Polar Record



Articles

Hitler's Antarctic base: the myth and the reality


Colin Summerhayes a1 and Peter Beeching a2
a1 Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, Lensfield Road, Cambridge CB2 1ER
a2 402–800 Eglinton Av. W., Toronto, M5N 1G1, Canada

Article author query
summerhayes c   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
beeching p   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 

Abstract

In January-February 1939, a secret German expedition visited Dronning (or Queen) Maud Land, Antarctica, apparently with the intention inter alia of establishing a base there. Between 1943 and 1945 the British launched a secret wartime Antarctic operation, code-named Tabarin. Men from the Special Air Services Regiment (SAS), Britain's covert forces for operating behind the lines, appeared to be involved. In July and August 1945, after the German surrender, two U-boats arrived in Argentina. Had they been to Antarctica to land Nazi treasure or officials? In the southern summer of 1946–1947, the US Navy appeared to ‘invade’ Antarctica using a large force. The operation, code-named Highjump, was classified confidential. In 1958, three nuclear weapons were exploded in the region, as part of another classified US operation, code-named Argus. Given the initial lack of information about these various activities, it is not, perhaps, surprising that some people would connect them to produce a pattern in which governments would be accused of suppressing information about ‘what really happened’, and would use these pieces of information to construct a myth of a large German base existing in Antarctica and of allied efforts to destroy it. Using background knowledge of Antarctica and information concerning these activities that has been published since the early 1940s, it is demonstrated: that the two U-Boats could not have reached Antarctica; that there was no secret wartime German base in Dronning Maud Land; that SAS troops did not attack the alleged German base; that the SAS men in the region at the time had civilian jobs; that Operation Highjump was designed to train the US Navy for a possible war with the Soviet Union in the Arctic, and not to attack an alleged German base in Antarctica; and that Operation Argus took place over the ocean more than 2000 km north of Dronning Maud Land. Activities that were classified have subsequently been declassified and it is no longer difficult to separate fact from fancy, despite the fact that many find it attractive not to do so.

(Received May 2006)