The Dark Continent: Antarctica — ‘The Secret Land” – Part 1

By T. L. Keller

Ahnenerbe                              a think tankthat operated in Nazi Germany between 1935 and 1945. It was an appendage of the Schutzstaffel(SS) and had been established by Heinrich Himmler, the Reichsführer of the SS. It was devoted to the task of promoting the racial doctrines espoused by Adolf Hitler and his governing Nazi Party, specifically by supporting the idea that the modern Germans descended from an ancient Aryan racewhich was biologically superior to other racial groups. The group comprised scholars and scientists from a broad range of academic disciplines.  The Ahnenerbesupported research expeditions worldwide. 1

Dark Fleet                              a post-WWII Nazi, secret space program who some believe to be a fleet of spacecraft that emerged from the remains of the Nazi Third Reich, currently located at the Antarctic and elsewhere.

Haunebu                                 German name assigned to a series of Rundflugzeugor “Round Aircraft” designs.  Examples: Haunebu I, Haunebu III, etc.

Neuschwabenland                  Neuschwabenland(New Swabia, in English) was an unrecognized Antarctic claim by Nazi Germany and is now a cartographic name sometimes given to an area of Antarctica between 20°E and 10°W in Queen Maud Land, which is claimed as a Norwegian dependent territory under the Antarctic Treaty System.

New Swabia                            see Neuschwabenland[in Norwegian and German].

Rundflugzeug                          “Round Aircraft”, in German (flying saucer).

secret space program            a highly secret, military space program that has been running in parallel to the publicly-known space programs such as NASA, the European Space Agency, the Russian space program and others.

“The Secret Land”                 title of a Department of Defense documentary film showing the activities of the US Navy and US Army during “Operation Highjump” in 1947-1948.  The Secret Land,was released in 1948 and was narrated by Robert Taylor, Robert Montgomery and Van Heflin.  Highjump was a military invasion force ordered to capture an alleged Nazi naval base in the Neuschwabenland region of Antarctica.  That Nazi base was a part of what some call the Dark Fleet.


In the mid-1940s, my parents gave me a copy of Richard Halliburton’s Complete Book of Marvels. 2 Halliburton, a well-known author and world explorer in the 1930s, spent his adult life conducting private expeditions to Asia, Africa and the Middle East and created a fascinating autobiography of his discoveries.  At that time, Africa was known as the “Dark Continent.”  Today, I suggest that Antarctica is the new “Dark Continent” as the general public is not permitted unlimited access to it for reasons that we may be able to reveal in this series of articles.  There are now over 42 research stations on the Antarctic continent representing 41 countries.  Many of these stations are manned throughout the year with approximately 4,000 personnel during the summer period and 1,000 during the winter. Territorial claims in Antarctica  have been made by the United Kingdom, Argentina, Chile, Norway, New Zealand, Australia and France.  The American station is located at McMurdo (just off the Ross Sea at the bottom of the map).  Today, most tourist cruise ships only visit the Antarctic Peninsula between the Weddell Sea and the Bellinghausen Sea during the summer (upper left of map).  Norway currently operates their Tor and Troll stations in Queen Maud Land (top of map).

Map of Antarctica 3

The 1938-1939 Nazi Expedition

There were three German expeditions to the Antarctic in the 20thcentury. One purpose was to establish a German whaling station.  In 1938, Nazi Germany sent a secret, third expedition (Deutsche Antarktische Expedition) to Antarctica with a mission to investigate sites for a possible base and to make formal claims in the name of the Third Reich.  “In late 1938 [the great polar explorer Admiral Richard E.] Byrd visited Hamburg and was invited to participate in the 1938/1939 German ‘Neuschwabenland’ Antarctic Expedition.” 4   To prepare them for their mission, they invited Byrd to lecture them on what to expect.  He declined. The following year, a month after hostilities had commenced in Europe, the Germans returned to Neuschwabenlandto complete what had been started, with many suggesting that a naval base was being constructed.  The question is, of course, why would the Nazis establish a scientific research base in Antarctica when they had just invaded Austria and Czechoslovakia and were on the verge of invading Poland in September 1939?  The conclusion would logically be that the plan was to construct a military base, and most probably U-boat (submarine) pens and possibly much more.

