Antarctica is the last truly untamed land on the planet. It’s a bizarre, otherworldly place buried under miles of ice, with a lot of mysteries and secrets that have come to the surface over the years. So today we’re going to talk about all the strange and unusual stories that swirl around the land of the south pole.


Imagine the year is 1840 and you’re a bonny sea captain in the far South Pacific when you come upon an incomprehensibly large wall of ice. It’s a mile high and stretches as far as the eye can see in each direction.

So you sail to the right to see if you can find a way around it. And you sail and you sail and you sail, and no matter how far you go, it never ends. And in fact… you wind up right back where you started. It is a literally impenetrable ice wall that you can never cross.

Obviously, this is where the world ends. And obviously this ice wall was built to keep us from falling off the edge of the Earth. And obviously, the world is flat.
Except NO. Any bonny sea captain worth his salt in 1840 knew the Earth was round, he would have known he was traveling in a circle – nobody thought Antarctica was the end of the world.

But in terms of accessibility, it might as well have been. Antarctica is a harsh, punishing, deadly place that’s next to impossible to survive.

So even though the world did not end at Antarctica, it is kind-of like a new world begins.
There’s a reason NASA trains astronauts for future Mars missions in Antarctica. It is like another planet down there.

People have only taken up residence in Antarctica in the last 100 years, it’s still very much unexplored lands.
In the old days “unexplored lands” were rife with legends and myths and speculations. Thar be dragons and whatnot. And Antarctica is no different today.
I started looking into it and found a mountain of wild stories and mysteries surrounding Antarctica. One of which I talked about in a previous video.
So in this video, let’s take a look at the most mysterious place on planet Earth, and get to the bottom of what’s happening down there.

If there’s one word to describe Antarctica, it’s desolate. An endless landscape of white snow and ice. Simultaneously one of the driest places on Earth and home to 60% of Earth’s fresh water, locked up in an ice sheet that covers 99.6% of the continent.
A continent that’s way bigger than you might think. In most map projections, you only see it as a sliver of a land mass at the bottom of the map, or it gets divided up in some way, but it’s more than twice the size of Australia, and big enough to cover the United States, Mexico, the Gulf of Mexico, and most of the southern Canadian provinces. And all of it under an ice sheet that averages 2,160 meters thick. That’s 1.3 miles high. Average.

It’s also the windiest place on Earth, with an average wind speed of 10 knots, but it can reach up to 80 knots, or 96 miles per hour, due to something called katabatic winds, which are caused by cold, dense air being funneled through valleys by the landscape.

It’s also extremely isolated, surrounded by some of the largest oceans in the world, with the mainland more than a thousand miles away from the closest inhabited continent. The closest point being the Antarctic peninsula that reaches out to within 600 miles of Tierra del Fuego in Argentina.

And of course between them is the Drake passage, considered one of the roughest areas of ocean in the world. Because of course it is.

Oh, it’s also old. And lakey.

There are about 400 underground lakes in Antarctica – or… under ice, I guess.
Starting in the 1970s, scientists started finding them using radar, seismic, and satellite technologies. Some of these are over three kilometers deep in the ice.
In the 1990s, Russian scientists discover Lake Vostok under the East Antarctic Ice Sheet.

This is the sixth-largest lake by volume in the world. And for some reason… It’s not ice. Why is it not ice? Everything around it is ice…

It turns out there’s a geothermal vent down there warming up enough of the ice to keep it liquid. And again, this is the sixth largest lake on the planet, and it’s under almost a mile of ice. 15 million year old ice.

Geothermal vents of course are teeming with life in most places that they are found. But this particular place has been completely isolated from the rest of the world for 15 million years.

There was a raging debate over what kind of creatures might live at Lake Vostok for a 2 decades. Scientists would get their answer in 1999. But more on that later.

Lakes and Deep Lake

But it’s not the strangest thing on the continent. There are weirder things happening there.

There is just something about us as humans that we see a place like that… A place that remote, that isolated, that deadly, and we say… “Yeah, I’m totally gonna go there”
So starting in the early 20th century, it was the site of a string of tragedies as explorers raced to be the first to the South Pole.

And perhaps no explorer exemplifies the hubris of the so-called Heroic Age than Robert Falcon Scott.

Robert Falcon Scott started his career as a respected British Navy officer. But in the 1890s, both his father and younger brother died unexpectedly, making him the lone provider for his mother and sisters. So he became desperate to elevate his status. But there just weren’t a lot of advancement opportunities in the Navy at the time.

