Sunday, February 26, 2006

Beware of frozen mammoths - part 2
The admiral and the mammoth

Here's one of my favorite frozen mammoth stories.

Most frozen mammoth theories use the presence of these mammoths corpses as evidence for some catastrophic event in the past: pole shift, near miss by rogue planets, explosion of errant ice moon, Noah's flood, or its aftermath. They agree that the mammoths were all frozen in a single event. If the mammoth is truly a separate species from other elephants (many theories say it is not), then the catastrophe was the cause of their extinction. The Hollow Earth theory is different.

According to the theory, the earth is a hollow shell. Gravity is just as strong on the inside of the shell as on the outside, so another unknown world exists there. A tiny sun sits at the center, illuminating this world in eternal daylight. Large openings connect the inner and outer worlds at the poles. The auroras are the light of the central sun, shining out through the polar opening, reflecting off high clouds.

The inner world is populated by exotic and primitive species, including mammoths. Different Hollow Earth theorists populate the inner world with a variety of interesting beings including Atlanteans, flying saucers, Nazis, long-lived vegetarians, giants, and mystic masters. Regardless of which human population is there, they all agree that there are mammoths there. Occasionally a mammoth wanders too close to the polar opening, falls in the ocean, drowns, gets frozen, and drifts out to wash up on the shores of Siberia.

Though Hollow Earth theories go back to the seventeenth century, mammoths have only been part of the story since the early twentieth century. In 1913, a sewing machine manufacturer named Marshall B. Gardner published A Journey to the Earth's Interior, or Have the Poles Really Been Discovered his hollow earth opus. In it, he assembled all of the themes that had been mentioned by earlier writers and emphasized the opportunity for imperial expansion. In a second edition, published in 1920, Gardner expanded his call to imperial action. With the other imperial powers exhausted by the Great War, the United States had a unique opportunity to claim the entire inner world for itself (and the good of mankind, of course).

Gardner was the first to bring up mammoths as a proof of the hollow earth. His book features an entire chapter (25 pages long) on mammoths. He recommends this chapter for the reader "in a hurry," because it provides proof "so startling, so incontrovertible, that [he] wonders how these observations could have been made by the regular scientists and their significance been overlooked." Gardner's is fairly typical of frozen mammoth lore. He asserts, with no proof, that the mammoth, as a breed of elephant, is a tropical animal and not sited to cold climates. He repeats explorer's reports of the sheer numbers of mammoth bones littering the Siberian landscape. He recounts the discovery of one of the more complete frozen mammoth carcasses, emphasizing the freshness of the meat. Gardner adds an original note here. He claims that the frozen mammoths have to be of recent origin. If they were old, he reasons, the flesh would have rotted away and the bones turned to fossils. Finally, he recounts many of the tall tales of explorers feasting on yummy mammoth steak (this is sub-genre of frozen mammoth lore that deserves a post of it's own).

Gardner's account is essentially the definitive account of the hollow earth. Later writers have added Nazis, Atlanteans, and flying saucers, but the geology and zoology have remained the same since Gardner's version.

Hollow Earth theorists have big advantage over all of the catastrophist theories. While they tell the usual stories about frozen mammoths and use them as proof-positive of their theories, they also have an eye-witness account of a living mammoth. And, their witness is a respected and unimpeachable authority on polar regions, none other than Admiral Richard E. Byrd, the first man to fly over both poles!

Adm. Byrd (1888-1957) entered the Hollow Earth pantheon in the early 1960's just a few years after his death. In 1963, the most famous hollow earth book a them all was published by Walter Seigmeister, a health food writer with a history of failed attempts to found a utopian colony in the tropics. Writing under the name Dr. Raymond Bernard, A.B., M.A., Ph.D., Seigmeister called his opus The Hollow Earth: The Greatest Discovery in History: Made by Admiral Richard E. Byrd in the Mysterious Land Beyond the Poles: The True Origin of the Flying Saucers. Seigmeister died two years after publishing The Hollow Earth and his publisher went out of business soon after that, but the book had become an instant classic among UFO buffs and one publisher or another has kept it in constant print for the last forty years.

During the 1950's, while trying to found yet another utopian colony, Seigmeister met some highly connected Theosophists in Brazil who had created a synthesis of hollow earth theory, the Theosophical Atlantis, and the new flying saucer craze. Seigmeister was an enthusiastic convert to their ideas and wrote a couple of pamphlets to publicize the theory among English-speaking American audiences. The Hollow Earth is nothing more than one of these pamphlets expanded by including vast block quotes from Gardner, one of his predecessors, William Reed, and others (Seigmeister's extensive use of block quotes probably qualifies him as one of the spiritual godfathers of blogging). So what's this about Admiral Byrd? Seigmeister picked the Byrd connection from an eccentric writer named F. Amadeo Giannini and one of the seminal writers on flying saucers, Ray Palmer.

