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A collection of intriguing topics and fascinating stories

about the rare, the paranormal, and the strange

Volume 6

Discover natures weirdest and longest-lived creatures.
Jump into the world of lost civilizations and extinct animal kingdom.
Discover mysterious places and bizarre natural phenomenon.

Pablo C. Agsalud Jr.
Revision 6


In the past, things like television, and words and
ideas like advertising, capitalism, microwave and
cancer all seemed too strange for the ordinary

As man walks towards the future, overloaded with
information, more mysteries have been solved
through the wonders of science. Although some
things remained too odd for science to reproduce
or disprove, man had placed them in the gray
areas between truth and skepticism and labeled
them with terminologies fit for the modern age.

But the truth is, as long as the strange and
unexplainable cases keep piling up, the more likely
it would seem normal or natural. Answers are
always elusive and far too fewer than questions.
And yet, behind all the wonderful and frightening
phenomena around us, it is possible that what we
call mysterious today wont be too strange

This book might encourage you to believe or refute
what lies beyond your own understanding.
Nonetheless, I hope it will keep you entertained
and astonished.

The content of this book remains believable for as
long as the sources and/or the references from the
specified sources exist and that the validity of the
information remains unchallenged.

Mysterious Places on Earth

What mystery lies on Earth
and the ancient civilization who witnessed it?

Area 51

Area 51 is a military base, and a remote detachment of
Edwards Air Force Base. It is located in the southern
portion of Nevada in the western United States, 83
miles (133 km) north-northwest of downtown Las
Vegas. Situated at its center, on the southern shore of
Groom Lake, is a large military airfield. The base's
primary purpose is to support development and testing
of experimental aircraft and weapons systems.

The base lies within the United States Air Force's vast
Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR), formerly
called the Nellis Air Force Range (NAFR). Although the
facilities at the range are managed by the 99th Air Base
Wing at Nellis Air Force Base, the Groom facility
appears to be run as an adjunct of the Air Force Flight
Test Center (AFFTC) at Edwards Air Force Base in the
Mojave Desert, around 186 miles (300 km) southwest
of Groom, and as such the base is known as Air Force
Flight Test Center (Detachment 3).

Though the name Area 51 is used in official CIA documentation, other names used for the
facility include Dreamland, Paradise Ranch, Home Base, Watertown Strip, Groom Lake, and
most recently Homey Airport. The area is part of the Nellis Military Operations Area, and the
restricted airspace around the field is referred to as (R-4808N), known by the military pilots in
the area as "The Box" or "the Container".

The facility is not a conventional airbase, as frontline operational units are not normally
deployed there. It instead appears to be used for highly classified military/defense Special
Access Programs (SAP), which are unacknowledged publicly by the government, military
personnel, and defense contractors. Its mission may be to support the development, testing,
and training phases for new aircraft weapons systems or research projects. Once these
projects have been approved by the United States Air Force or other agencies such as the CIA,
and are ready to be announced to the public, operations of the aircraft are then moved to a
normal air force base. The intense secrecy surrounding the base, the very existence of which
the U.S. government did not even acknowledge until July 14, 2003, has made it the frequent
subject of conspiracy theories and a central component to unidentified flying object (UFO)

U.S. government's positions on Area 51

The federal government explicitly concedes (in various court filings and government
directives) that the USAF has an "operating location" near Groom Lake, but does not provide
any further information.

Unlike much of the Nellis range, the area surrounding the lake is permanently off-limits both
to civilian and normal military air traffic. Radar stations protect the area, and unauthorized
personnel are quickly expelled. Even military pilots training in the NAFR risk disciplinary action
if they stray into the exclusionary "box" surrounding Groom's airspace.

Area 51 border and warning sign stating that
"photography is prohibited" and that "use of deadly
force is authorized" under the terms of the 1950
McCarran Internal Security Act. A government vehicle is
parked on the hilltop; from there, security agents
observe the approach to Groom Lake.

Perimeter security is provided by uniformed private
security guards working for EG&G's security
subcontractor Wackenhut, who patrol in Humvees,
SUVs, and pickup trucks. The guards are armed with
M16s, but no violent encounters with Area 51 observers
have been reported; instead, the guards generally follow visitors near the perimeter and radio
for the Lincoln County Sheriff. Deadly force is authorized if violators who attempt to breach
the secured area fail to heed warnings to halt. Fines of around $600 seem to be the normal
course of action, although some visitors and journalists report receiving follow-up visits from
FBI agents. Some observers have been detained on public land for pointing camera equipment
at the base. Surveillance is supplemented using buried motion sensors.

The base does not appear on public U.S. government maps; the USGS topographic map for
the area only shows the long-disused Groom Mine. A civil aviation chart published by the
Nevada Department of Transportation shows a large restricted area, but defines it as part of
the Nellis restricted airspace. The official aeronautical navigation charts for the area show
Groom Lake but omit the airport facilities. Similarly the National Atlas page showing federal
lands in Nevada does not distinguish between the Groom block and other parts of the Nellis
range. Although officially declassified, the original film taken by U.S. Corona spy satellite in
the 1960s has been altered prior to declassification; in answer to freedom of information
queries, the government responds that these exposures (which map to Groom and the entire
NAFR) appear to have been destroyed. Terra satellite images (which were publicly available)
were removed from web servers (including Microsoft's TerraServer-USA) in 2004, and from
the monochrome 1 m resolution USGS data dump made publicly available. NASA Landsat 7
images are still available (these are used in the NASA World Wind). Higher resolution (and
more recent) images from other satellite imagery providers (including Russian providers and
the IKONOS) are commercially available. These show, in considerable detail, the runway
marking, base facilities, aircraft, and vehicles.

Although federal property within the base is exempt from state and local taxes, facilities
owned by private contractors are not. Area 51 researcher Glenn Campbell claimed in 1994
that the base only declares a taxable value of $2 million to the Lincoln County tax assessor,
who is unable to enter the area to perform an assessment.

When documents that mention the NTS and operations at Groom are declassified, mentions of
Area 51 and Groom Lake are routinely redacted. One notable exception is a 1967 memo from
CIA director Richard Helms regarding the deployment of three OXCART aircraft from Groom to
Kadena Air Base to perform reconnaissance over North Vietnam. Although most mentions of
OXCART's home base are redacted in this document, as is a map showing the aircraft's route
from there to Okinawa, the redactor appears to have missed one mention: p15 section #2
ends "Three OXCART aircraft and the necessary task force personnel will be deployed from
Area 51 to Kadena."


Soviet spy satellites obtained photographs of the Groom Lake area during the height of the
Cold War, and later civilian satellites have produced detailed images of the base and its

Aerial imagery shows the airfield of Area 51 having seven runways including one that now
appears to be closed. The closed runway, 14R/32L, is also by far the longest with a total
length of approximately 23,300 feet (7,100 m), not including stopway. The other runways are
two asphalt runways, the 14L/32R with a length of 12,000 feet (3,700 m) and 12/30 with a
length of 5,400 feet (1,600 m), and four runways located on the salt lake. These four runways
are 09L/27R and 09R/27L, which are both approximately 11,450 feet (3,490 m), and 03L/21R
and 03R/21L, which are both approximately 10,000 feet (3,000 m). The base also has a

In December 2007, airline pilots noticed that the base had appeared in their aircraft navigation
systems' latest Jeppesen database revision with the ICAO airport identifier code of KXTA and
listed as "Homey Airport". The probably inadvertent release of the airport data led to advice by
the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) that student pilots should be explicitly
warned about KXTA, not to consider it as a waypoint or destination for any flight even though
it now appears in public navigation databases.

Road access to the facility is with Nevada State Route 375 at 373803N
1154310W / 37.63417N 115.71944W / 37.63417; -115.71944 where an access road
connects to the public highway system. The security gate and a parking facility is at
373537N 1155357W / 37.59361N 115.89917W / 37.59361; -115.89917 about 10
miles west-southwest of the road turnoff. The gate is approximately 25 miles from the main
support base along a winding road.

The support base has a series of what appears to be supply warehouses, dormitories, a fire
station, some water towers and a number of support buildings that are common on military air
bases. A very tall tower, perhaps used as the aircraft control tower is also visible. Open
storage warehouses, and what appears to be a reclamation yard is also visible. Recreation
facilities include baseball diamonds and tennis courts. Several large satellite dishes,
presumably for communications are also visible. A large number of white-painted, presumably
government vehicles are visible in parking lots, mostly being pickup trucks, SUVs and vans.
Several Boeing 737 aircraft are parked on an open ramp, presumably for transportation of
workers to the base. One military aircraft, appearing to be a black-painted F-16 is parked on
another ramp; the black paint commonly used by the Air Force for aircraft engaged in night
operations. Several black-painted helicopters are also parked on an open ramp. The base also
has a large number of hangars, more than what is commonly found on a normal air base,
presumably to insure operational aircraft are kept out of view of orbiting reconnaissance
satellites as well as out of the intense desert heat.