The third German Antarctic Expedition (1938-1939) was led by Captain Alfred Ritscher, a German naval officer, who was appointed by Heinrich Himmler as part of the Nazi Ahnenerbe organization.  The expedition left Hamburg in 1938 aboard the MS Schwabenland, a freighter capable of carrying, catapulting and recovering Dornier float planes.  The secret expedition had 33 members plus Schwabenland‘s crew of 24 and arrived off the Queen Maud Land coast in early 1939.  The expedition established a temporary base and in the following weeks teams walked along the coast recording claim reservations on significant landmarks. Nazi German flags were placed on the sea ice along the coast in an effort to establish territorial claims. Seven photographic survey flights were made.  Altogether they flew over hundreds of thousands of square kilometers and took more than 16,000 aerial photographs.

MS Schwabenland launching a Dornier seaplane

Nazi Rundflugzeug (“Round Aircraft”)

For those who did not read my article “Who Created Star Trek?” in the January 2019 issue of The MUFON Journal 5, the following will reprise some of its content in terms of the provision of foreign intelligence captured by spies of the US Navy during WWII.  The following is from my article quoting Michael E. Salla, Ph.D., in his book The U.S. Navy’s Secret Space Program & Nordic Extraterrestrial Alliance:

“Admiral [Leslie] Stevens’ [III] aeronautics expertise meant that he was almost certainly aware of  what [Admiral Rico] Botta had learned about Nazi aerospace projects beginning in 1942 . . . According to William Tompkins, Admiral Stevens was indeed made aware of what the Navy had learned about Nazi Germany’s flying saucer programs.” 6

Theories of the Nazi German UFO program describe supposedly successful attempts to develop advanced aircraft or spacecraft prior to and during World War II, and further assert the post-war survival of these craft in secret underground bases in Antarctica, South America, and the United States. According to these theories and fictional stories, various potential code-names or sub-classifications of Nazi UFO craft such as RundflugzeugFeuerballDiskusHaunebuHauneburg-Gerät,V7VrilKugelblitz (not related to the self-propelled gun with the same name), FlugkreiselKugelwaffeReichsflugscheibeand Andromeda-Gerät, have all been referenced.7  The following are those aircraft referred to by the Germans as Rundflugzeugor “Round Aircraft.”

One of those “Round Aircraft” programs reported to Admiral Botta would have been those of the Haunebu series of flying discs (illustrated below).  According to some reports, the Haunebu II (aka DO-STRA) was manufactured by Dornier Flugzeugwerke(Dornier Aircraft Works) in Hauneburg, Germany, of which the first prototype was constructed in 1942.  Allegedly, there were seven built with a total number of 106 test flights. It had a diameter of 32 meters and the propulsion system was a Schumann SM-Levitator.  It is said that it had a top speed of 6,000 km/hour.  In comparison, the drawing below is accompanied by a photograph taken by George Adamski of a “Venusian” flying saucer (circa 1952).  Even a simple comparison reveals unexpected similarities that are difficult to overlook.

Haunebu II Rundflugzeug8
Adamski’s “Scout Ship” Photograph 9

So, What Happened in May 1945? 10

According to the legend of the Nazi Rundflugzeug, Hitler directed that they were not to be used for military applications during WWII.  One story is that prior to the start of the war in 1939, they were sent to either Argentina and/or to a Nazi base in Antarctica.  When Germany surrendered in May 1945, it is almost certain thatif these devices or technical documents existed, in any form, some would have been captured by the allied forces and some by the Russians.  According to one source, some were allegedly sunk into the Mondsee in the Salzkammergut in Austria. 11  Others claim that they were flown to South America or shipped there in parts to be re-assembled in Argentina.

