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  • Writer's pictureJohn Wick

Strange UFO Encounters In Antarctica

After the completion of World War II, the Victorious Allied Nations dispatched numerous military expeditions to Antarctica. Did these battleships weigh anchor in the name of science or did they set sail in search of something far more sinister that dwelt under the ice?

Captain Helka's U-boat encounter

No matter how many times Captain Helka and his crew spent the festive season scouring the waters around the Antarctic Peninsula, perpetual daytime was something that they never really managed to adapt to. The unending periods of daylight made it considerably easier to detect the invaluable whale pods which they were desperately hunting, but it also reduced the ship's crew to little more than shambling, sleep-deprived zombies. This might have explained why the Juliana's lookout that morning had been so slow to react to the vessel that was now floating just a short distance off their starboard beam.

Helka had been down in his cabin, staring dejectedly at his charts, in the hope it might somehow inspire him to reverse the fortunes of what had so far been a wasted journey, all the way from their native Iceland. Then he'd heard the shouting coming from up above. The whaler's Captain stood on deck alongside the rest of his crew, staring helplessly across the water at the deck gun that was now trained on his ship. Even without her infamous red and black naval ensign on display, there was no mistaking the sleek lines of the Kriegsmarine U-boat.

There had been stories of German submarines which either failed to hear or obey the final orders to surrender. But the war had been ended for over two years now. Just what had they stumbled across? Figures in gray green overalls were now hurrying across the deck of the submarine and a short time later, two inflatables made their way towards the Juliana. With no weapons on board to defend themselves and no other ships in the vicinity to hear their transmissions, Helka ordered his men to line up and to offer no resistance to their captors.

As the Germans were hauling themselves up over the railings, a figure broke away from their number and strolled enthusiastically over to where Helka was standing. The U-Boat captain cheerfully apologized for the disruption, asking if it would be possible for him and his crew to purchase half of the remaining supplies aboard the whaling ship. Despite his affable and polite nature, there was a tone to the submariner's request which led Helka to believe that refusal on his part would be unwise. He noted uneasily that each of the German Sailors were armed with either a pistol or a carbine and so reluctantly agreed to the proposal. He was immediately handed a thick roll of US dollars and was advised that there should be enough left over for each of his crew to receive a small bonus for their troubles.

As the submarine commander had later turn to leave, he had paused and asked Helka to bring one of his charts up from his cabin. He had been marked down a location not too far away, advising that there was a large school of humpback whales to be found there, before saluting and disappearing back over the side of the ship. The Icelandic crew watched in bewilderment as the submarine turned away and then slowly made its way off into the distance, never to be seen again.

The Peculiar 'Operation Highjump'

On the 2nd of December 1946, a flotilla of US ships set off from the naval base in Norfolk, Virginia. The expedition had been designated 'Operation Highjump' and consisted of 13 vessels, including the aircraft carrier USS Philippine Sea, as well as the destroyers USS Henderson and USS Brownson. They had been ordered to make their way deep into the desolation of the Antarctic Circle, in order to conduct a combination of military drills and scientific experiments.

In charge of the operation was Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd Jr, a season polar explorer, who had carried out a large number of previous civilian and military expeditions into the Antarctic. When the Task Force eventually arrived at its destination, it immediately began to conduct extensive photo-reconnaissance operations of the area, but would subsequently be recalled only a few weeks later due to reports of dangerous weather conditions. Soon after, the ships which had taken part in the operation returned to their respective home ports, rumors and stories about what had really happened began to circulate. Newspaper articles in the Chilean media claimed that the US Fleet had been attacked by unidentified flying craft, that had inflicted heavy casualties, forcing the Americans to withdraw.

Speculation was only fueled even further when during a television interview about the mission, Admiral Byrd made a number of significant comments in relation to America having to prepare herself for future attacks that might emanate from Antarctica. He specifically referred to the risk of aircraft attacking the United States having come from the South Pole, and that he and his countrymen could no longer rely on their distance from other hostile nations as an effective means of defending themselves.

Almost immediately, a follow-up mission to the remote region was authorized, codenamed Operation windmill, which was concluded in April of 1948. After this, American interests in the region seemed to wane, up until the decision over a decade later to detonate three nuclear devices there. The rationale for this action was to test the effects of high-altitude nuclear explosions in the earth's upper atmosphere.

