The hollow Earth theory: Arctic openings

Photo by the Space Shuttle Discovery during mission STS-96

I first heard of the hollow Earth theory when I was at work. A former colleague of mine used to tell me all sorts of crazy things and he truly believed in what I’m about to delve into.

The basic premise of hollow Earth is what it says on the tin. Beneath the soil and closer to the core of the Earth there is a huge hollow opening where another species resides and thrives. This idea has been floating around in the minds of scholars and in popular culture for centuries in the form of hell or in the 2008 film ‘Journey to the centre of the Earth’ among a lot of other references. The theory had been in human minds for centuries but it was only in 1692 and with Edmond Halley that the idea really started to take shape.

Scientific research and the birth of Hollow Earth

Halley was a respected astronomer and by the age of 22 had recorded vital statistics about 341 stars. He listed the likes of Christopher Wren and Isaac Newton as his friends and combined with them to solve the puzzle of planetary motion and orbits, he then persuaded Newton to publish his work when the riddle had been answered. Halley sealed his legacy in 1705 when he noticed that some of the comets he had been tracking must’ve been the same one appearing at different times. Halley then successfully predicted it’s return and the now aptly named Halley’s comet is visible from Earth around every 75 years. His work was undoubtedly successful and his claims widely acknowledged as the truth but at 36 years of age Edmond Halley published an article proposing that the Earth contained a hollow shell.

Edmond Halley

The hollow shell is supposedly 500 miles thick with two inner shells and the usual core at the centre. Different atmospheres separate these shells, these atmospheres were luminous with Halley hypothesising that some of this gas escaping was the cause of the Aurora Borealis. The theory was also backed up by Isaac Newton’s data on lunar relative density and the anomalies found. Isaac Newton, in his book Principia, spread the idea that the mass of the Moon will correlate to the mass of the Earth with the ratio 1:26 however this value was proven to be a significant error with the mass ratio closer to 1:81. Halley saw this and wondered why the error was so huge, he supposed it meant the Earth contained huge cavities underneath it’s surface.

In 1707 Leonhard Euler was born and it seemed that Halley had inspired members of another generation. Euler is possibly the most famous mathematician of recent years, even having an asteroid named after him and featuring on Swiss bank notes. It was spread that Euler proposed a theory similar to Halley’s with the only notable differences being that there was only one shell which contained an interior sun which allowed an advanced civilization to survive. This was, however, proved to be false with Euler simply suggesting the Earth was ‘fluid’ with a crust on top of it which is how modern theories also go.

Another scholar with related ideas was the Scotsman John Leslie; Leslie was a physicist born in 1766 and was the first human to artificially produce ice. In 1819 he became chairman of natural philosophy and it is then that, in his book Elements of Natural Philosophy, Leslie claimed a hollow Earth theory.

John Symmes the believer

In the 19th century John Cleves Symmes Jr took over the hollow Earth mantle. Symmes was promoted to Captain in the army before becoming an unsuccessful trader later on in life. His mind, however, was taken up by his theories of hollow Earth and concentric spheres. April 10th 1818 was the date that Symmes finalised and published his hollow Earth theory. The theory was published in an article called Circular No.1 and opened with the words “I declare the Earth is hollow, and habitable within; containing a number of solid concentric spheres, one within the other, and that it is open at the poles; I pledge my life in support of this truth, and am ready to explore the hollow, if the World will support and aid me in the undertaking.”

Symmes spent money out of his own pocket to print out 500 copies of his ‘letter’ and sent them to as many governments, princes, cities, colleges, and scholars as he could afford. He was branded, unsurprisingly, as a lunatic in the media and was a constant source of ridicule but Symmes ploughed on and started a campaign aimed at proving his hypothesis by gaining evidence through a trip to the poles for which he needed funding.

Symmes theory in basic form was that the inside of the Earth was accessible from both the North and South poles, containing just one sphere where people lived and grew food. Symmes was not alone in his theory of entrances by the poles with William Reed and Marshall Gardner the next to subscribe to this ever growing list of hollow Earth supporters.