Approximately 15.5 miles north-northeast of the base, on a peak known as Baldy Mountain,
are a series of radar radomes 372658N 1154401W / 37.44944N 115.73361W /
37.44944; -115.73361, 372706N 1154406W / 37.45167N 115.735W / 37.45167; -
115.735 at approximately 9,400' elevation. The types of radar at these sites is unknown,
although they may be the ARSR-4 Air Route Surveillance Radar which is used by the Air Force
and FAA Joint Surveillance System throughout the United States. Another series of radars of a
different type are located on a ridge at 4,300' just to the north of Groom Lake at 371741N
1154921W / 37.29472N 115.8225W / 37.29472; -115.8225. All of the radar sites appear
to be automated and unattended.

Background information

World War IIThe first known use of the area was the construction in 1941 of an auxiliary
airfield for the West Coast Air Corps Training Center at Las Vegas Air Field. Known as Indian
Springs Airfield Auxiliary #1, it consisted of two dirt 5000' runways aligned NE/SW, NW/SE.
The airfield was also used for bombing and artillery practice, as bomb craters are still visible in
the vicinity of the runways. It was abandoned after the gunnery school at Las Vegas closed in
June 1946.

U-2 program

The Groom Lake test facility was established by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for
Project Aquatone, the development of the Lockheed U-2 strategic reconnaissance aircraft in
April 1955.

As part of the project, the director, Richard M. Bissell Jr., understood that the extreme secrecy
enveloping the project, the flight test and pilot training programs could not be conducted at
Edwards Air Force Base or Lockheed's Palmdale facility. A search for a suitable testing site for
the U-2 was conducted under the same extreme security as the rest of the project.

Bissell recalled "a little X-shaped field" in southern Nevada that he had flown over many times
during his involvement with the nuclear weapons test program. The airfield was the
abandoned Indian Springs Airfield Auxiliary #1 field, which by 1955 had reverted to sand and
was unusable, but the adjacent Groom Dry Lake to the northwest met the requirements for a
site that was "remote, but not too remote".

He notified Lockheed, who sent an inspection team out to Groom Lake. According to Kelly
Johnson, "... We flew over it and within thirty seconds, you knew that was the place ... it was
right by a dry lake. Man alive, we looked at that lake, and we all looked at each other. It was
another Edwards, so we wheeled around, landed on that lake, taxied up to one end of it. It
was a perfect natural landing field ... as smooth as a billiard table without anything being done
to it". Johnson used a compass to lay out the direction of the first runway. The place was
called "Groom Lake."

The lakebed made an ideal strip from which they could operate the troublesome test aircraft,
and the Emigrant Valley's mountain ranges and the NTS perimeter protected the test site from
prying eyes and outside interference about 100 miles north of Las Vegas.

On 4 May 1955, a survey team arrived at Groom Lake and laid out a 5,000-foot (1,500 m),
north-south runway on the southwest corner of the lakebed and designated a site for a base
support facility. The new airfield, then known as Site II or "The Ranch", initially consisted of
little more than a few shelters, workshops and trailer homes in which to house its small team.
In a little over three months, the base consisted of a single, paved runway, three hangars, a
control tower, and rudimentary accommodations for test personnel. The base's few amenities
included a movie theatre and volleyball court. Additionally, there was a mess hall, several
water wells, and fuel storage tanks. By July 1955, CIA, Air Force, and Lockheed personnel
began arriving. The Ranch received its first U-2 delivery on 24 July 1955 from Burbank on a C-
124 Globemaster II cargo plane, accompanied by Lockheed technicians on a Douglas DC-3.
The first U-2 lifted off from Groom on 4 August 1955. A U-2 fleet under the control of the CIA
began overflights of Soviet territory by mid-1956.

The Groom Lake airfield soon acquired a name: Watertown. According to some accounts, the
site was named after CIA director Allen Dulles' birthplace: Watertown, New York. Upon its
activation, the testing facility was used with increasing frequency for U-2 testing, however that
changed in 1957 when the Atomic Energy Commission began testing nuclear weapons at the
nearby Yucca Flat facility.

Once the AEC Operation Plumbbob series of tests began with the Boltzmann blast in May
1957, the Watertown airfield personnel were required to evacuate the base prior to each
detonation. The AEC, in turn, tried to ensure that expected fallout from any given shot would
be limited so as to permit re-entry of personnel within three to four weeks. All personnel at
the base were required to wear radiation badges to measure their exposure to fallout. Once
the atomic testing began, the CIA U-2 testing operations were interrupted constantly due to
the explosions at Yucca Flat, which were scheduled and re-scheduled frequently.

The CIA facilities at Groom Lake were always considered by the agency as a temporary
facility, to accommodate the U-2 testing. As the project began to wind down, and CIA pilot
classes finished their training, Watertown became a virtual ghost town. By June 1957, most U-
2 testing had moved to Edwards AFB and the first operational USAF unit to receive the U-2,
the 4080th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, was active at Laughlin AFB, Texas. For two years
following the departure of the U-2s from Groom Lake, the base was fairly quiet, although it
remained under CIA jurisdiction.

X-15 program

In July 1959 USAF personnel from Edwards AFB embarked on a two-day survey trip to
investigate potential emergency landing sites for the North American X-15 rocket plane. The
survey crew received permission to land on the then unused CIA facility at Groom Lake. The
crew tested the hardness of the lakebed surface by dropping a 10-pound steel ball from a
height of six feet and measuring the diameter of the resulting imprint. The result was that the
Groom Lake surface was considered excellent for emergency use.

In September 1960, NASA and Air Force Flight Test Center personnel at Edwards reviewed the
results of the survey trip to Groom Lake, as well as other sites visited by the survey crew. The
use of Groom Lake meant a reduction in support requirements as there was an airfield with
emergency equipment and personnel at the site. Ultimately, they agreed to remove Groom
from consideration as an emergency landing site due to difficulty obtaining clearance into the

The OXCART program

A-12 during radar testing at Groom Lake

Even before U-2 development was complete, Lockheed
began work on its successor as part of the CIA's
OXCART project, involving the A-12, a Mach-3 high-
altitude reconnaissance aircraft a later variant of
which became the famed USAF SR-71 Blackbird.

As with the previous U-2 program, security
requirements of the Oxcart project necessitated an
obscure, secret location for A-12 testing. Despite the
success of the U-2 flight tests and the OXCART mock-up radar tests, Groom Lake was not
initially considered. It was a "Wild West" outpost, with primitive facilities for only 150 people.
The A-12 test program would require more than ten times that number. Groom Lake's five-
thousand foot asphalt runway was both too short and unable to support the weight of the
Oxcart. The fuel supply, hangar space, and shop space were all inadequate.

Ten Air Force bases programmed for closure were considered, but all were rejected. The site
had to be away from any cities and military or civilian airways to prevent sightings. It also had
to have good weather, the necessary housing and fuel supplies, and an eighty-five-hundred-
foot runway. None of the air force bases met the security requirements, although, for a time,
Edwards Air Force Base was considered. In the end, Groom Lake was the only possibility,
however its short runway, austere facilities and other shortcomings meant a major overhaul
was necessry prior for Oxcart A-12 testing could commence. Groom Lake had also, by this
time, received a new official name. The Nevada nuclear test site was divided into several
numbered areas. To blend in, Groom Lake became "Area 51."

This aircraft flight characteristics and maintenance requirements forced a massive expansion
of facilities and runways at Groom Lake. On 1 October 1960, Reynolds Electrical and
Engineering Company (REECo) began work on the site, referred to as "Project 51". Workers
engaged in double-shift construction schedules for the next four years to overhaul and
upgrade base facilities, and also expand the existing runway to 8,500-foot (2,600 m) as well
as harden the existing runway to support the heavier A-12. In addition, a new 10,000-foot
runway was constructed (14/32) diagonally across the southwest corner of the lakebed. An
Archimedes curve approximately two miles across was marked on the dry lake so that an A-12
pilot approaching the end of the overrun could abort to the playa instead of plunging the
aircraft into the sagebrush. Area 51 pilots called it "The Hook." For crosswind landings two
unpaved airstrips (runways 9/27 and 03/21) were marked on the dry lakebed.

By August 1961 construction of the essential facilities were completed. The United States Navy
supplied three surplus hangars which were erected on the base's north side. They were
designated as Hangar 4, 5, and 6. A fourth, Hangar 7, was new construction. The original U-2
hangars were converted to maintenance and machine shops. Facilities in the main cantonment
area included workshops and buildings for storage and administration, a commissary, control
tower, fire station, and housing. The Navy also contributed more than 130 surplus Babbitt
duplex housing units for long-term occupancy facilities. Older buildings were repaired, and
additional facilities were constructed as necessary. A reservoir pond, surrounded by trees,
served as a recreational area one mile north of the base. Other recreational facilities included
a gymnasium, movie theatre, and a baseball diamond. A permanent aircraft fuel tank farm
was constructed by early 1962 for the special JP-7 fuel required by the A-12. Seven tanks
were constructed, with a total capacity of 1,320,000-gallons.

Preparations began for the arrival of OXCART; security was greatly enhanced, and the small
civilian mine in the Groom basin was closed. In January 1962, the Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) expanded the restricted airspace in the vicinity of Groom Lake. The
lakebed became the center of a 600-square-mile addition to restricted area R-4808N.
Restricted continuously at all altitudes, the airspace occupies the center of the Nellis Air Force

Althugh remaining under the jurisdiction of the CIA, the facility received eight USAF F-101
Voodoos for training, two T-33 Shooting Star trainers for proficiency flying, a C-130 Hercules
for cargo transport, a U-3A for administrative purposes, a helicopter for search and rescue,
and a Cessna 180 for liaison use; and Lockheed provided an F-104 Starfighter for use as a
chase plane.