It is possible that America's brief fascination with the southern polar region might ultimately have been forgotten, had it not been for the publication in 1991 of a Soviet era intelligence report, which offered a very different reason for the untimely conclusion of Operation Highjump. Allegedly compiled from transcripts of interviews between KGB agents and a handful of US Sailors who are involved in the expedition, the leaked dossier suggested that the American fleet have been attacked and driven away from Antarctica by an unknown hostile power.

The Soviet era intelligence report

The report details that by mid-February of 1947, the American ships were making their way through the Weddell sea, when the USS Brownson became aware of unknown aircraft shadowing her movements. Initially, these were described as fast moving lights off in the far distance, but as they gradually started to venture closer and closer, contacts also began to register on the Branson's radar screens.

As the US ships had closed up together, five of the craft had started to overfly the fleet at low-altitude, dodging and weaving in and out of the tightly packed American vessels at breakneck speeds. Deeming their actions hostile, Captain Gimber ordered the Branson's Gunners to target the attackers, the destroyer immediately opening fire, using her 40 millimeter anti-aircraft cannons. The witnesses described the five unidentified aircraft as saucer-shaped and testified that as soon as the Branson opened fire, the mysterious craft retaliated with incredible beams of light and heat.

As fighter aircraft had been scrambling to launch from the deck of the USS Casablanca, they had been burned out of the sky, their frames and crews reduced to little more than ash by the advanced enemy weaponry. Return fire from the Americans proved relatively ineffective, due to the superior speed and maneuverability of the attackers, but whilst the battle had progressed, there was some success.

As one of the mysterious craft had passed over the USS Sennet, a lucky shot from the submarine's deck gun caught it, the 5 inch shell sending the flying machine spinning wildly off to one side. The downed aircraft had detonated violently as it impacted on the water's surface, but then there was another greater explosion. The USS Maddox, a destroyer attached to the Task Force, had sustained serious damage as a result of the relentless attack, including a fire that had fatally spread to her magazines. The resultant explosion killed all those aboard and sent the stricken vessel to the seafloor.

Realizing they were outmatched, the Americans would spend the next few days retreating out of the area, continually harassed by the unknown attackers. The writer of the report ended by speculating that the subsequent US mission to the region had also failed to defeat the forces that had been ranged against them, and that the Americans had eventually resorted to nuclear weapons in a final bid to defeat their mysterious opponent.

The Soviet document was seized upon by commentators and conspiracy theorists the world over as proof that there was something sinister lurking within the safety of the South Pole. For some, it was the definitive proof that aliens lived and walked amongst us, to others this was the last bastion of Nazi resistance to have survived the second world war. And then there were those who theorize that the answer lay in combining these two theories, as Hitler's fugitive forces utilized alien technology they had uncovered to build a glorious Fourth Reich underneath the ice caps.

Even from just a cursory inspection, it is evident that there are glaring errors contained within the Soviet report that act to undermine his credibility, but then, this is perhaps unsurprising. Material produced by Russian intelligence staff during the Communist era is largely typified by the need to create what the author's masters wanted to hear, rather than a more truthful representation of the actual events.

For example, repeated references are made to the USS Casablanca, an aircraft carrier which did not sail with the Highjump flotilla and was instead laid up in Norfolk awaiting her decommission during the Expedition. It is possible that over time, the witnesses have confused the Casablanca with the USS Currituck, but then there is also the issue of the alleged sinking of the USS Maddox. Again, the Maddox did not play any part in the Antarctic mission.

Two destroyers of that name were constructed by the US Navy during the Second World War. The first was sunk by German dive-bombers during the invasion of Italy in 1944. Her namesake also saw active service during the conflict and also went on to participate in the Vietnam War, where she was involved in the infamous Gulf of Tonkin incident, but neither would have been in the Antarctic during the winter of 1947. Finally, the references to American fighter aircraft being destroyed and mass casualties having been inflicted by the attackers is strongly contradicted by the official Highjump diaries.