And then in 1899, while home on leave, he had a chance encounter with the president of the Royal Geographical Society, a guy named Clements Marhkam. And he was funding an expedition to the South Pole and needed a commander. So Robert Falcon Scott jumped at the chance.

So in 1901, he set sail on the ship, Discovery, with fellow explorers Earnest Shackleton and Edward Wilson.
And they didn’t quite make it to the pole. Though they did reach 82° latitude, which was the furthest south anybody had ever been at the time, but they eventually had to turn back with 530 miles (850km) to the pole.

This was kind-of a disaster, they ran out of supplies, the crew all came down with scurvy, they had to resort to eating their sled dogs to survive, and still, Robert Falcon Scott wanted to press on, it was Shackleton who insisted that they turn back in order to save the crew. This led to a major falling out between the two for years to follow.

Still, Robert Falcon Scott returned to Britain a hero. They did cover new ground and made new geographical discoveries, there was a scientific component to this trip, so a lot of cool science was done, and to the British public, who were kind-of demoralized at the time, he was proof that the Brits still had some fight and pluck in them.

He got invited to Balmoral Castle by King Edward the seventh, who promoted him to Commander of the Royal Victorian Order, he became the toast of society and eventually met and married a wealthy socialite named Kathleen Bruce.
So in a way, he got exactly what he wanted from that trip.

But deep down it always bugged him that he couldn’t get to the South Pole, and he kinda blamed Shackleton for holding him back. And while publicly he was nice to Shackleton, in practice, he was pretty antagonistic.

Like in 1907 when Shackleton launched his own expedition to the South Pole, Robert Falcon Scott forbid him from landing in McMurdo Sound, which is the same place the Discovery landed, and by far the safest landing spot at the time. But Scott insisted that was his “field of work” and had rights to the area.
So yeah, he was willing to put Shackleton’s whole crew in more danger because of that. Swell dude.

Shackleton landed there anyway on his ship, the Nimrod, and this time they got even closer, reaching 88° latitude, a mere 95 miles (183km) from the South Pole.
But again, supplies ran out, sled dogs were eaten, and Shackleton made the decision to turn back to save his crew. Which he succeeded at doing, they made it back, barely.

By the way, this would happen again to Shackleton several years later on the Endurance, when the ship got destroyed by sea ice and he and his crew were stranded for over 4 months before they could be rescued. But they all survived.

So while Shackleton never made it to the South Pole, he earned the reputation as a captain who always put his crew first, even if it meant foregoing personal glory. Something that absolutely can not be said for Robert Falcon Scott.

In November 1911, the ship the Terra Nova landed on Ross Island, and from there Robert Falcon Scott set off with a crew to the South Pole, which he was going to reach this time no matter what. For once and for all, he was going to beat Shackleton and be the first human being to the South Pole.

The crew faced all the usual hardships, including sled dog stew, but they pressed on, and on January 17th, 1912, they did it. Robert Falcon Scott reached the South Pole. And what he found there… was a Norwegian flag.

Yeah, Roald Amundsen got there just a month before him. And he had no idea, until he got there and saw the flag.

So he and his crew turned around and headed back to their ship, which they never actually reached.

One by one they succumbed to the cold and starvation including eventually, the captain himself. And thus ended the career of Robert Falcon Scott.
By the way, Roald Amundsen made getting to the South Pole look easy. Dude crushed it.

While everybody else had struggled and suffered and often died, Amundsen and his team had trained extensively for years, and had prepared for every eventuality and yeah, it went pretty smoothly. They actually got back to base camp 10 days early.
Though it does need to be said, Amundsen’s mission was strictly competitive, he was just there to get to the South Pole first whereas Scott’s mission did have a science component to it.

In fact, when rescue teams found their final resting place, they had on them the first fossils ever found in Antarctica.

And this actually turned out to be one of the first big mysteries of Antarctica because these fossils were petrified wood. Meaning it used to be covered with trees. What!?

This of course would go on to become some of the best early evidence of plate tectonics theory, proving that Antarctica used to be part of Pangea and in a much more temperate region.

But after Amundsen and Scott and Shackleton, technology improved and more and more explorers and scientists made a lot more discoveries, and with it… a lot more mysteries.