Giannini was not a hollow earther, though what he did believe is hard to decrypt. In 1926, Giannini had some kind of mystical vision about the true nature of the universe and spent the rest of his life trying to tell the world about his revelation. In his struggle to tell people the "truth" Giannini did not compare himself to Galileo and Newton; he thought Galileo and Newton were just as wrong as everyone else and was prepared to set them straight. Giannini did not lack for confidence. Giannini's contribution to our lore was a book called Worlds Beyond the Poles, self-published in shorter and longer versions in 1958 and '59. Giannini seemed to believe that the world continued beyond the poles in some manner that connected all of the land in the universe. It should be possible to drive or sail to Mars and any other place in the universe. "Globularity" and "isolation" are illusions produced by the curvature of lenses (including the ones in our eyes). Everything you know is wrong. Byrd's flights "beyond the poles" proves it.

Giannini paid obsessive attention to news of polar exploration and seized on any bit of news that could be interpreted to support his theory. Much of what he considered support consisted of semantic parsings of the way explorers said things. When Carl Ben Eilson and Hubert George Wilkins flew over unexplored parts of the Antarctic Peninsula in 1928 and referred to it as new land, Giannini decided they must mean that they had discovered land that was not Antarctica. In his book he describes Adm. Byrd's February 1947 flight over the North Pole.

"I'd like to see that land beyond the Pole. That area beyond the Pole is the center of the great unknown." --Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd, February, 1947


The words of the message were momentous: "I'd like to see that land beyond the Pole." There was nothing complex in that expressive statement of fact, yet despite its simplicity, the statement had to be misunderstood by the many who, unlike the admiral from Boston, feared the unknown. The simple announcement provided such impact on popular misconception that it was at once distorted that it might fit into the established fiction: there can be no land beyond the Pole; the admiral cannot possibly be going where he clearly states he is going.

Carefully note the remainder of the announcement: "That area beyond the Pole is the center of the great unknown." How could the admiral have had to reference to any mathematically established and then currently known area of the assumed "globe" Earth as prescribed by the theory of 1543? [i.e., the Copernican solar system -- ed.] It must be conceded that the land beyond to which Admiral Byrd referred had to land beyond and out of theoretic Earth extent. Had it been part of the mathematized Earth it would not have been referred to as "center of the great unknown." Were it part of the recognized "globe" Earth it would be known, not unknown.


Try to find any area of land, water, or ice which encroaches on the North Pole and which is not known.... Is Spitzbergen or Siberia unknown? Is Alaska or the Canadian Archipelago unknown? And do any such land areas extend north beyond the North Pole? They certainly do not.

Giannini's words sound like those of someone stalking a public figure. The stalker knows that the every word and gesture of the object of their affection is a coded message meant to be understood by them. The last paragraph sounds like a trick question. As soon as you point out something unknown, Giannini will say, "well we know about it now, don't we?"

Giannini belabors this point for another page and a half before he finally deals with the actual flight in one paragraph.
The admiral's plane pursued a course on the horizontal from the North Pole to a point 1,700 miles beyond the Earth. Then the course was retraced to the Arctic base. At no time did he "shoot up," or out, from the Earth level. As progress was made beyond the Pole point, there was observed directly under the plane's course iceless land and lakes, and mountains where land was abundant. Moreover, a brief newspaper account of the flight held that a member of the admiral's crew had observed a monstrous greenish-hued animal moving through the underbrush of that land beyond the Pole.

Giannini's self-published book would probably have faded into obscurity had he not sent a copy to Ray Palmer. Palmer was a publisher of science-fiction and adventure magazines who is one of the key figures in starting the flying saucer craze in 1947 and in molding the UFO mythos into its current form. Palmer's review of Giannini was worked into an all hollow earth issue of Flying Saucers magazine. Palmer retold Giannini's Byrd anecdote, changing the "greenish-hued animal" into a mammoth, and modifying his difficult cosmology into a hollow earth narrative.
Admiral Byrd's two flights over both Poles prove that there is a `strangeness' about the shape of the Earth in both polar areas. Byrd flew to the North Pole, but did not stop there and turn back, but went for 1,700 miles beyond it, and then retraced his course to his Arctic base (due to his gasoline supply running low). As progress was made beyond the Pole point, iceless land and lakes, mountains covered with trees, and even a monstrous animal, resembling the mammoth of antiquity, was seen moving through the underbrush; and all this was reported via radio by the plane occupants. For almost all of the 1,700 miles, the plane flew over land, mountains, trees, lakes and rivers.

"What was this unknown land? Did Byrd, in traveling due north, enter into the hollow interior of the Earth through the north polar opening?

At the end of his piece on Giannini, Palmer tied the whole story to his primary business.
The flying saucers could come from these two unknown lands `beyond the Poles'. It is the opinion of the editors of "Flying Saucers" magazine that the existence of these lands cannot be disproved by anyone, considering the facts of the two expeditions which we have outlined."

Aside from his tortured interpretation of Byrd's statements about his voyage, there are two significant objections to Giannini's story. First, no one has ever managed to turn up the newspaper account that describes the "iceless land" and "greenish-hued animal." When confronted with this in the early sixties, Giannini was of no help. Second and more damning, Byrd was at the South Pole in February 1947. When Palmer's readers pointed this out, Giannini suggested that Byrd may have made a secret trip to the North Pole and challenged Palmer's readers to prove where Byrd was for every single day of that month. He did not explain how he could have read newspaper reports of a secret trip.