In total, the expedition is reported to have sustained four fatalities during its time in the Antarctic. Three men perished when their PBM Mariner crashed in poor weather conditions. A further sailor was crushed during an accident while unloading scientific equipment onto the ice. If we are at all to buy into the Soviet narrative, then there are two possible explanations for these inaccuracies. The first is that the report was an exercise in disinformation, designed by the United States to draw out traitors in their ranks and to deliberately confuse their opponent. The second is that the incident was indeed genuine and that the American government used fear and paranoia of the Cold War to suppress and hide all trace of it, with national security acting as justification.


So, is it simple enough to write off the Russian account as a work of mere fiction? Perhaps, but it is apparent that something unexpected did occur which forced the Highjump expedition to conclude unexpectedly ahead of schedule. Also worth considering are the cryptic comments made by Rear Admiral Byrd about America suddenly having much more to fear from possible attackers emanating from that region.

It is of course easy to dismiss the fantastic conspiracy theories of a sprawling Nazi stronghold, hidden inside gigantic geothermal vents that were discovered underneath the ice. But the fact remains that one of Hitler's many aims was the establishment of a presence for the Third Reich in all of the world's far-flung regions, a goal in which he would invest significant time and effort.

In 1938, the German freighter named the MS Schwabenland set sail from its home port of Hamburg and made its way down through the South Atlantic towards the South Pole. The ship was carrying two Dornier seaplanes that have been fitted out with skis, which would allow the crew to land on the ice. The mission was commanded by a famous German explorer, named Alfred Ritscher. The German expedition eventually made landfall in an area known as the Princess Martha Coast, which had previously been claimed by the Norwegian government. They immediately renamed it 'New Schwabenland', establishing a permanent research station for their scientists to work from and carrying out numerous aerial reconnaissance missions of the area surrounding their encampment.

Ritscher and his crew would return to Hamburg six months later and would immediately begin plans for another trip back to the area. However, official records indicate that this second expedition never took place as the outbreak of World War II prevented them from being able to pull together the manpower and resources they would have needed. It is clear though that the German government did succeed in conducting further undocumented forays into the polar regions.

As recently as 2014, the remains of an abandoned naval outpost, previously unknown were discovered on the island of Alexandra Land near to the North Pole. Its rusting bunkers and Nazi flags provided damning evidence that there is much we still do not know about Adolf Hitler and his secretive ambitions.

Captain Helka's alleged encounter with a mysterious German submarine in early 1947 has largely been dismissed as a fantasy, and yet it remains far from an impossibility. Of the hundred and fifty or so large vessels that have historically vanished without trace from the world's oceans and which remain missing to this day, a significant number are German U-boats. A thousand of these submarines would put to sea during the second world war with over 20 still unaccounted for, their fates and final resting places a complete mystery.

It is also well documented that Luftwaffe engineers did indeed successfully create aircraft using technology instead revolutionary for their time, and that some of these prototypes did resemble what has come to be accepted as the classic outline of a flying saucer. The most well-known of these was the Haunebu, which supposedly only managed a number of test flights before the basis it was operating from were overrun by occupying forces in the dying days of the war.

There is little doubt that, given time, the Germans might have been able to turn the tide of battle, and that they did not require extraterrestrial technology in order to do so. After all, German Science, Technology and Engineering were instrumental in breaking the sound barrier, producing the first working long-range ballistic missiles and the earliest example of a stealth aircraft. The Haunebu was not powered by Martian technology, but was allegedly one huge turbine engine, housed within a circular airframe. It was said to be capable of the speed and maneuverability unrivalled for its era, and it is terrifying to think of the losses it might have inflicted on the Allied powers given even just a few further months of experimentation.

Once the more fantastic and outlandish elements of the Operation Highjump Saga are stripped sway, what should easily be dismissed as a creative piece of Science Fiction does seem to retain a concerning amount of substance. It is uncomfortably apparent that the military might of the United States did encounter something unexpected during their post-war expedition to the South Pole. Something that they felt the need to repeatedly confront and potentially even resort to nuclear warfare in order to vanquish it.

Whether this mysterious force was extraterrestrial in nature or was instead born out of the darkest crimes in human history, may never officially be known. We shall have to wait and see what other evidence waits to be uncovered, as human exploration of the Antarctic region continues. Who knows what abandoned settlements and sunken vessels lie waiting to be discovered, perfectly preserved beneath the polar ice.


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