Nazi Germany’s Expeditions Into Antarctica Has Spawned a Lot of Conspiracy Theories

There are tons of conspiracy theories surrounding Antarctica, but many of them seem to be intertwined with Nazi Germany's interest in the area.

Mustafa Gatollari - Author

Nov. 2 2023, Published 4:15 p.m. ET

Antarctica Conspiracy Theory
Source: Getty Images

The Gist:

  • As a largely uninhabited part of the world, Antarctica has instilled a sense of wonder in many people.
  • From secret Nazi bases to the practice of dark arts, there are a slew of theories pertaining to the continent.
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The gelid desolation of Antarctica has been romanticized in the work of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and depicted as a horrifyingly icy prison where Kurt Russell faces off with an unspeakable horror in The Thing.

There's something about the lonely, icy continent that instills people with a sense of wonder, so it only makes sense that the largely uninhabited part of the world is also home to several conspiracy theories.

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Snow covered mountain peaks in Antarctica
Source: Getty Images

Operation Highjump: the World War II Antarctica conspiracy.

On Sept. 2, 1945, World War II officially ended. Hitler's rise to power was thwarted and the Nazi regime in Germany was toppled. Less than a year later on Aug. 26, 1946, Operation Highjump commenced. The mission, according to Smithsonian magazine, was to explore potential military strongholds by moving a large naval fleet to the South Pole.

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The outlet spoke with historian Dian Olson Belanger, who said that the United States wanted to preempt any Soviet attacks over the North Pole, which was a real fear now that nations were gaining nuclear capabilities.

Admiral Richard Byrd was in charge of the Highjump trek. An accomplished aviator and naval officer, Byrd was in command of 4,700 across 13 ships and 23 aircraft.

admiral byrd - operation highjump
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Admiral Byrd

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Belanger would go onto say that although Byrd was technically in charge of the operation, his name was only used to lend it weight and that the Navy was the one really calling the shots. What those shots were, however, were unclear, because, as the author puts it, the crew really didn't know what they were doing out there or what they were supposed to be surveying.

In December of 1946, three men died in the George 1 airplane crash and although attempts were made to recover their bodies, Belanger said that the crash site was just too dangerous to attempt such a recovery.

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ca. 1947. FROM GENDREAU, N.Y. Little America IV, Ross Ice Shelf, Bay of Whales, Ross Sea, Antarctica: Dr. Paul A. Siple and Rear Admiral Byrd are pictured during the 1947 Antarctic Expedition of Operation Highjump.
Source: Getty Images

Dr. Paul A. Siple and Rear Admiral Byrd pictured during the 1947 Antarctic expedition of Operation Highjump.

The Nazis in Antarctica conspiracy.

This is where Highjump and its subsequent aerial photography follow-up mission that occurred the next year, Windmill, get interesting. It's a well-documented fact that Hitler commissioned Nazi troops to Antarctica. Some say it was simply to collect margarine fat, while others believe that there was a military base constructed there for a variety of research purposes.

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Not long after the war ended in 1945, there were reports of a Nazi submarine that showed up unexpectedly, which led some folks to believe that there were Nazis who kept fighting because they either didn't think the war had ended, or they outright refused to acknowledge Hitler's surrender.

(Original Caption) 11/10/1939-Kiel, Germany: One of Germany's undersea commerce raiders is shown, crew lined up on the decks and officers in the conning tower, as it arrived at the German Naval base at Kiel after a cruise. The German caption calls it "one of our victorius U-boats."
Source: Getty Images

A German U-boat pictured in 1939

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Some speculate that this is why Operation Highjump and Windmill were conducted: to gain reconnaissance on any pre-existing Nazi outposts in Antarctica and even snuff out any remaining Nazi forces that may've been lingering in the area.

But there are other theories as to why the United States was interested in these bases.

While Cool Antarctica lists several compelling arguments as to why it would've probably been impossible for any military power at the time to build a long-form military base that could sustain the cold for extended periods of time in Antarctica, especially in the six-year time frame when the first expedition Hitler commissioned in 1939 occurred, there are nevertheless some fantastical ideas about the nature of the Nazis' interest in the area.

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There's been a ton of speculation regarding occultism among Nazis, with some stating that there were scientists and military leaders looking to blend magic with technological advancements in order to get the upper hand in the world-domination game.

Theories indicate that due to Antarctica's place in occult practices, given its unique placement on the globe and how it pertains to magnetic fields being a conductor of various energies, Nazis were intentionally establishing a base here in order to practice and/or explore some very dark arts.

A picture dated 1939 shows German Nazi Chancellor Adolf Hitler and high rank nazi officers lincluding Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe Hermann Goering (4th R) and Commander in Chief of the German Navy Erich Raeder (2nd L) looking at the three-dimensional map of some countryside.  AFP via Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Hitler pictured in 1939 with high-ran Nazi officers

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This has led folks to believe a whole slew of theories pertaining to Antarctica: that it could possibly be the real last stand of the Nazis and that World War II actually ended later than we believed, or that the U.S. military came upon some unspeakable horrors there that were being conjured up by the Nazis.

Or maybe, the military managed to commandeer these horrors for themselves, and everything's been on a downward trajectory since then. But that's another conspiracy for another day.

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