I talked earlier about Lake Vostok and how deep under the ice it was, well there’s another mysterious lake that’s even deeper and they called it… wait for it…

Deep Lake.
It’s an inland lake in East Antarctica. It’s 55 meters below sea level. And as you go deeper into it, its water salinity increases.

Its salt content is like that of the Dead Sea’s. In fact, Deep Lake is 10 times saltier than the ocean.

That means the water never freezes, despite temperatures reaching negative 20 degrees Celsius.

You might think nothing lives in the lake, but no, something does live there.

A metagenomic study in 2008 showed that three species of haloarchaea make up most of the biosphere in the lake.

A haloarchaea is a single-cell organism that thrives in salty water.

There’s also a green algae that grows on the lake’s surface. This algae is the primary producer of organic matter that the haloarchaea uses.

Each species of haloarchaea has adapted to different parts of the lake.

Some like deeper locations. Some like to eat the protein in the water. And some like to eat the sugars that the green algae produce.

The McMurdo Dry Valleys in Antarctica are ice-free and rocky. They kind of looks like Mars.

One interesting site there is Taylor Glacier, which has a five-story waterfall that pours into Lake Bonney.

Thing is, the water looks like blood gushing from the ice.

This is Blood Falls, and only recently have scientists figured out what causes the water to look like blood.

Dr. Ken Livi is a scientist at Johns Hopkins University, and he used transmission electron microscopes to examine samples of Blood Falls’ waters.

He discovered several tiny, iron-rich nanospheres that oxidize, which turns the water red.

By the way, nanospheres are tiny round objects about 100th the size of an average human red blood cell. They have their own unique chemical and physical characteristics.

The waters that feed the falls are 400 meters underground and were once a salty lake that is now cut off from the air because of glaciers on top of it.

But once it seeps through fissures and hits the air, the iron-rich water rusts, creating Blood Falls.
I’ve gotta do it.

Antarctica’s largest ice shelf is the Ross Ice Shelf, named after Sir James Clark Ross, who discovered it in 1841.

It’s about the size of France, covering over 500,000 square kilometers. It’s also several hundred meters thick.

But what really makes it interesting is that it sings a kind of eerie melody. Maybe it’s an ice shelf that really loves goth music?

Winds blowing across snow dunes cause the singing. These winds create vibrations on the surface and seismic tones.

But the thing is, we can’t hear the vibrations. Scientists have to use seismic sensors to hear the songs.

In fact, scientists only discovered the singing after installing seismic sensors on the ice shelf to observe other things.

Oh, and also, the songs change based on environmental shifts, like snow melting or moving.

In the late 1950s, something strange was discovered in the northern Wilkes Land in East Antarctica.

It was a gravity anomaly. That’s when there’s a difference between the predicted value of gravity at a specific site and what’s actually observed there.

So, what’s happening?


No, sorry, I meant to say, asteroid.

Evidence has shown that there’s a giant impact crater under the ice sheet. In fact, it’s more than 450 kilometers across.

That would make it twice the size of the Chicxulub Crater in Mexico, which many scientists believe is what caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.

NASA satellites, as part of the Gravity Research and Climate Experiment mission, detected gravitational changes in an area of Antarctica in 2006.

This indicated that a huge object was sitting in the middle of the impact crater.

There are some thoughts that this asteroid may have broken up the Gondwanaland supercontinent and separated Australia from Antarctica.

In 2017, a hole opened up in Antarctica, and all sorts of alien aircraft started flying out of it.

Just kidding. It was just a hole about the size of Ireland that opened up. At 78,000 square kilometers, it’s the largest observed hole since the 1970s.

It’s called a polynya, which is an area of open water in sea ice.

Located in the Weddell Sea of the Southern Ocean, the hole formed because of saltier and warmer water in deeper parts of the sea.

Ocean currents push the warm water up, causing the ice on the surface to melt.

Then, as the water makes contact with the cooler surface water, it sinks again.

It’s reheated and pushed again back to the surface.

Scientists don’t fully understand why polynyas are created.

Some of the hypotheses include cyclones, eddies, swift surface currents, and local gyres.

In 1964, the British Royal Navy’s HMS Protector visited Bouvet Island, which is about 2,400 kilometers southwest of the Cape of Good Hope of southern Africa and about 1,600 kilometers north of the mainland of Antarctica.

A volcanic eruption in the 1950s had created a new low bench of land, which was named Nyrøysa on the island’s northwestern coast.