The first OXCART was covertly trucked to the base in February 1962, assembled, and it made
its first flight 26 April 1962. At the time, the base boasted a complement of over 1,000
personnel. It had fueling tanks, a control tower, and a baseball diamond. The A-12 was a
large, loud, and distinctive-looking aircraft. During the early test flights, the CIA tried to limit
the number of people who saw the aircraft. All those at Groom Lake not connected with the
Oxcart program were herded into the mess hall before each takeoff. This was soon dropped as
it disrupted activities and was impractical with the large number of flights.

Although the airspace above Groom Lake was closed, it was near busy Nellis Air Force Base.
Inevitably, there were sightings. Some Nellis pilots saw the A-12 several times. At least one
NASA test pilot from Edwards AFB saw an A-12. He radioed the Edwards tower and asked
what it was. He was curtly told to halt transmissions. After landing, he was told what he had
seen was vital to U.S. security. He also signed a secrecy agreement. The major source of A-12
sightings was airline pilots. It is believed that twenty to thirty airline sightings were made. One
American Airlines pilot saw an A-12 twice. During one sighting, a pilot saw an A-12 and two
chase planes; he radioed, "I see a goose and two goslings."

Groom saw the first flight of most major Blackbird variants: A-12, the abortive YF-12A
interceptor variant designed to intercept Soviet manned bombers, and the D-21 Blackbird-
based drone project. By the end of 1963, nine A-12s were at Area 51. A mock-up of the
"Reconnaissance Strike-71" (RS-71) was inspected by the Air Force on 4 June 1962. The
concept of a strike A-12 with strategic bombing capabilities ran into political problems from
both the Air Force, which was involved with the XB-70 Valkyrie program at the time and a lack
of enthusiasm from Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara. McNamara and his "whiz kids"
saw no need for additional manned bombers in the age of ICBMs. In addition McNamara was
phasing down Air Defense Command and saw no use for the YF-12A Interceptor. Accordingly,
only the reconnaissance version of the RS-71 remained (it kept the "strike" part of the name,
however). Where the A-12 was designed for clandestine overflights of Soviet territory, the RS-
71 carried additional side-looking cameras and other sensors which gave it much greater
capabilities. On December 2728, 1962, a contract was issued to Lockheed to build six test

According to legend, President Lyndon B. Johnson asked an aide soon upon taking office after
the Kennedy Assassination what the RS-71 was for. The aide responded, "strategic
reconnaissance." Thus, when Johnson announced the existence of a new reconnaissance
aircraft, on 24 July 1964, President Johnson called it the "SR-71." President Johnson's
announcements created an unusual security situation. Whle the USAF SR-71 project was a
"White" or open project, the CIA's A-12 was not. Its existence would remain a secret until
1981. To maintain the secret, all those involved were told of the coming SR-71 announcement
and warned to keep the A-12 separate.

The SR-71 first flew at the Lockheed facilities at Palmdale, California in December 1964, and
Palmdale and Edwards AFB served as the primary operation sites for that model. The 4200th
Strategic Reconnaissance Wing activated at Beale AFB on 1 January 1965, however the first
SR-71 did not arrive until 7 January 1966.

Starting in November 1965, even as the A-12 was declared operational for use by the CIA and
planning was made for its use, doubts were expressed about the cost of operating the two
separate groups of A-12s and SR-71s. After a year or more of debate, it was decided on 10
January 1967, to phase out the CIA A-12 program. Although the Oxcart was gone, its USAF
descendant, the SR-71, would continue to fly intelligence missions for the next twenty-two
years. Finally, in 1990, the SR-71 was retired.

The A-12s would remain at Groom Lake until 1968 and occasionally were deployed to other
United States bases overseas. The CIA's nine remaining A-12s were placed in storage at
Palmdale in June 1968. All surviving aircraft remained there for nearly 20 years before being
sent to museums around the United States.

D-21 Tagboard

The D-21 mounted on the back of the M-21. Note the
intake cover on the drone, which was used on early

Following the loss of Gary Powers's U-2 over the Soviet
Union, there were several discussions about using the
A-12 OXCART as an unpiloted drone aircraft. Although
Kelly Johnson had come to support the idea of drone
reconnaissance, he opposed the development of an A-
12 drone, contending that the aircraft was too large and
complex for such a conversion. However, the Air Force agreed to fund the study of a high-
speed, high-altitude drone aircraft in October 1962. The air force interest seems to have
moved the CIA to take action, the project designated "Q-12". By October 1963, the drone's
design had been finalized.At the same time, the Q-12 underwent a name change. To separate
it from the other A-12-based projects, it was renamed the "D-21." (The "12" was reversed to
"21"). "Tagboard" was the project's code name.

The first D-21 was completed in the spring of 1964 by Lockheed. After four more months of
checkouts and static tests, the aircraft was shipped to Groom Lake and reassembled. It was to
be carried by a two-seat derivative of the A-12, designated the "M-21". When the D-21/M-21
reached the launch point, the first step would be to blow off the D-21's inlet and exhaust
covers. With the D-21/M-21 at the correct speed and altitude, the LCO would start the ramjet
and the other systems of the D-21. With the D-21's systems activated and running, and the
launch aircraft at the correct point, the M-21 would begin a slight pushover, the LCO would
push a final button, and the D-21 would come off the pylon".

Difficulties were addressed throughout 1964 and 1965 at Groom Lake with various technical
issues. Captive flights showed unforeseen aerodynamic difficulties. By late January 1966,
more than a year after the first captive flight, everything seemed ready. The first D-21 launch
was made on 5 March 1966 with a successful flight, with the D-21 flying 120 miles with limited
fuel. A second D-12 flight was successful in April 1966 with the drone flying 1,200 miles,
reaching Mach 3.3 and 90,000 feet. An accident on 30 July 1966 with a fully fueled D-21, on a
planned checkout flight suffered from a non-start of the drone after its separation, causing it
to collide with the M-21 launch aircraft. The two crewmen ejected and landed in the ocean 150
miles offshore. One crew member was picked up by a helicopter, but the other, having
survived the aircraft breakup and ejection, drowned when sea water entered his pressure suit.
Kelly Johnson personally cancelled the entire program, having had serious doubts from the
start of the feasibility. A number of D-21s had already been produced, and rather than
scrapping the whole effort, Johnson again proposed to the Air Force that they be launched
from a B-52H bomber.

By late summer of 1967, the modification work to both the D-21 (now designated D-21B) and
the B-52Hs were complete. The test program could now resume. The test missions were flown
out of Groom Lake, with the actual launches over the Pacific. The first D-21B to be flown was
Article 501, the prototype. The first attempt was made on September 28, 1967, and ended in
complete failure. As the B-52 was flying toward the launch point, the D-21B fell off the pylon.
The B-52H gave a sharp lurch as the drone fell free. The booster fired and was "quite a sight
from the ground". The failure was traced to a stripped nut on the forward right attachment
point on the pylon. Several more tests were made, none of which met with success. However,
the fact is that the resumptions of D-21 tests took place against a changing reconnaissance
background. The A-12 had finally been allowed to deploy, and the SR-71 was soon to replace
it. At the same time, new developments in reconnaissance satellite technology were nearing
operation. Up to this point, the limited number of satellites available restricted coverage to the
Soviet Union. A new generation of reconnaissance satellites could soon cover targets
anywhere in the world. The satellites' resolution would be comparable to that of aircraft, but
without the slightest political risk. Time was running out for the Tagboard.

Several more test flights, made from Beale AFB, California, including two over Communist
China were made in 1969 and 1970 to varying degrees of success. On July 15, 1971, Kelly
Johnson received a wire canceling the D-21B program. The remaining drones were transferred
by a C-5A and placed in dead storage. The tooling used to build the D-21Bs was ordered
destroyed. Like the A-12 Oxcart, the D-21B Tagboard drones remained a Black airplane, even
in retirement. Their existence was not suspected until August 1976, when the first group was
placed in storage at the Davis-Monthan AFB Military Storage and Disposition Center. A second
group arrived in 1977. They were labeled "GTD-21Bs" (GT stood for ground training).

Davis-Monthan is an open base, with public tours of the storage area at the time, so the odd-
looking drones were soon spotted and photos began appearing in magazines. Speculation
about the D-21Bs circulated within aviation circles for years, and it was not until 1982 that
details of the Tagboard program were released. However, it was not until 1993 that the B-
52/D-21B program was made public. That same year, the surviving D-21Bs were released to

Foreign Technology Evaluation

HAVE FERRY, the second of two MiG-17F
"Fresco"s loaned to the United States by
Israel in 1969.

HAVE DOUGHNUT, (MiG-21F-13) flown by
United States Navy and Air Force Systems
Command during its 1968 exploitation.

During the Cold War, one of the missions carried out by the United States was the test and
evaluation of captured Soviet fighter aircraft. Beginning in the late 1960s, and for several
decades, Area 51 played host to an assortment of Soviet-built aircraft. Under the HAVE
DOUGHNUT, HAVE DRILL and HAVE FERRY programs, the first MiGs flown in the United States,
were used to evaluate the aircraft in performance and technical capabilities, as well as in
operational capability, pitting the types against U.S. fighters.