As to the designers, the scientists, the engineers and technicians, it is well know that Operation Paperclip migrated many of them to America.  The Russians are also known to have taken many to the Soviet Union. Their futures were somewhat bleaker as many, after thorough interrogation and unwilling collaboration, were sent to Siberian Gulags or executed.  Some escaped the Russians, British and Americans.  Where did they go?  These were often SS officers and higher-level leaders such as SS General Hans Kammler.  He apparently disappeared shortly before May 1945.  Some reports suggest that he accompanied one of his experimental devices, Die Glocke, from Prague to Spain and then to Argentina.  If he were not killed, then most likely, he was ushered out by the ODESSA organization to South America.12

“Operation Highjump” (1947-1948)

One year later in 1946, Richard E. Byrd, who by now had become an admiral in the US Navy, was ordered (by Secretary of Defense James Forrestal and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Chester Nimitz) to Antarctica with the largest task force ever assembled for a polar mission. Byrd’s flagship was the USS Philippine Sea, an aircraft carrier, having just recently been commissioned in May of that year.  Following an “abbreviated” shakedown cruise, she was assigned to Operation Highjump.  She returned to Quonset Point and disembarked the existing flight crews before sailing for Boston for repairs and alterations. She then headed to Norfolk where Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd boarded her, and she took on six Douglas R4D Skytrain transports, two OY-1 Sentinel liaison aircraft, and a Sikorsky HO3S-1 helicopter along with cargo, spare parts, skis and Task Force 68 personnel.  If there were nine aircraft loaded onto the carrier in Norfolk, and there were a total of 33 aircraft on board, there were then 24 aircraft of other types (normally F8F Bearcat and F6F Hellcat fighters and TBM torpedo planes as would have been part of a normal carrier complement).  To those were addedsix US Army tanks and a 45,000 pound snow cruiser:  From the July 15th 1939 issue of The New York Times:

Byrd to Use Army Tanks on Polar Quest

Big Snow Cruiser in Antarctic Equipment
by The Associated Press


“BOSTON, July 14 – Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd disclosed plans for his coming expedition in the Antarctic said today that 6 army tanks and a unique 45,000 pound snow cruiser would be used for transport over the South Pole’s icy wastelands …
The snow cruiser … would carry four men and a plane, and would be extremely mobile and easy to manipulate under the difficult conditions found in Antarctica…

From Wikipedia, let’s examine the main components of Task Force 68: 13

Aircraft carrier and flagship USS Philippine Sea

Seaplane Tender USS Pine Island

Destroyer USS Brownson

Tanker USS Canisteo

Seaplane Tender USS Currituck

Destroyer USS Henderson

Tanker USS Cacapon

Communications and Flagship USS Mount Olympus

Supplyship USS Yancey

Submarine USS Sennet

Icebreaker USS Burton Island

Icebreaker USCGC Northwind

Supplyship USS Merrick

Admiral Richard E. Byrd, Jr
USS Philippine Sea (CV-47)

Mind you, this was not only a US Navy Task Force.  Britain and Australia were also contributing to this combined force operation.  In addition to the 13 warships and support ships, there were 4,700 men (4,000 were said to be combat troops), 33 aircraft and six tanks. In Admiral Byrd’s own words, the mission was “primarily of a militarynature”.[emphasis added] 14 Let’s be circumspect about this. Task Force 68 was not a scientific research expedition.  It was an invasion fleetsupported by 4,000 combat troops, tanks, fighter aircraft and, yes, even a submarine.  Admiral Byrd was sent on a mission to invade and capture. . . something or someone.  But what and who?

What Was The “Opposing Force”?

