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Posted at 10:15 AM ET, 02/07/2012

Lake Vostok, a German Nazi base? Russian news agency floats odd theory

Correction: This post originally stated that an Antarctic base appeared in H.P. Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness.” It appeared in a computer game based on that book. This version has been updated.

When state-run Russian news agency RIA Novosti released a report Monday that said Russian scientists had drilled into the deep, dark and previously untouched Lake Vostok, a curious detail was buried farther down in the story:

“An old theory [says] that German Nazis may have built a secret base there as early as the 1930s.”


Vostok Station. (Courtesy of NOAA)
Ria Novosti reported that near the end of the World War II, the Nazis moved to the South Pole and began constructing a base at Lake Vostok. The agency quotes German Grand Admiral Karl Dontiz, who apparently said in 1943: “Germany's submarine fleet is proud that it created an unassailable fortress for the Fuehrer on the other end of the world,” in Antarctica.

Is there any truth to the Russian rumors? Or is this a case of a news agency implementing Godwin’s law — the longer a discussion goes, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis approaches.

Taken another way: Why isn’t it enough to relish in the sheer awe of reaching 2.2 miles below the surface of Antarctica to explore a hidden lake?

Discovery News scoffs at the idea of a Nazi base there, calling it “Nazi paranoia” and “World War II conspiracy theories” from Moscow. The Moscow Times dismisses the idea as just “rumors.” Most news sites, including The Post, ignored Ria Novosti’s theory.

But several blogs probed further, pointing out that the theory had previously appeared in a horror novel.

A similar secret German base actually appeared in a computer game inspired by horror writer H.P. Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness.” The base, called “Neuschwabenland,” is located in a real region in the Antarctic known as Queen Maud’s Land on most maps. On Google Maps, Queen Maud’s Land today looks like this, with glaciers and more recent campsites indicated with blue markers:


(Google Maps)
Queen Maud’s Land is located farther north in Antarctica than Lake Vostok.

But while “Neuschwabenland” appears in several horror novels, the Big Think suggests that it may also have actually existed:

Ever since it achieved unification in 1871, Germany craved colonies as a matter of national pride. But by the late nineteenth century, most of the “uncivilized world” was already carved up by established European powers.
Ambitions . . . were turned to the last great area of the globe that was not yet colonized: Antarctica — big, cold and empty. At the beginning of 1939, a Nazi expedition explored a hitherto uncharted area of the Antarctic. By foot and plane, the Nazis surveyed an area . . . totaling 600.000 sq. km. They called it “Neuschwabenland.”

While the Germans drew up a map of the possible territory of Neuschwabenland, and even dropped German flags on a possible base camp, no official activities were ever registered in the whole of Antarctica during World War II, according to the Big Think.

“A plethora of rumors maintains that Neuschwabenland wasn’t abandoned by the Nazis after the first expedition,” the Big Think writes.

But for now, the rumors of a base camp on Lake Vostok and Neuschwabenland will remain just that — rumors. Or the setting for a future James Bond movie.

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By  |  10:15 AM ET, 02/07/2012

Tags:  World, Antarctica, Lake Vostok, Russia, Germany, Nazi, Neuschwabenland, Queen Maud's land, rumors

 
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