This was not a new mission, as testing of foreign technology by the USAF began during World
War II. After the war, testing of acquired foreign technology was performed by the Air
Technical Intelligence Center (ATIC, which became very influential during the Korean War),
under the direct command of the Air Materiel Control Department. In 1961 ATIC became the
Foreign Technology Division (FTD), and was reassigned to Air Force Systems Command. ATIC
personnel were sent anywhere where foreign aircraft could be found.

The focus of Air Force Systems Command limited the use of the fighter as a tool with which to
train the front line tactical fighter pilots. Air Force Systems Command recruited its pilots from
the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California, who were usually
graduates from various test pilot schools. Tactical Air Command selected its pilots primarily
from the ranks of the Weapons School graduates.

In August 1966, Iraqi Air Force fighter pilot Captain Munir Redfa defected, flying his MiG-21 to
Israel after being ordered to attack Iraqi Kurd villages with napalm. His aircraft was
transferred to Nevada within a month. In 1968 the US Air Force and Navy jointly formed a
project known as Have Donut in which Air Force Systems Command, Tactical Air Command,
and the U.S. Navy's Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Four (VX-4) flew this acquired Soviet
made aircraft in simulated air combat training. Because U.S. possession of the MiG-21 was,
itself, secret, it was tested at Groom Lake. A joint air force-navy team was assembled for a
series of dogfight tests.

Comparisons between the F-4 and the MiG-21 indicated that, on the surface, they were evenly
matched. But air combat was not just about technology. In the final analysis, it was the skill of
the man in the cockpit. The Have Doughnut tests showed this most strongly. When the Navy
or Air Force pilots flew the MiG-21, the results were a draw; the F-4 would win some fights,
the MiG-21 would win others. There were no clear advantages. The problem was not with the
planes, but with the pilots flying them. The pilots would not fly either plane to its limits. One of
the Navy pilots was Marland W. "Doc" Townsend, then commander of VF-121, the F-4 training
squadron at NAS Miramar. He was an engineer and a Korean War veteran and had flown
almost every navy aircraft. When he flew against the MiG-21, he would outmaneuver it
everytime. The Air Force pilots would not go vertical in the MiG-21. The Have Doughnut
project officer was Tom Cassidy, a pilot with VX-4, the Navy's Air Development Squadron at
Point Mugu. He had been watching as Townsend "waxed" the air force MiG 21 pilots. Cassidy
climbed into the MiG 21 and went up against Townsend's F-4. This time the result was far
different. Cassidy was willing to fight in the vertical, flying the plane to the point where it was
buffeting, just above the stall. Cassidy was able to get on the F-4's tail. After the flight, they
realized the MiG-21 turned better than the F-4 at lower speeds. The key was for the F-4 to
keep its speed up. What had happened in the sky above Groom Lake was remarkable. An F-4
had defeated the MiG 21; the weakness of the Soviet plane had been found. Further test
flights confirmed what was learned. It was also clear that the MiG-21 was a formidable enemy.
United States pilots would have to fly much better than they had been to beat it. This would
require a special school to teach advanced air combat techniques.

On August 12, 1968, two Syrian air force lieutenants, Walid Adham and Radfan Rifai, took off
in a pair of MiG-17Fs on a training mission. They lost their way and, believing they were over
Lebanon, landed at the Beset Landing Field in northern Israel. (One version has it that they
were led astray by an Arabic-speaking Israeli). In 1968 these ex-Iraqi MiG-17s were
transferred from Israeli stocks were added to the operation. These aircraft were given USAF
designations and fake serial numbers so that they may be identified in DOD standard flight
logs. As in the earlier program, a small group of Air Force and Navy pilots conducted mock
dogfights with the MiG-17s. Selected instructors from the Navy's Top Gun school at NAS
Miramar, California, were chosen to fly against the MiGs for familiarization purposes. Very
soon, the MiG-17's shortcomings became clear. It had an extremely simple, even crude,
control system which lacked the power-boosted controls of American aircraft. The F-4's twin
engines were so powerful it could accelerate out of range of the MiG-17's guns in thirty
seconds. It was important for the F-4 to keep its distance from the MiG 17. As long as the F-4
was one and a half miles fromthe MiG-17, it was outside the reach of the Soviet fighter's guns,
but the MiG was within reach of the F-4's missiles.

The data from the Have Doughnut and Have Drill tests were provided to the newly formed Top
Gun school at NASA Miramar. By 1970, the Have Drill program was expanded; a few selected
fleet F-4crews were given the chance to fight the MiGs. The most important result of Project
Have Drill is that no Navy pilot who flew in the project defeated the [MiG 17] Fresco in the first
engagement. The Have Drill dogfights were by invitation only. The other pilots based at Nellis
Air Force Base were not to know about the U.S.-operated MiGs. To prevent any sightings, the
airspace above the Groom Lake range was closed. On aeronautical maps, the exercise area
was marked in red ink. The forbidden zone became known as "Red Square.

During the remainder of the Vietnam War, the Navy kill ratio climbed to 8.33 to 1. In contrast,
the Air Force rate improved only slightly to 2.83 to 1. The reason for this difference was Top
Gun. The navy had revitalized its air combat training, while the Air Force had stayed stagnant.
Most of the Navy MiG kills were by Top Gun graduates,

In May 1973, Project Have Idea was formed which took over from the older Have Donut, Have
Ferry and Have Drill projects and the project was transferred to the Tonopah Test Range
Airport. At Tonopah testing of foreign technology aircraft continued and expanded throughout
the 1970s and 1980s.

Area 51 also hosted another foreign materiel evaluation program called HAVE GLIB. This
involved testing Soviet tracking and missile control radar systems. A complex of actual and
replica Soviet-type threat systems began to grow around "Slater Lake", a mile northwest of
the main base, along with an acquired Soviet "Barlock" search radar placed at Tonopah Air
Force Station. They were arranged to simulate a Soviet-style air defense complex.

The Air Force began funding improvements to Area 51 in 1977 under project SCORE EVENT. In
1979, the CIA transferred jurisdiction of the Area 51 site to the Air Force Flight Test Center at
Edwards AFB, California. Mr. Sam Mitchell, the last CIA commander of Area 51, relinquished
command to USAF Lt. Col. Larry D. McClain.

Have Blue/F-117 program

The Lockheed Have Blue prototype stealth fighter (a smaller proof-of-concept model of the F-
117 Nighthawk) first flew at Groom in December 1977.

In 1978, the Air Force awarded a full-scale development contract for the F-117 to Lockheed
Corporation's Advanced Development Projects. On 17 January 1981 the Lockheed test team at
Area 51 accepted delivery of the first full Scale Development (FSD) prototype #79-780,
designated YF-117A. At 6:05 AM on June 18, 1981 Lockheed Skunk Works test pilot Hal Farley
lifted the nose of YF-117A #79-780 off the runway of Area 51.

Meanwhile, Tactical Air Command (TAC) decided to set up a group-level organization to guide
the F-117A to an initial operating capability. That organization became the 4450th Tactical
Group (Initially designated "A Unit"), which officially activated on 15 October 1979 at Nellis
AFB, Nevada, although the group was physically located at Area 51. The 4450th TG also
operated the A-7D Corsair II as a surrogate trainer for the F-l17A, and these operations
continued until 15 October 1982 under the guise of an avionics test mission.

Flying squadrons of the 4450th TG were the 4450th Tactical Squadron (Initially designated "I
Unit") activated on 11 June 1981, and 4451st Tactical Squadron (Initially designated "P Unit")
on 15 January 1983. The 4450th TS, stationed at Area 51, was the first F-111A squadron,
while the 4451st TS was stationed at Nellis AFB and was equipped with A-7D Corsair IIs
painted in a dark motif, tail coded "LV". Lockheed test pilots put the YF-117 through its early
paces. A-7Ds was used for pilot training before any F-117A's had been delivered by Lockheed
to Area 51, later the A-7D's were used for F-117A chase testing and other weapon tests at the
Nellis Range.

15 October 1982 is important to the program because on that date Major Alton C. Whitley, Jr.
became the first USAF 4450th TG pilot to fly the F-117A.

Although ideal for testing, Area 51 was not a suitable location for an operational group, so a
new covert base had to be established for F-117 operations. Tonopah Test Range Airport was
selected for operations of the first USAF F-117 unit, the 4450th Tactical Group (TG). From
October 1979, the Tonopah Airport base was reconstructed and expanded. The 6,000 ft
runway was lengthened to 10,000 ft. Taxiways, a concrete apron, a large maintenance
hanger, and a propane storage tank were added.

By early 1982, four more YF-117A airplanes were operating out of the southern end of the
base, known as the "Southend" or "Baja Groom Lake." After finding a large scorpion in their
offices, the testing team (Designated "R Unit") adopted it as their mascot and dubbed
themselves the "Baja Scorpions." Testing of a series of ultra-secret prototypes continued at
Area 51 until mid-1981, when testing transitioned to the initial production of F-117 stealth
fighters. The F-117s were moved to and from Area 51 by C-5 under the cloak of darkness, in
order to maintain program security. This meant that the aircraft had to be defueled,
disassembled, cradled, and then loaded aboard the C-5 at night, flown to Lockheed, and
unloaded at night before the real work could begin. Of course, this meant that the reverse
actions had to occur at the end of the depot work before the aircraft could be reassembled,
flight-tested, and redelivered, again under the cover of darkness. In addition to flight-testing,
Groom performed radar profiling, F-117 weapons testing, and was the location for training of
the first group of frontline USAF F-117 pilots.