The legend of Operation Highjump is simply this: Task Force 68 while performing “mapping operations” along the eastern coast was met by an overwhelming Nazi military opposition at Neuschwabenland.  It is claimed to have been a U-boat pen and Rundflugzeug base located in an extensive natural cavern under the Mühlig-Hofmann mountains.  The U-boat entrance is claimed to have been through an underwater passageway.  A notional, but geologically inaccurate, Jim Nichols illustration of that opposing force is shown below:

Jim Nichols’ illustration of the “Opposing Force”


One British periodical commenting on the British contribution to the Task Force 68 quoted Byrd:

“But, and the big but is, the fact that Admiral Byrd spoke of ‘flying objects that could fly from pole to pole at incredible speeds’ and with well-documented German activity before, during and in the immediate aftermath of World War II, one can’t help but wonder whether there is some truth in the Nazi Antarctica myth. Even so, could Operation Highjump and Byrd’s quotes have overshadowed the truth about British excursions in Antarctica by way of misinformation, bringing attention to his mission and, by doing so, making sure that history only remembered one mysterious Antarctic mission? When the Antarctica mystery is mentioned, Britain is never given more than a footnote. That fact is surprising in itself, especially as British forces were active in Antarctica throughout the war and quite possibly took the initiative in dealing with the Antarctic Nazi threat a whole 12 months before Operation Highjump was initiated”. 15

Admiral Byrd, in an interview with Lee van Atta of International New Service aboard the expeditions command ship, the USS Mount Olympus, discussed the lessons learned from the operation. The interview appeared in the Wednesday, March 5, 1947 edition of the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio and read in part as follows:

“Admiral Richard E. Byrd warned today that the United States should adopt measures of protection against the possibility of an invasion of the country by hostile planes coming from the polar regions. The admiral explained that he was not trying to scare anyone, but the cruel reality is that in case of a new war, the United States could be attacked by planes flying over one or both poles. This statement was made as part of a recapitulation of his own polar experience, in an exclusive interview with International News Service. Talking about the recently completed expedition, Byrd said that the most important result of his observations and discoveries is the potential effect that they have in relation to the security of the United States. The fantastic speed with which the world is shrinking – recalled the admiral – is one of the most important lessons learned during his recent Antarctic exploration. ‘I have to warn my compatriots that the time has ended when we were able to take refuge in our isolation and rely on the certainty that the distances, the oceans, and the poles were a guarantee of safety.’” 16

Again, this comment from Admiral Byrd seems odd for a scientific expedition.

The Secret Land

After the operation ended, a follow-up “Operation Windmill” returned to the same area, in order to provide ground-truthing to the aerial photography of “Operation Highjump”, from 1947-1948.  A 1948 documentary about the expedition, The Secret Land, was filmed entirely by military photographers (both US Navy and US Army) and narrated by Robert Taylor, Robert Montgomery and Van Heflin. It won the 1948 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. 17.  As can be seen on the two lobby posters below, they depict ships, aircraft, tanks and a land invasion force.


In 2013 and 2014 I explored a number of European countries searching for my own “ground truth” about a Nazi flying disc program. Most of this time was spent in Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic.  Realizing that no Nazi program of that magnitude could succeed without the use of slave labor, I visited eight concentration camps in those countries as well.  I found slave labor camps in the areas of Peenemünde (Peenemünde camp) and Nordhausen (Dora camp). The Auschwitz and Birkenau camps are relatively close to the mines, caverns and tunnels of southern Poland. The only Nazi flying disc evidence that I could find was in southern Poland (where “The Bell” experiment took place – see my June 2018 article), and that was related to anti-gravity and space-time research and not manufacturing.  Of course, you cannot provea negative, but you can keep an open mind and attempt to be logical.

Regarding the 1947-1948 Byrd expedition to Neuschwabenland,one must wonder why 4,000 combat soldiers, an aircraft carrier, supply ships, tankers, two destroyers and a submarine (!) were sent on a scientific“mapping” expedition. That sounds more like an invasion force; “primarily a military” mission according to Byrd.  [Some claim that the base was for U-boat pens and Rundflugzeug. That might explain the warships.] Also, why did the expedition end abruptly and earlier than expected?  Bad weather?  Some claim that they were overwhelmed by superior enemy forces.It is claimed that there was significant loss of life and aircraft due to “enemy” opposition, but only accidental deaths and a loss of a helicopter were officially reported to the press.  According to Erich J. Choron of the Greyfalcon website:

