Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd, historic American icon famous for his explorations of the Earth’s polar extremities, was widely regarded during his lifetime as a pioneer and hero. A decorated naval officer, Byrd even received the Medal of Honor in 1926 for his alleged flight to the North Pole (though the legitimacy of this claim was later disputed by a number of researchers). However, in spite of the scientific and historic merit of Byrd’s achievements, there are less widely-publicized theories which suggest Byrd was onto something that went far deeper than his exploration of the surface world.
The fringe beliefs associated with Admiral Byrd’s exploits spin off in a variety of strange directions, all of which seem to belong more in the realm of science fiction than historical fact. For example, some accounts have claimed the famous explorer, while visiting the polar regions, actually discovered entrances to a vast Hollow Earth, in which lost civilizations with advanced UFO flying craft existed. One book dealing with this notion, The Hollow Earth: The Greatest Geographical Discovery in History Made by Admiral Richard E. Byrd in the Mysterious Land Beyond the Poles, was published in 1964 by Raymond W. Bernard (a pseudonym for a man named Walter Siegmeister). Bernard’s name would appear again on a “secret diary” attributed to Byrd, allegedly authored in February of 1947, for which Bernard contributed an introduction. Though the claims made within the document would have coincided with the abrupt closure of Byrd’s famous Antarctic expedition “Operation Highjump” (which was curiously terminated six months earlier than expected), the testimony included within the supposed diary is outlandish at best. Below is an excerpt, dated February 19, 1947, describing Byrd’s arrival over the polar extremities at 1000 Hours:
We are crossing over the small mountain range and still proceeding northward as best as can be ascertained. Beyond the mountain range is what appears to be a valley with a small river or stream running through the center portion. There should be no green valley below! Something is definitely wrong and abnormal here! We should be over Ice and Snow! To the portside are great forests growing on the mountain slopes. Our navigation Instruments are still spinning, the gyroscope is oscillating back and forth!
This narrative, according to proponents of a Hollow Earth theory, indicates Byrd’s astonishment at finding a cavernous opening over the pole, where a lush valley existed, heated by a sun found within the planet’s interior. “Admiral Byrd” continues, writing that he can see animals in the valley, among them a living specimen of a woolly mammoth. Eventually, after landing, the admiral and his company are confronted by several men, who take him before an entity known as “the Master.” It is in the presence of this individual that we begin to see striking similarities to the kinds of reports made by contactees and alien abductees from over the decades:
We shall not long delay your mission, and you will be safely escorted back to the surface and for a distance beyond. But now, Admiral, I shall tell you why you have been summoned here. Our interest rightly begins just after your race exploded the first atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. It was at that alarming time we sent our flying machines, the “Flugelrads”, to your surface world to investigate what your race had done. That is, of course, past history now, my dear Admiral, but I must continue on. You see, we have never interfered before in your race’s wars, and barbarity, but now we must, for you have learned to tamper with a certain power that is not for man, namely, that of atomic energy. Our emissaries have already delivered messages to the powers of your world, and yet they do not heed. Now you have been chosen to be witness here that our world does exist.
Thus, Byrd, according to this esoteric document, was made a sort of emissary to the world above. He goes on to brief the President the following month at the Pentagon, after which he is ordered not to speak of his experience as a sort of security measure, hence explaining his strange silence on this incredible matter during the remainder of his lifetime. Had anything so extraordinary ever really happened, could it truly have been kept secret for so long?
Interestingly, my own introduction to allegations of Byrd meeting strange beings while visiting the Antarctic came from an odd story shared with me by a friend, rather than any alleged secret diaries or other fabled texts. According to the story my friend told, a family member of his who had known a member of Byrd’s expedition had told stories of “blue-skinned people from underground” that were encountered by Byrd and his company. This odd tale remains somewhat in keeping with the aforementioned account of an underground race of beings led by an esoteric “Master”; on the other hand, it differs greatly from the sort of theories held by some UFO buffs, who allege that none other than escaped Nazis had taken refuge at the Southern Pole, along with their curious saucer aircraft.
The latter of these two scenarios, though widely accepted as a conspiracy theory, points toward one final shocking piece of testimony. Allegedly, Byrd was said to have made a series of cryptic comments during an interview with International News Service correspondent Lee van Atta aboard the USS Mount Olympus, which later appeared in the Wednesday, March 5, 1947 edition of a Chilean newspaper called El Mercurio:
“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 that 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.”