John Symmes

A growing ‘fanbase’

William Reed published his book The Phantom of the Poles in 1906 claiming that the north pole and south pole do not exist hence why nobody has found them, instead they act as entrances to the hollow Earth. Seven years later Marshall Gardner published one of his 50 books, this one titled A Journey to the Earth’s Interior in which he agreed with Reed about the pole entrances however he pushed forward the notion that their was no separate spheres inside the Earth, just a huge sun to support life forms. Gardner’s evidence to back up his theory was threadbare. A key component to his argument was the discovery of a frozen woolly mammoth in 1846. The mammoth was so well preserved, Gardner thought, because it had only died recently having wandered out of one of the pole entrances as all extinct beings resided in the hollow Earth.

According to R. W. Bernard both Gardner and Reed came up with their theories unbeknown to the others work. Bernard also writes that Gardner “presents astronomical evidence to prove, that not only the Earth, but all planets of the solar system, have hollow interiors and central suns, which he traces to their original formation from a whirling nebula. As a result of centrifugal force, their rotation during their early formation when yet molten caused their heavier constituents to be thrown toward the outside, forming a solid crust on the outer surface of each planet and leaving the interior hollow, while a portion of the original fire remained in the centre to form the central sun. Also the force of their rotation and movements through space caused openings to form at their polar extremities.” As unconvincing as this argument sounds this wasn’t the last of hollow Earth.

Admiral Byrd and the quest for an opening

Literature surrounding hollow Earth was not hard to come by but the evidence pile was dwindling. Supporters of the theory needed hard facts to make their thoughts the truth and Rear Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd Jr sought to prove them right. Admiral Byrd was the recipient of the Medal of Honour and claimed that his Arctic expeditions had seen him reach both North and South pole via air. His claims are disputed.

Admiral Byrd allegedly flew to the North Pole in 1926 and the South Pole in 1929 but it was because of a book published in 1964 by someone completely different that he stands out to many today. R. W. Bernard, mentioned above, was a pseudonym for Walter Siegmeister. Siegmeister published The Hollow Earth: The Greatest Geographical Discovery in History Made by Admiral Richard E. Byrd in the Mysterious Land Beyond the Poles based on Byrd’s expedition in 1956 in which him and his crew delved down 2300 miles deep into the Earth via one of the poles. Whether the expedition actually took place and this happened or whether Siegmeister had good writing skills and a vivid imagination is up for debate but the book contains some extremely hard to believe concepts.

admiral byrd
Admiral Byrd

According to Siegmeister the Eskimos originated from within the centre of the Earth and an advanced species now lives in the hollow shell with UFOs to match. The diary reads “There comes a time when the rationality of men must fade into insignificance and one must accept the inevitability of the Truth! I am not at liberty to disclose the following documentation at this writing … perhaps it shall never see the light of public scrutiny, but I must do my duty and record here for all to read one day. In a world of greed and exploitation of certain of mankind can no longer suppress that which is truth.” It continues, describing Admiral Byrd’s journey and how he enters the hollow opening. Admiral Byrd is then greeted by two ‘hosts’ who arrange a meeting with the master.

“One of my hosts speaks. ‘Have no fear, Admiral, you are to have an audience with the Master…’ I step inside and my eyes adjust to the beautiful coloration that seems to be filling the room completely. Then I begin to see my surroundings. What greeted my eyes is the most beautiful sight of my entire existence. It is in fact too beautiful and wondrous to describe. It is exquisite and delicate. I do not think there exists a human term that can describe it in any detail with justice! My thoughts are interrupted in a cordial manner by a warm rich voice of melodious quality, ‘I bid you welcome to our domain, Admiral.’ I see a man with delicate features and with the etching of years upon his face. He is seated at a long table. He motions me to sit down in one of the chairs. After I am seated, he places his fingertips together and smiles. He speaks softly again, and conveys the following. ‘We have let you enter here because you are of noble character and well-known on the Surface World, Admiral.'”

Admiral Byrd, according to his diary and Siegmeister, is then silenced at a meeting with a Pentagon committee and told to stick to his duties.

Further information and links

Admiral Byrd’s full ‘diary’ is available for you to read here and forge your own opinion. Also take a look at this video from the History Channel with interesting footage of Admiral Byrd on his journeys and a peculiar twist to the theory tale at the end.

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