While there, a survey team found a lagoon and a waterlogged lifeboat.

The boat didn’t have any sails or markings, either. Just a nameless boat in a lagoon in a remote part of the world.

The team also found a pair of oars and a 44-gallon barrel, but they didn’t find any signs of life or any human remains.

And when another expedition came in 1966, there was no mention of the lifeboat. Like, it just disappeared.

Yeah, so Antarctica is extremely cold with massive ice sheets. You’d think nothing could survive in the waters underneath it.

We’ve already talked about haloarchaea, but there are other, unusual species that have adapted to the continent’s harsh environment.

There are things like the hairy yeti crab that was discovered in 2005. It’s a type of lobster covered in pale, hair-like bristles that pull in bacteria for food.

Then you have the Antarctic krill that feeds on algae that grow on ice and the ocean’s surface. They also redistribute nutrients to other creatures in the water through their waste.

Other strange creatures include the Antarctic scale worm, sea spiders, and glass sponges.

These creatures may look like monsters, but there could be a real monster in Lake Vostok.

A Russian drilling crew was working at Lake Vostok in 2012 when news started coming out that they had a deadly encounter with a strange species.

According to the rumors, they discovered a monster octopus, naming it Organism 46b.

Apparently, the creature was in freshwater two miles below the ice.

Witnesses claim it purposely disabled the workers’ radio, paralyzed prey by releasing venom into the water, and that it could shape-shift.

The workers eventually captured the octopus, but Russian authorities showed up and took it away, telling the news that nothing was found there.

It’s believed that Putin plans to breed the octopus as a military weapon.

Speaking of monsters…

Some people believe that the Nazis built a secret base in Antarctica, where they took Hitler to at the end of World War II.

From the base, they also defeated American and British military by shooting down planes with the use of UFOs.

The U.S. eventually destroyed the base in the 1950s with nuclear weapons.

But you wouldn’t know this because various governments have concealed all this knowledge.

Thank god for the Internet.

And if a Nazi base using UFOs for war wasn’t enough to blow your mind, then strap in, because we’re finally where we all expected to be: Aliens.

Rumors of aliens, alien ships, and alien cities continually swirl around Antarctica.

People are quick to point out photographs that “prove” aliens reside on the continent.

They also use these same photographs to claim that there are pyramids buried underneath the ice sheets.

Or if it’s not alien cities or pyramids, then it’s the lost city of Atlantis that’s under Antarctica.

According to those who believe that, Atlantis would’ve been around when the continent was a warm and tropical region.

A past civilization may have once existed in Antarctica, but was it really the legendary lost city?

Discovering Atlantis? Finding out that Nazis used UFOs? Secret Pyramids?
Antarctica sounds cool!
Thing is, it is cool, but not in any of those ways.

Here comes Joe with the wet blanket.
Remember that mysterious lifeboat?

In the early 2010s, online researchers figured out what was what. Turns out that a Soviet Antarctic whaling fleet visited Bouvet Island in November 1958.

People were sent ashore, but bad weather set in and the people were temporarily stranded.

A helicopter rescued them a few days later, but they left the lifeboat behind in the lagoon.

It’s now accepted that the tale of the monster octopus in Lake Vostok is a work of fiction.

In fact, it can be traced back to C. Michael Forsyth, a former writer for the World Weekly News.

It was published on this personal blog page, where it was clearly labeled fiction.

Sure, colossal squid do exist in the Southern Ocean, but because the subglacial lake lacks sunlight and has extremely cold temperatures, it’s unlikely a complex creature like an octopus would survive in it.

There are a lot of mountains in the world that look like pyramids if you view them from a certain direction.

One peak in the Heritage Range of the Ellsworth Mountains discovered in 1935 is notable because of its pyramid-like shape.

But it’s a coincidence. It doesn’t mean it was man- or alien-made.

In reality, it’s a nunatak, which is a mountain or hill surrounded by glacial ice.

This one in particular is 1,265 meters tall with the tip of the mountain sticking out of the ice.
Most of these Anarctica “pyramids” are just that: mountain tips protruding from the ice.

And as far as Atlantis goes, ice has covered Antarctica for 15 million years, which is longer than humans have walked on Earth.

If we were somehow able to establish a civilization at the South Pole, we could’ve only done it when it was completely frozen over.

That just seems impossible, considering the environment and everything needed to stay warm and nourished.