What can be made of this strange report? The newspaper in question, El Mercurio, is no doubt a real publication (even believed to have later served as a CIA front organization for a while during the 1970s). However, there is little data available online to support the validity of the Mercurio article in question, save a few scant sources that already deal with ufological interpretations of Byrd’s exploits. If the document can be proven factual, one can only guess what kind of perceived threat prompted Byrd to make such claims during the interview it contained. Had some kind of danger actually existed in the southernmost extremities of Antarctica just after World War II? If so, what was the nature of this threat, and could it have dealt with carry-overs from Nazi Germany, as some UFO researchers have already speculated over the years? If this were indeed the case, our knowledge base pertaining to the UFO mystery might have to be refashioned entirely, and their presence may also reveal a greater threat than we once realized.
Then again, here we may also find more mundane explanations for the mysterious early withdrawal during Operation Highjump. For instance, the onset of inclement weather had caused a variety of issues, particularly with aircraft, by late January of 1947: Once dramatic example of this included a sudden downwind that literally swept a helicopter in mid-takeoff directly into the ocean water, leaving a narrow window of opportunity for the pilot to escape, and moments later be rescued.
Another interesting point can be made about the reporters who boarded the USS Mount Olympus; the same who had gathered Byrd’s testimony about a “bitter reality” pertaining to flying objects in the area. It is known, for a fact, that eleven international press representatives had been present on board the ship, and as their dispatches were sent along from their icy southern stronghold, a good bit of exaggeration had occurred. Exaggerations occur in several areas, whether paranormal or in everyday life. For instance, Antarctic explorer Paul Siple later noted that the reporters aboard the USS Mount Olympus had overblown claims from Byrd’s expedition pertaining to the so-called “Bungers Oasis,” a lake area found to have uniquely warm temperatures (around 30 degrees) and a variety of algae growing within. Byrd later described the location as a “land of blue and green lakes and brown hills in an otherwise limitless expanse of ice,” and that his crew had “seemed to have dropped out of the twentieth century into a landscape of thousands of years ago when land was just starting to emerge from one of the great ice ages.” There were, of course, no reports of mammoths or flying saucers mentioned at this point, although Byrd would later call the discovery “by far the most important, so far as the public interest was concerned of the expedition.” Nonetheless, Simple notes, “the eleven press representatives aboard the Uss Mount Olympus had fired off dispatches to the outside world describing the oasis as a ‘Shangri-La’ and implying that it was warmed by a mysterious source of heat and might be supporting vegetation.”
Taken into context, these details could easily have been the root of claims about a prehistoric “oasis” at the South Pole. Similarly, though little appears to have been said pertaining to flying craft or a Nazi base, one can only imagine how easily claims made by Byrd and his crew pertaining to dangers and hardships (which were no doubt weather-related) might also have been exaggerated by the press, in addition to the general accumulation of rumors over the years, such as those associated with Bunger’s Oasis. The landscape of today’s information and rumors are difficult to navigate. But let’s consider one final alternative: what if Byrd’s statements about “flying objects which could fly from pole to pole at incredible speeds” had been reported accurately (more or less) in the El Mercurio report? Could Byrd have been making a general statement about enemy aircraft, in the sense that a hostile nation, should they ever establish a base at one of the poles, might use the area as a centralized point for launching attacks against the US mainland? Byrd himself had previously suggested that the US might seek to establish such a base at the North Pole, so it is clear that he viewed the polar extremities as advantageous. Finally, there is the curious statement about “in the case of a new war,” which seemed to further indicate that his statements dealt not with an existing menace, but instead with the potential for a future threat.
Altogether, Byrd’s interests–and his fears–associated with Antarctica appeared to have more to do with securing the location for use by the United States before an enemy nation might do so, rather than warning about a security threat that existed at the time of his arrival between 1946-47. Thus, placing all fantastic speculation aside, there is little ground for believing that Operation Highjump had been shut down prematurely to escape the presence of hidden subterranean races, woolly mammoths, or Nazi UFOs. Few would argue, of course, that the latter alternatives make for a much more interesting story; hence the various grains of truth pertaining to Byrd’s historic operations have seeded themselves in the fertile grounds of myth and speculation, taking on a wholly new–and utterly fascinating–life of their own in the years that followed.