By 1960, most of the final blank spots on the map, in the polar regions, had been filled in without finding great openings to the inner earth. What hadn't been explored and mapped by heroic efforts of ship, dogsled, and airplane would now be quietly photographed and surveyed by satellite. Before 1950, it was possible to believe in the hollow earth simply by believing that the openings were in a difficult to get to part of the world, still waiting to be found. By 1960, it was only possible to belive in it if you believed that there was a global conspiracy to suppress the knowledge. Seigmeister claimed that this was exactly the case, that the Cold War powers were playing a game at denying the existence of the inner world until they could beat the other powers there and establish their claims. A theory that began as a characteristic creature of the age of exploration transformed itself into a characteristic creature of the age of anxiety.

With Seigmeister's book eternally being reprinted, Palmer embarrassed, and Giannini silent, the whole business should have faded away to become a mere footnote in UFO literature, but there is an epilogue. And it still involves mammoths.

During the 1970's, a short manuscript began circulating in UFO circles. It was purported to be the secret diary of Admiral Byrd on his voyage into the inner world beyond the North Pole. It is now available in many places on the web.

A Copy Of Admiral Richard B. BYRD
foreword by: Dr. William Bernard Ph.d., D.D.

I've looked at dozens of copies on the web and they all give Byrd's middle initial as B. Byrd's full name was Richard Evelyn Byrd. The B in the web versions of the secret diary appears to be a scanning error produced by the first person who posted it online. Most versions have the same line breaks and other similarities. The dentist William Bernard who wrote the forward is probably supposed to be Seigmeister's nom de plume Raymond Bernard.
I must write this diary in secrecy and obscurity. It concerns my Arctic flight of the nineteenth day of February in the year of Nineteen and Forty Seven.



0600 Hours- All preparations are complete for our flight north ward and we are airborne with full fuel tanks at 0610 Hours.

0620 Hours- fuel mixture on starboard engine seems too rich, adjustment made and Pratt Whittneys are running smoothly.

0730 Hours- Radio Check with base camp. All is well and radio reception is normal.

0740 Hours- Note slight oil leak in starboard engine, oil pressure indicator seems normal, however.


0910 Hours- Vast Ice and snow below, note coloration of yellowish nature, and disperse in a linear pattern. Altering course foe a better examination of this color pattern below, note reddish or purple color also. Circle this area two full turns and return to assigned compass heading. Position check made again to base camp, and relay information concerning colorations in the Ice and snow below.

0910 Hours- Both Magnetic and Gyro compasses beginning to gyrate and wobble, we are unable to hold our heading by instrumentation. Take bearing with Sun compass, yet all seems well. The controls are seemingly slow to respond and have sluggish quality, but there is no indication of Icing!

0915 Hours- In the distance is what appears to be mountains.

0949 Hours- 29 minutes elapsed flight time from the first sighting of the mountains, it is no illusion. They are mountains and consisting of a small range that I have never seen before!

0955 Hours- Altitude change to 2950 feet, encountering strong turbulence again.

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!

1005 Hours- I alter altitude to 1400 feet and execute a sharp left turn to better examine the valley below. It is green with either moss or a type of tight knit grass. The Light here seems different. I cannot see the Sun anymore. We make another left turn and we spot what seems to be a large animal of some kind below us. It appears to be an elephant! NO!!! It looks more like a mammoth! This is incredible! Yet, there it is! Decrease altitude to 1000 feet and take binoculars to better examine the animal. It is confirmed - it is definitely a mammoth-like animal! Report this to base camp.

At this point, his plane is captured by Nazi flying saucers who take him to their crystal city at the center of the earth, give him a message of peace, warn him that atomic bombs are bad, and send him home. I'm not kidding. When he gets home, he debriefed by President Truman and told never to speak of this again, in all capitals followed by many exclamation points.

In 2001, Dennis Crenshaw, the publisher of a hollow earth newsletter took the time to research the secret diary. After noting that the style bears no resemblance to Byrd's published writing--and, in fact, reads more like comic book prose--he points out that, even giving the document the greatest benefit of the doubt, none of the things the author claims to see should have visible because it's completely dark at the North Pole in February. He then points out two textual liftings. The oil leak at the beginning is taken from Byrd's memoirs of his 1926 Antarctic flight, Skyward. The warning from the Aryan master in crystal city (not repeated here) is from the 1937 MGM movie version of Lost Horizon starring Ronald Coleman.

Nazi flying saucers and crystal cities form separate sub-genres of hollow earth lore, but don't involve mammoths. I'll write separate posts on these another day. So far there is no Nazi mammoth genre, but I have faith that, given enough time, there will be one.

UPDATE: I ran part one of this piece back in December. It explains just what the deal is with frozen mammoths. Another piece I wrote about the misuse of mammoths to support fringe theories is here. It's not a frozen mammoth, so it's not technically part of the series, but it's the most popular post I've ever written, so I like to show it off.

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