Production FSD airframes from Lockheed were shipped to Area 51 for acceptance testing. As
the Baja Scorpions tested the aircraft with functional check flights and L.O. verification, the
operational airplanes were then transferred to the 4450th TG.

On 17 May 1982, the move of the 4450th TG from Groom Lake to Tonoaph was initiated, with
the final components of the move completed in early 1983. Production FSD airframes from
Lockheed were shipped to Area 51 for acceptance testing. As the Baja Scorpions tested the
aircraft with functional check flights and L.O. verification, the operational airplanes were then
transferred to the 4450th TG at Tonopah.

The R-Unit was inactivated on 30 May 1989. Upon deactivated the unit was reformed as
reformed as Detachment 1, 57th Fighter Weapons Wing (FWW). In 1990 the last F-117A
(#843) was delivered from Lockheed. After completion of acceptance flights at Area 51 of this
last new F-117A aircraft, the flight test squadron continued flight test duties of refurbished
aircraft after modifications by Lockheed. In February/March 1992 the test unit moved from
Area 51 to the USAF Palmdale Plant 42 and was integrated with the Air Force Systems
Command 6510th Test Squadron. Some testing, especially RCS verification and other
classified activity was still conducted at Area 51 throughout the operational lifetime of the F-
117. The recently inactivated (2008) 410th Flight Test Squadron traces its roots, if not its
formal lineage to the 4450th TG R-unit.

Later operations

Since the F-117 became operational in 1983, operations at Groom Lake have continued. The
base and its associated runway system were expanded. In 1995, the federal government
expanded the exclusionary area around the base to include nearby mountains that had
hitherto afforded the only decent overlook of the base, prohibiting access to 3,972 acres
(16.07 km2) of land formerly administered by the Bureau of Land Management.

United States military aircraft likely have been flown against Soviet-type radar systems and
the Dynamic Coherent Measurement System (DYCOMS). The airborne RCS range likely has
been used to measure the L.O. characteristics of all known stealth aircraft from the F-117A to
the B-2 Spirit and F-22 Raptor.

Over the past 20 years since the end of F-117A testing, the base has been expanded with new
facilities, and a new main runway being built in the 1990s. Ongoing projects at Area 51 may
include stealth aircraft development, weapons development, unmanned aerial vehicles, and
avionics testing. Workers toil in relative isolation and inhospitable conditions at the site to
prove revolutionary technologies and enhance the readiness of today's warfighter and support
national requirements. Possible ongoing research may include:

Boeing Phantom Ray
TR-3 Black Manta (unconfirmed)
Blackstar (spacecraft) (unconfirmed)
Aurora (aircraft) (unconfirmed)

Commuter service is provided along Groom Lake Road by a bus, catering to a small number of
employees living in several small communities beyond the NTS boundary (although it is not
clear whether these workers are employed at Groom or at other facilities in the NTS). The bus
travels Groom Lake Road and stops at Crystal Springs, Ash Springs, and Alamo, and parks at
the Alamo courthouse overnight.


Map showing Area 51, NAFR, and the NTSArea 51 shares a border with the Yucca Flat region
of the Nevada Test Site (NTS), the location of 739 of the 928 nuclear tests conducted by the
United States Department of Energy at NTS. The Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository is
44 miles (71 km) southwest of Groom Lake.

Nevada Test Range topographic chart centered on Groom LakeThe original rectangular base of
6 by 10 miles (9.7 by 16 km) is now part of the so-called "Groom box", a rectangular area
measuring 23 by 25 miles (37 by 40 km), of restricted airspace. The area is connected to the
internal NTS road network, with paved roads leading south to Mercury and west to Yucca Flat.
Leading northeast from the lake, the wide and well-maintained Groom Lake Road runs through
a pass in the Jumbled Hills. The road formerly led to mines in the Groom basin, but has been
improved since their closure. Its winding course runs past a security checkpoint, but the
restricted area around the base extends further east. After leaving the restricted area, Groom
Lake Road descends eastward to the floor of the Tikaboo Valley, passing the dirt-road
entrances to several small ranches, before converging with State Route 375, the
"Extraterrestrial Highway", south of Rachel.

Environmental lawsuit

In 1994, five unnamed civilian contractors and the widows of contractors Walter Kasza and
Robert Frost sued the USAF and the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Their
suit, in which they were represented by George Washington University law professor Jonathan
Turley, alleged they had been present when large quantities of unknown chemicals had been
burned in open pits and trenches at Groom. Biopsies taken from the complainants were
analyzed by Rutgers University biochemists, who found high levels of dioxin, dibenzofuran,
and trichloroethylene in their body fat. The complainants alleged they had sustained skin,
liver, and respiratory injuries due to their work at Groom, and that this had contributed to the
deaths of Frost and Kasza. The suit sought compensation for the injuries they had sustained,
claiming the USAF had illegally handled toxic materials, and that the EPA had failed in its duty
to enforce the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (which governs handling of dangerous
materials.) They also sought detailed information about the chemicals to which they were
allegedly exposed, hoping this would facilitate the medical treatment of survivors.
Congressman Lee H. Hamilton, former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told 60
Minutes reporter Leslie Stahl, "The Air Force is classifying all information about Area 51 in
order to protect themselves from a lawsuit."

Citing the State Secrets Privilege, the government petitioned trial judge U.S. District Judge
Philip Pro (of the United States District Court for the District of Nevada in Las Vegas) to
disallow disclosure of classified documents or examination of secret witnesses, alleging this
would expose classified information and threaten national security. When Judge Pro rejected
the government's argument, President Bill Clinton issued a Presidential Determination,
exempting what it called, "The Air Force's Operating Location Near Groom Lake, Nevada" from
environmental disclosure laws. Consequently, Pro dismissed the suit due to lack of evidence.
Turley appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, on the grounds that the
government was abusing its power to classify material. Secretary of the Air Force Sheila E.
Widnall filed a brief that stated that disclosures of the materials present in the air and water
near Groom "can reveal military operational capabilities or the nature and scope of classified
operations." The Ninth Circuit rejected Turley's appeal, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to
hear it, putting an end to the complainants' case.

The President continues to annually issue a determination continuing the Groom exception.
This, and similarly tacit wording used in other government communications, is the only formal
recognition the U.S. Government has ever given that Groom Lake is more than simply another
part of the Nellis complex.

An unclassified memo on the safe handling of F-117 Nighthawk material was posted on an Air
Force website in 2005. This discussed the same materials for which the complainants had
requested information (information the government had claimed was classified). The memo
was removed shortly after journalists became aware of it.

1974 Skylab photography

Groom Lake and Papoose Lake (lower right)In January 2006, space historian Dwayne A. Day
published an article in online aerospace magazine The Space Review titled "Astronauts and
Area 51: the Skylab Incident." The article was based on a memo written in 1974 to CIA
director William Colby by an unknown CIA official. The memo reported that astronauts on
board Skylab 4 had, as part of a larger program, inadvertently photographed a location of
which the memo said:

There were specific instructions not to do this. <redacted> was the only location which had
such an instruction.
Although the name of the location was obscured, the context led Day to believe that the
subject was Groom Lake. As Day noted:

[I]n other words, the CIA considered no other spot on Earth to be as sensitive as
Groom Lake.

The memo details debate between federal agencies regarding whether the images should be
classified, with Department of Defense agencies arguing that it should, and NASA and the
State Department arguing against classification. The memo itself questions the legality of
unclassified images to be retroactively classified.

Remarks on the memo, handwritten apparently by DCI (Director of Central Intelligence) Colby
himself, read:

He did raise itsaid State Dept. people felt strongly. But he inclined leave decision to
me (DCI)I confessed some question over need to protect since:
USSR has it from own sats
What really does it reveal?
If exposed, don't we just say classified USAF work is done there?

The declassified documents do not disclose the outcome of discussions regarding the Skylab
imagery. The behind-the-scenes debate proved moot as the photograph appeared in the
federal government's archive of satellite imagery along with the remaining Skylab 4
photographs, with no record of anyone noticing until Day identified it in 2007.

UFO and other conspiracy theories concerning Area 51

Its secretive nature and undoubted connection to classified aircraft research, together with
reports of unusual phenomena, have led Area 51 to become a focus of modern UFO and
conspiracy theories. Some of the activities mentioned in such theories at Area 51 include:

The storage, examination, and reverse engineering of crashed alien spacecraft
(including material supposedly recovered at Roswell), the study of their occupants
(living and dead), and the manufacture of aircraft based on alien technology.
Meetings or joint undertakings with extraterrestrials.
The development of exotic energy weapons for the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI)
or other weapons programs.
The development of means of weather control.
The development of time travel and teleportation technology.
The development of unusual and exotic propulsion systems related to the Aurora
Activities related to a supposed shadowy one world government or the Majestic 12

Many of the hypotheses concern underground facilities at Groom or at Papoose Lake (AKA "S-
4 location"), 8.5 miles (13.7 km) south, and include claims of a transcontinental underground
railroad system, a disappearing airstrip (nicknamed the "Cheshire Airstrip", after Lewis
Carroll's Cheshire cat) which briefly appears when water is sprayed onto its camouflaged
asphalt, and engineering based on alien technology. Publicly available satellite imagery,
however, reveals clearly visible landing strips at Groom Dry Lake, but not at Papoose Lake.