In the end, the task force came steaming back to the United Sates with their data, which then, immediately became classified  ‘top secret.’ Secretary of the Navy (by this time, Secretary of Defense) James Forrestalretired… and started to ‘talk’…. not only about [Operation] Highjump, but about other things, as well… He was put in Bethesda Naval Hospital psychiatric ward where he was prevented from seeing or talking to anyone, including his wife … and … after a short while he was [allegedly] thrown out the window while trying to hang himself with a bed sheet.  So the story goes… It was, of course, ruled a suicide, case closed. However, some of what he knew… about [Operation] Highjump … and other things … did manage to “leak”… How much is truth, how much is speculation is difficult to tell. However, in every “myth” there is a grain of truth… “ 18

When I first read about the reports of Nazi “Round Aircraft” decades ago, I discounted those stories in their entirety as it seemed at the time to be absurd.  Now, after decades have passed, I’m not so sure that I didn’t make a hasty judgment.


  1. Courtesy of Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
  2. Halliburton, Richard, Complete Book of Marvels, Bobbs-Merrill, 1941.
  3. Op. cit., Wikepedia
  4. Ibid.
  5. Keller, T. L., “Who Created Star Trek?” The MUFON Journal, January 2019, pages 16-19.
  6. Salla, Ph.D., Michael, E., The U.S. Navy’s Secret Space Program & Nordic Extraterrestrial Alliance, Exopolitics Consultants, page 116.
  9. © G.A.F. International/Adamski/Foundation.
  10. Much of the text has been extracted from Keller, T. L., The Total Novice’s Guide To The Secret Space Program, 2017, Chapter 9: “Nazi Myths and Legends”, digital edition.
  11. Ibid.
  12. About the ODESSA Organization: After the fall of the Nazi Germany, what happened to those leaders, scientists, engineers and technicians who worked on all of these projects?  As we have seen, many joined Operation Paperclip and migrated to the US to join the fledgling American space program.  Others were taken to the Soviet Union for the same purpose.  In the case of those who migrated to Russia, they most probably had little choice.  ODESSA (“Organization Der Ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen“) is no myth or legend; it is factual.  
  13. Op. cit., Wikipedia
  16. El Mercurio Chilean newspaper), Wednesday, March 5, 1947
  17. The documentary, The Secret Land, is quite worth the time to see.  The film is introduced by then Secretary of Defense, Forrestal, with scenes of Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Chester Nimitz and Adm. Byrd.  Secretary Forrestal appeared to be well, but had died prior to Byrd’s return to the US. In the film they showed two helicopters and three Martin Mariner seaplanes in addition to the inventory itemized in this article.  The film stated that there was a 4,000-man complement. The operations while in and around Antarctica were hazardous due to heavy sea ice and bad weather.  The submarine was totally useless and constantly became trapped in the ice sheets and had to be towed to the ocean.  According to the film, Byrd had two groups: one to map the western coastline and central part of Antarctica and one to map the eastern coastline (where the Mühlig-Hoffman Mountains are located).  Several men were reported to have died and some injured.  The transport aircraft all carried magnetometers.  During wartime, these are used to locate enemy mines. Contrary to popular opinion the film showed large expanses of land with fresh water lakes (38° F) and no snow or ice on the ground.  It was noted that there are vast amounts of coal on Antarctica.  Coal can be converted to petroleum products.  In the film, there didn’t seem to be any urgency to leave the South Pole even though they returned far sooner than the expedition had planned.  When Robert Taylor listed the countries that had bases on Antarctica, there was no mention of Germany.  One seaplane crashed and one helicopter was lost at sea.  One does wonder about the six tanks, the submarine and all of the warships.  Why were they needed on a “mapping” expedition?

© T. L. Keller 2019To the readers: if you have a specific topic that you would like presented, please contact the author.  T. L. Keller can be contacted