’t hunt what doesn’t exist.
In part, the belief caused by the skilful manipulation of the story to give it credibility by subterfuge. As Mick West explains on Metabunk:
But in the fake news realm that’s not exactly what is happening. Instead of “burying” the fact that this photo is just a nunatak, a mountain buried in snow, that fact has been deliberately added to the story to make the more sensationalist interpretation seem more plausible.
This seems counterintuitive, how could debunking a story make it seem more plausible? There are actually a number of reasons, but perhaps the most important is the idea of false balance. If just the sensational story is given then the reader might not give it much thought, just another crazy story. But if we are suddenly told that some scientist has an alternative explanation, then the reader is forced at some level to make a decision as to which seems more likely. They are presented with two alternatives (pyramid made by ancient aliens vs. odd shaped mountain poking through the snow), and they lean towards on or the other.
The funny thing is, even if they pick the correct explanation, the fact that they were given a choice makes the sensationalist explanation seem far more plausible. By presenting two explanations as equal choices (or in this case with the sensationalist explanation given far more weight) it makes it seem as if there’re really a significant chance that either one of them can be correct – and for many people that means a 50/50 probability of it going one way or the other.
So perhaps is not so much “burying the debunk” as “planting the debunk”.
As the Motherboard article concludes:
…the fact that the rumor persists a decade later should come as no surprise. In the era of pizzagate and fake news, we know all too well that the seduction of conspiracy will always trap at least a few believers who are willing to accept the apparent absurdity of a story, so long as it means that all the dots are connected.
It’s a hoax. Period. There are no discoveries of pyramids, ancient civilizations, UFOs or aliens in the Antarctic. None. Never have been, never will be. There are NO conspiracies to keep any facts or truths about the continent from you or anyone else. Any one who claims there are is either delusional or a con artist. Use your critical thinking ability to escape their clutches.