Veterans of experimental projects such as OXCART and NERVA at Area 51 agree that their
work (including 2,850 OXCART test flights alone) inadvertently prompted many of the UFO
sightings and other rumors:

The shape of OXCART was unprecedented, with its wide, disk-like fuselage designed to carry
vast quantities of fuel. Commercial pilots cruising over Nevada at dusk would look up and see
the bottom of OXCART whiz by at 2,000-plus mph. The aircraft's titanium body, moving as fast
as a bullet, would reflect the sun's rays in a way that could make anyone think, UFO.
They believe that the rumors helped maintain secrecy over Area 51's actual operations. While
the veterans deny the existence of a vast underground railroad system, many of Area 51's
operations did (and presumably still do) occur underground.

Several people have claimed knowledge of events supporting Area 51 conspiracy theories.
These have included Bob Lazar, who claimed in 1989 that he had worked at Area 51's S-4 (a
facility at Papoose Lake), where he was contracted to work with alien spacecraft that the U.S.
government had in its possession. Similarly, the 1996 documentary Dreamland directed by
Bruce Burgess included an interview with a 71 year old mechanical engineer who claimed to
be a former employee at Area 51 during the 1950s. His claims included that he had worked on
a "flying disc simulator" which had been based on a disc originating from a crashed
extraterrestrial craft and was used to train US Pilots. He also claimed to have worked with an
extraterrestrial being named "J-Rod" and described as a "telepathic translator". In 2004, Dan
Burisch (pseudonym of Dan Crain) claimed to have worked on cloning alien viruses at Area 51,
also alongside the alien named "J-Rod". Burisch's scholarly credentials are the subject of much
debate, as he was apparently working as a Las Vegas parole officer in 1989 while also earning
a PhD at SUNY.

Nazca Lines

The Nazca Lines are a series of ancient
geoglyphs located in the Nazca Desert in
southern Peru. They were designated a
UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. The
high, arid plateau stretches more than 80
kilometres (50 mi) between the towns of
Nazca and Palpa on the Pampas de Jumana
about 400 km south of Lima. Although some
local geoglyphs resemble Paracas motifs,
scholars believe the Nazca Lines were created
by the Nazca culture between 400 and 650
AD. The hundreds of individual figures range
in complexity from simple lines to stylized
hummingbirds, spiders, monkeys, fish, sharks,
orcas, llamas, and lizards.

The lines are shallow designs made in the
ground by removing the ubiquitous reddish
pebbles and uncovering the whitish ground beneath. Hundreds are simple lines or geometric
shapes; more than seventy are zoomorphic designs of animals such as birds, fish, llamas,
jaguar, monkey, or human figures. Other designs include phytomorphic shapes such as trees
and flowers. The largest figures are over 200 metres (660 ft) across. Scholars differ in
interpreting the purpose of the designs, but in general they ascribe religious significance to

The geometric ones could indicate the flow of water or be connected to rituals to summon
water. The spiders, birds, and plants could be fertility symbols. Other possible explanations
include: irrigation schemes or giant astronomical calendars.

Due to the dry, windless, and stable climate of the plateau and its isolation, for the most part
the lines have been preserved. Extremely rare changes in weather may temporarily alter the
general designs.

Discovery and construction

After people travelled over the area by plane in the 1930s and saw the Nazca Lines from the
air, anthropologists started studying them, with focus on trying to understand how they were

Scholars have theorized the Nazca people could have used simple tools and surveying
equipment to construct the lines. Studies have found wooden stakes in the ground at the end
of some lines, which support this theory. One such stake was carbon-dated and the basis for
establishing the age of the design complex. Researcher Joe Nickell of the University of
Kentucky has reproduced the figures by using tools and technology available to the Nazca
people. The National Geographic called his work "remarkable in its exactness" when compared
to the actual lines. With careful planning and simple technologies, a small team of people
could recreate even the largest figures within days, without any aerial assistance. Most of the
lines form a trench about 15 centimetres (5.9 in) deep.

The lines were made by removing the reddish-brown iron oxide-coated pebbles that cover the
surface of the Nazca desert. When the gravel is removed, it leaves a shallow trough ranging
from 10 centimetres (3.9 in) to 15 centimetres (5.9 in) deep and the light-colored earth
beneath shows in lines of sharply contrasting color and tone. This sublayer contains high
amounts of lime which with the morning mist hardens forming a protective layer that shields
the lines from winds therefore preventing erosion.

The Nazca "drew" several hundred simple but
huge curvilinear animal and human figures by
this technique. In total, the earthwork project
is huge and complex: the area encompassing
the lines is nearly 500 square kilometres (190
sq mi), and the largest figures can span nearly
270 metres (890 ft). The extremely dry,
windless, and constant climate of the Nazca
region has preserved the lines well. The Nazca
desert is one of the driest on Earth and
maintains a temperature around 25 C (77 F)
all year round. The lack of wind has helped
keep the lines uncovered and visible to the
present day.

Left: Nazca Lines seen from SPOT Satellite


Archeologists, ethnologists, and anthropologists have studied the ancient Nazca culture and
the complex to try to determine the purpose of the lines and figures. One theory is that the
Nazca people created them to be seen by their gods in the sky. Kosok and Reiche advanced a
purpose related to astronomy and cosmology: the lines were intended to act as a kind of
observatory, to point to the places on the distant horizon where the sun and other celestial
bodies rose or set. Many prehistoric indigenous cultures in the Americas and elsewhere
constructed earthworks that combined such astronomical sighting with their religious
cosmology, as did the later Mississippian culture at Cahokia in present-day United States.
Another example is Stonehenge in England. But, Gerald Hawkins and Anthony Aveni, experts
in archaeoastronomy, concluded in 1990 that there was insufficient evidence to support such
an astronomical explanation.

In 1985, the archaeologist Johan Reinhard published archaeological, ethnographic, and
historical data demonstrating that worship of mountains and other water sources
predominated in Nazca religion and economy from ancient to recent times. He theorized that
the lines and figures were part of religious practices involving the worship of deities associated
with the availability of water, which directly related to the success and productivity of crops.
He interpreted the lines as sacred paths leading to places where these deities could be
worshiped. The figures were symbols representing animals and objects meant to invoke the
gods' aid in supplying water. But, the precise meanings of many of the individual geoglyphs
remain unsolved as of 2011.

Henri Stierlin, a Swiss art historian specializing in Egypt and the Middle East, published a book
in 1983 linking the Nazca Lines to the production of ancient textiles that archeologists have
found wrapping mummies of the Paracas culture. He contended that the people may have
used the lines and trapezes as giant, primitive looms to fabricate the extremely long strings
and wide pieces of textile that are typical of the area. By his theory, the figurative patterns
(smaller and less common) were meant only for ritualistic purposes.

Alternative theories

Left: Satellite picture of an area containing lines.
North is to the right. (Coordinates: 1443S
7508W / 14.717S 75.133W / -14.717; -

Some individuals propose alternative theories. Jim
Woodmann believes that the Nazca Lines could not
have been made without some form of manned
flight to see the figures properly. Based on his
study of available technology, he suggests that a
hot air balloon was the only possible means of
flight. To test this hypothesis, Woodmann made a
hot-air balloon using materials and techniques that
he understood to be available to the Nazca people.
The balloon flew, after a fashion. Most scholars
have rejected Woodmann's thesis as ad hoc,
because of the lack of any evidence of such

Swiss author Erich von Dniken suggests the
Nazca lines and other complex constructions
represent higher technological knowledge than
commonly believed to be existing when the glyphs
were created. Von Dniken maintains that the
Nazca lines in Peru are runways of an ancient airfield that was used by extraterrestrials
mistaken by the natives to be their gods.

Maria Reiche's protege Phillis Pitluga, an astronomer at the Adler Planetarium & Astronomy
Museum, believes, based on computer-aided studies of star alignments, that the giant spider
figure is an anamorphic diagram of the constellation Orion. She further suggests that three of
the straight lines leading to the figure were used to track the changing declinations of the
three stars of Orion's Belt but does not take into account the other twelve lines. Aveni has
commented on her work, saying:

I really had trouble finding good evidence to back up what she contended. Pitluga
never laid out the criteria for selecting the lines she chose to measure, nor did she pay
much attention to the archaeological data Clarkson and Silverman had unearthed. Her
case did little justice to other information about the coastal cultures, save applying,
with subtle contortions, Urtons representations of constellations from the highlands. As
historian Jacquetta Hawkes might ask: was she getting the pampa she desired?

Environmental concerns

People trying to preserve the Nazca Lines are concerned about threats of pollution and erosion
caused by deforestation in the region.

The Lines themselves are superficial; they are only 10 to 30 cm deep and could be
washed away... Nazca has only ever received a small amount of rain. But now there
are great changes to the weather all over the world. The Lines cannot resist heavy rain
without being damaged.