Stories about Atlantis are usually vague and lack any solid facts. When Asians and Europeans talked about unmapped places in the past, they could’ve been talking about Australia or Oceania.

We’ve been talking about and searching for Atlantis for hundreds and hundreds of years, but until we get solid proof, it’s as we say here in Texas, all hat and no cattle.

Here’s the thing about the Nazi base: It’s based on a bit of truth.

But it wasn’t for a military base. It was for a whaling station so Germany wouldn’t have to be dependent on whale oil from Norway.

The Germans actually landed in an area already claimed by Norway called Dronning Maud Land.

They planted Nazi flags and called it “Neuschwabenland.”

But the area was abandoned by 1945.
Thousands of scientists have visited the area since the 1950s. It’s been mapped by satellite, and aircraft have flown over it several times.

And not one single report of a Nazi base still in existence.

It’s true that the U.S. and Britain conducted military and bombing operations in and around Antarctica.
But those stories seem to have been conflated with the Nazi base to create new stories of secret missions and UFOs.

Speaking of which, the “sightings” of crashed UFOs in Antarctica are easily explained as rocks, mountain peaks, or tipped-over icebergs.

And one more thing: The Earth isn’t hollow, and Antarctica isn’t a gateway into the planet.

The hollow Earth theory goes back to English astronomer Edmond Halley who came up with the idea in the 17th century.

But scientists have disproven the theory since the 1730s.

Oh, and modern science has proven that the Earth is composed of rock and iron.

What makes Antarctica really cool is all the research and scientific experiments conducted there.

Including… the life in Lake Vostok.
No, it’s not a monster octopus but yes, they have found evidence of life down there.
So in 1998, a joint team of scientists drilled an ice core down to Lake Vostok— and if you’re thinking, “oh, no, did they contaminate a potential ecosystem that was kept pristine for 15 million years…” Well, you’re ahead of me.
The team was made up of scientists from Russia, France, and the US, and the ice core they drilled was one of the deepest ice cores ever drilled. It went down 3,623 meters, or 11,886 feet. That’s over two miles.

They stopped, thankfully, about 100 meters above the water level. But even in that ice, they found extremophile microbes. So there’s definitely life down there.
In 2012, a Russian team got a bit more bold and were able to actually collect water from the lake.

I know that sounds like they just dipped in a ladle and took a sip, but they were actually very careful about it.

Here’s how they did it, they drilled down to right above the water barrier, and then slowly, a little bit at a time, pushed forward until pressure from underneath forced the water up into the bore hole. And they pulled up the drill as soon as the water started going in there.

That water then froze, which plugged up the hole. And then they drilled into that plug and collected a sample from that ice – made from lake water.
This method has been used several times since then and the samples have been studied and the consensus seems to be that there is a diverse and teeming ecosystem down there.

DNA sequencing found over 3500 unique gene sequences, 94% of which were bacteria and 4% from more advanced eukaryotes.

These species were described as mostly what one would expect from brackish water and deep-sea sediments around thermal vents. And while the vast majority was unicellular organisms, there were some multicellular ones in there. But nothing much more complex than that. Except…
A team in 2020 found DNA that was 97% similar to a type of rock cod that lives off the coast of Antarctica called (Notothenia coriiceps)

Most don’t think that there’s actual cod living down there, it’s expected that it’s contamination of some kind. Because there is some contamination.
Yeah, Lake Vostok has been a bit of a flashpoint among environmentalists because the water samples have shown traces of kerosene and antifreeze in it.

Yeah, the one of the problems they ran into when drilling the – again, 2 mile long – borehole is that sections of it would freeze over, so the Russians started using Freon and kerosene to keep the holes open and lubricated. And they didn’t use just a little bit, they used 60 tons of the stuff.

Now, it wasn’t like they were just pouring it into the lake, there are only trace amounts that have been found in it but still.
Anyway, there’s a whole debate around that, but that’s just one thing that’s being studied in Antarctica.

We’ve studied things like the ozone hole, million-year-old DNA, neutrinos from outer space, and evidence of fires during the time of the dinosaurs.

Oh and remember that Mars meteorite that they thought might have had fossilized bacteria on it? That was found in Antarctica.
We’ve also used Antarctica to study team dynamics for future missions to other planets.

All of which is really cool but this video is going way too long so I’m adding an extra section to this when I upload it to Nebula, because I can do whatever I want there…

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