Viktoria Nikitzki of the Maria Reiche Centre

After flooding and mudslides in the area in mid-February 2007, Mario Olaechea Aquije,
archaeological resident from Peru's National Institute of Culture, and a team of specialists
surveyed the area. He said, "[T]he mudslides and heavy rains did not appear to have caused
any significant damage to the Nazca Lines," but the nearby Southern Pan-American Highway
did suffer damage, and "the damage done to the roads should serve as a reminder to just how
fragile these figures are."


The Dog

The Hummingbird

The Heron

The Astronaut

The Condor

The Spider

The Hands

The Pelican

The Monkey

Sargasso Sea

The Sargasso Sea is a region in the middle of the
North Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by ocean currents.
It is bounded on the west by the Gulf Stream; on
the north, by the North Atlantic Current; on the
east, by the Canary Current; and on the south, by
the North Atlantic Equatorial Current. This system of
currents forms the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre.
All the currents deposit the marine plants and
garbage they carry into this sea.

The Sargasso Sea is 700 statute miles wide and
2,000 statute miles long (1,100 km wide and 3,200
km long). It stretches from roughly 70 degrees west
to 40 degrees west, and from 25 degrees north to
35 degrees north. Bermuda is near the western
fringes of the sea. The Sargasso Sea is the only
"sea" without shores. The ocean water in the
Sargasso Sea is distinctive for its deep blue color
and exceptional clarity, with underwater visibility of
up to 200 feet (61 m).


Portuguese sailors were among the first to discover this region in the 15th century, naming it
after the Sargassum seaweed growing there (sargao / sargasso in Portuguese). However, the
sea may have been known to earlier mariners, as a poem by the late 4th century AD author,
Rufus Festus Avienus, describes a portion of the Atlantic as being covered with seaweed, citing
a now-lost account by the 5th-century BC Carthaginian explorer Himilco the Navigator.
Christopher Columbus and his men also noted the Saragasso Sea, and brought reports of the
masses of seaweed on the surface.


The Sargasso Sea is home to seaweed of the genus Sargassum, which floats en masse on the
surface there. The sargassum is not a threat to shipping, and historic incidents of sailing ships
being trapped there are due to the often calm winds of the horse latitudes.

The Sargasso Sea also plays a major role in the migration of the European eel and the
American eel. The larvae of both species hatch there and go to Europe or the East Coast of
North America. Later in life, they try to return to the Sargasso Sea to lay eggs. It is also
believed that after hatching, young Loggerhead Sea Turtles use currents, such as the Gulf
Stream to travel to the Sargasso Sea, where they use the Sargassum as cover from predation
until they are mature.

The Sargasso Sea was the subject of a recent metagenomics effort called the Global Ocean
Sampling (GOS) survey by J. Craig Venter and others, to evaluate the diversity of microbial
life there. The results have indicated that, contrary to previous theories, the area has a wide
variety of prokaryotic life.

Owing to surface currents, the Sargasso accumulates a high concentration of non-
biodegradable plastic waste. The huge North Atlantic Garbage Patch is similar to another
ocean phenomenon, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Celestial pole

The north and south celestial poles and
their relation to axis of rotation, plane of
orbit and axial tilt.

The north and south celestial poles are the
two imaginary points in the sky where the
Earth's axis of rotation, indefinitely
extended, intersects the imaginary rotating
sphere of stars called the celestial sphere.
The north and south celestial poles appear
permanently directly overhead to an
observer at the Earth's North Pole and
South Pole respectively. As the Earth spins
on its axis, the two celestial poles remain
fixed in the sky, and all other points
appear to rotate around them, completing
one circuit per day (strictly per sidereal day).

The celestial poles are also the poles of the celestial equatorial coordinate system, meaning
they have declinations of +90 degrees and 90 degrees (for the north and south celestial
poles, respectively).

The celestial poles do not remain permanently fixed against the background of the stars.
Because of a phenomenon known as the precession of the equinoxes, the poles trace out
circles on the celestial sphere, with a period of about 25,700 years. The Earth's axis is also
subject to other complex motions which cause the celestial poles to shift slightly over cycles of
varying lengths; see nutation, polar motion and axial tilt. Finally, over very long periods the
positions of the stars themselves change, because of the stars' proper motions.

An analogous concept applies to other
planets: a planet's celestial poles are the
points in the sky where the projection of
the planet's axis of rotation intersects the
celestial sphere. These points vary because
different planets' axes are oriented
differently (the apparent positions of the
stars also change slightly because of
parallax effects).

Diagram of the path of the celestial north
pole around the ecliptic north pole. The
beginning of the four "astrological ages" of
the historical period are marked with their
zodiac symbols: the Age of Taurus from
the Chalcolithic to the Early Bronze Age,
the Age of Aries from the Middle Bronze
Age to Classical Antiquity, the Age of
Pisces from Late Antiquity to the present,
and the Age of Aquarius beginning in the
mid 3rd millennium.
Finding the north celestial pole

Over the course of an evening, stars appear to rotate
about the north celestial pole. Polaris, within a degree of
the pole, is the single nearly-stationary star just to the
right of the centre of this image.

The north celestial pole currently is within a degree of
the bright star Polaris (named from the Latin stella
polaris, meaning "pole star"). This makes Polaris useful
for navigation in the northern hemisphere: not only is it
always above the north point of the horizon, but its
altitude angle is always (nearly) equal to the observer's
geographic latitude. Polaris can, of course, only be seen
from locations in the northern hemisphere.

Polaris is near the celestial pole for only a small fraction
of the 25,700-year precession cycle. It will remain a
good approximation for about 1,000 years, by which
time the pole will have moved to be closer to Alrai
(Gamma Cephei). In about 5,500 years, the pole will
have moved near the position of the star Alderamin
(Alpha Cephei), and in 12,000 years, Vega (Alpha
Lyrae) will become our north star, but it will be about
six degrees from the true north celestial pole.

To find Polaris, face north and locate the Big Dipper (Plough) and Little Dipper asterisms.
Looking at the "cup" part of the Big Dipper, imagine that the two stars at the outside edge of
the cup form a line pointing upward out of the cup. This line points directly at the star at the
tip of the Little Dipper's handle. That star is Polaris, the North Star.
Finding the south celestial pole

Celestial South Pole over the Very Large Telescope.

The south celestial pole is visible only from the southern
hemisphere. It lies in the dim constellation Octans, the
Octant. Sigma Octantis is identified as the south pole
star, over a degree away from the pole, but with a
magnitude of 5.5 it is barely visible on a clear night.

Method one: The Southern Cross

Locating the south
celestial pole

The south celestial pole
can be located from the
Southern Cross (Crux) and
its two "pointer" stars
Centauri and Centauri.
Draw an imaginary line
from Crucis to Crucis
the two stars at the
extreme ends of the long
axis of the crossand
follow this line through the
sky. Either go four and a
half times the distance of
the long axis in the
direction the narrow end
of the cross points, or join
the two pointer stars with
a line, divide this line in
half, then at right angles
draw another imaginary line through the sky until it meets the line from the Southern Cross.
This point is 5 or 6 degrees from the south celestial pole. Very few bright stars of importance
lie between Crux and the pole itself, although the constellation Musca is fairly easily
recognised immediately beneath Crux.

Method two: Canopus and Achernar

The second method uses Canopus (the second brightest star in the sky) and Achernar. Make a
large equilateral triangle using these stars for two of the corners. The third imaginary corner
will be the south celestial pole.

Method three: The Magellanic Clouds

The third method is best for a moonless and cloudless night as it uses two faint 'clouds' in the
southern sky. These are marked in astronomy books as Large and Small Magellanic Clouds.
These 'clouds' are actually galaxies close to our own Milky Way. Make an equilateral triangle,
the third point of which is the south celestial pole.

Geographical pole

A geographical pole (also geographic pole) is either of the two pointsthe north pole and the
south poleon the surface of a rotating planet (or other rotating body) where the axis of
rotation (or simply "axis") meets the surface of the body. The north geographic pole of a body
lies 90 degrees north of the equator, while the south geographic pole lies 90 degrees south of
the equator.

It is possible for geographical poles to "wander" slightly relative to the surface of a body due
to perturbations in rotation. The Earth's actual physical North Pole and South Pole vary
cyclically by a few meters over the span of each few years. This phenomenon is distinct from
the precession of the equinoxes of the Earth, in which the angle of the planet (both axis and
surface, moving together) varies slowly over tens of thousands of years.

As cartography requires exact and unchanging coordinates, cartographical poles (also
cartographic poles) are fixed points on the Earth or another rotating body at the approximate
location of the slightly varying geographical poles. These cartographical poles are the points at
which the great circles of longitude intersect.

Geographical poles and cartographical poles should not be confused with magnetic poles,
which can also exist on a planet or other body.

North Pole

Coordinates: 90N 0W

An Azimuthal projection showing the Arctic
Ocean and the North Pole. The map also
shows the 75th parallel north and 60th
parallel north.

The North Pole, also known as the
Geographic North Pole or Terrestrial North
Pole, is, subject to the caveats explained
below, defined as the point in the Northern
Hemisphere where the Earth's axis of
rotation meets its surface. It should not be
confused with the North Magnetic Pole.

The North Pole is the northernmost point on
the Earth, lying diametrically opposite the
South Pole. It defines geodetic latitude 90
North, as well as the direction of true north.
At the North Pole all directions point south;
all lines of longitude converge there, so its
longitude can be defined as any degree

While the South Pole lies on a continental land mass, the North Pole is located in the middle of
the Arctic Ocean amid waters that are almost permanently covered with constantly shifting
sea ice. This makes it impractical to construct a permanent station at the North Pole (unlike
the South Pole). However, the Soviet Union, and later Russia, have constructed a number of
manned drifting stations on a generally annual basis since 1937, some of which have passed
over or very close to the Pole. Since 2002, the Russians have also annually established a base,
Barneo, close to the Pole. This operates for a few weeks during early spring. Recent studies
have predicted that the North Pole may become seasonally ice-free due to Arctic ice shrinkage,
with timescales varying from 2016 to the late 21st century or later.

North Pole scenery

The sea depth at the North Pole has been measured at
4,261 m (13,980 ft) by the Russian Mir submersible in
2007 and at 4,087 m (13,410 ft) by USS Nautilus in
1958. The nearest land is usually said to be
Kaffeklubben Island, off the northern coast of Greenland
about 700 km (430 mi) away, though some perhaps
non-permanent gravel banks lie slightly closer. The
nearest permanently inhabited place is Alert in the
Qikiqtaaluk Region, Nunavut, Canada, which is located
817 km (508 mi) from the Pole.

Precise definition

The Earth's axis of rotation and hence the position of the North Pole was commonly
believed to be fixed (relative to the surface of the Earth) until, in the 18th century, the
mathematician Leonhard Euler predicted that the axis might "wobble" slightly. Around the
beginning of the 20th century astronomers noticed a small apparent "variation of latitude," as
determined for a fixed point on Earth from the observation of stars. Part of this variation could
be attributed to a wandering of the Pole across the Earth's surface, by a range of a few
meters. The wandering has several periodic components and an irregular component. The
component with a period of about 435 days is identified with the 8 month wandering predicted
by Euler and is now called the Chandler wobble after its discoverer. The exact point of
intersection of the Earth's axis and the Earth's surface, at any given moment, is called the
"instantaneous pole", but because of the "wobble" this cannot be used as a definition of a
fixed North Pole (or South Pole) when metre-scale precision is required.

It is desirable to tie the system of Earth coordinates (latitude, longitude, and elevations or
orography) to fixed landforms. Of course, given plate tectonics and isostasy, there is no
system in which all geographic features are fixed. Yet the International Earth Rotation and
Reference Systems Service and the International Astronomical Union have defined a
framework called the International Terrestrial Reference System.
Day and night

The sun at the North Pole is continuously above the horizon during the summer and
continuously below the horizon during the winter. Sunrise is just before the March equinox
(around March 19); the sun then takes three months to reach its highest point of near 23
elevation at the summer solstice (around June 21), after which time it begins to sink, reaching
sunset just after the September equinox (around September 24). When the sun is visible in
the polar sky, it appears to move in a horizontal circle above the horizon. This circle gradually
rises from near the horizon just after the vernal equinox to its maximum elevation (in
degrees) above the horizon at summer solstice and then sinks back toward the horizon before
sinking below it at the autumnal equinox.

A civil twilight period of about two weeks occurs before sunrise and after sunset, a nautical
twilight period of about five weeks occurs before sunrise and after sunset and an astronomical
twilight period of about seven weeks occurs before sunrise and after sunset.

These effects are caused by a combination of the Earth's axial tilt and its revolution around the
sun. The direction of the Earth's axial tilt, as well as its angle relative to the plane of the
Earth's orbit around the sun, remains very nearly constant over the course of a year (both
change very slowly over long time periods). At northern midsummer the North Pole is facing
towards the sun to its maximum extent. As the year progresses and the Earth moves around
the sun, the North Pole gradually turns away from the sun until at midwinter it is facing away
from the Sun to its maximum extent. A similar sequence is observed at the South Pole, with a
six-month time difference.

In most places on Earth, local time is determined by longitude, such that the time of day is
more-or-less synchronised to the position of the sun in the sky (for example, at midday the
sun is roughly at its highest). This line of reasoning fails at the North Pole, where the sun rises
and sets only once per year, and all lines of longitude, and hence all time zones, converge.
There is no permanent human presence at the North Pole and no particular time zone has
been assigned. Polar expeditions may use any time zone that is convenient, such as
Greenwich Mean Time, or the time zone of the country from which they departed.


Arctic ice shrinkages of 2007 compared to
2005 and also compared to the 19792000

The North Pole is significantly warmer than
the South Pole because it lies at sea level
in the middle of an ocean (which acts as a
reservoir of heat), rather than at altitude in
a continental land mass.

Winter (January) temperatures at the
North Pole can range from about 43 C
(45 F) to 26 C (15 F), perhaps
averaging around 34 C (29 F).
Summer temperatures (June, July and
August) average around the freezing point
(0 C (32 F)). The highest temperature
yet recorded is 5 C (41 F), much warmer
than the South Pole's record high of only 12.3 C (9.9 F).

The sea ice at the North Pole is typically around 2 to 3 m (6 ft 7 in to 9 ft 10 in) thick,
although ice thickness, its spatial extent, and the fraction of open water within the ice pack
can vary rapidly and profoundly in response to weather and climate. Studies have shown that
the average ice thickness has decreased in recent years. It is likely that global warming has
contributed to this, but it is not possible to attribute the recent abrupt decrease in thickness
entirely to the observed warming in the Arctic. Reports have also predicted that within a few
decades the Arctic Ocean will be entirely free of ice in the summer.

The retreat of the Arctic sea ice will accelerate global warming, as less ice cover reflects less
solar radiation, and may have serious climate implications by contributing to Arctic cyclone

Cultural associations

In some Western cultures, the geographic North Pole is described as being the location of the
workshop and residence of Santa Claus, although the depictions have been inconsistent
between the geographic and magnetic North Pole. Canada Post has assigned postal code H0H
0H0 to the North Pole (referring to Santa's traditional exclamation of "Ho ho ho!").

This association reflects an age-old esoteric mythology of Hyperborea that posits the North
Pole, the otherworldly world-axis, as the abode of God and superhuman beings (see Joscelyn
Godwin, Arktos: The Polar Myth). The popular figure of the pole-dwelling Santa Claus thus
functions as an archetype of spiritual purity and transcendence. As Henry Corbin has
documented, the North Pole plays a key part in the cultural worldview of Sufism and Iranian
mysticism. "The Orient sought by the mystic, the Orient that cannot be located on our maps,
is in the direction of the north, beyond the north."

Owing to its remoteness, the Pole is sometimes identified with a mysterious mountain of
ancient Islamic tradition called Mount Qaf (Jabal Qaf), the "farthest point of the earth".
According to certain authors, the Jabal Qaf of Muslim cosmology is a version of Rupes Nigra, a
mountain whose ascent, like Dante's climbing of the Mountain of Purgatory, represents the
pilgrim's progress through spiritual states. In Iranian theosophy, the heavenly Pole, the focal
point of the spiritual ascent, acts as a magnet to draw beings to its "palaces ablaze with
immaterial matter."

South Pole

1. South Geographic Pole
2. South Magnetic Pole (2007)
3. South Geomagnetic Pole (2005)
4. South Pole of Inaccessibility

The South Pole, also known as the
Geographic South Pole or Terrestrial South
Pole, is one of the two points where the
Earth's axis of rotation intersects its
surface. It is the southernmost point on the
surface of the Earth and lies on the
opposite side of the Earth from the North
Pole. Situated on the continent of
Antarctica, it is the site of the United States
Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, which
was established in 1956 and has been
permanently staffed since that year.

The Geographic South Pole should not be confused with the South Magnetic Pole, which
though geographically nearby, is defined based on the Earth's magnetic field.

Geographic South Pole

For most purposes, the Geographic South Pole is
defined as the southern point of the two points where
the Earth's axis of rotation intersects its surface (the
other being the Geographic North Pole). However, the
Earth's axis of rotation is actually subject to very small
'wobbles', so this definition is not adequate for very
precise work; see Polar Motion for further information.

The geographic coordinates of the South Pole are
usually given simply as 90S, since its longitude is
geometrically undefined and irrelevant. When a
longitude is desired, it may be given as 0. At the
South Pole all directions face north. For this reason,
directions at the Pole are given relative to "grid north",
which points northwards along the prime meridian.

The Geographic South Pole is located on the continent of Antarctica (although this has not
been the case for all of Earth's history because of continental drift). It sits atop a featureless,
barren, windswept, icy plateau at an altitude of 2,835 metres (9,301 ft) above sea level, and
located about 1,300 km (800 mi) from the nearest open sea at Bay of Whales. The ice is
estimated to be about 2,700 metres (9,000 ft) thick at the Pole, so the land surface under the
ice sheet is actually near sea level.

The polar ice sheet is moving at a rate of roughly 10 metres per year in a direction between
37 and 40 west of grid north, down towards the Weddell Sea. Therefore, the position of the
station and other artificial features relative to the geographic pole gradually shifts over time.

The Geographic South Pole is marked by a ceremony on New Year's Day in which a small sign
and American flag are moved, and newly revealed annual stake is placed in the ice pack,
which are positioned each year to compensate for the movement of the ice. The sign records
the respective dates that Roald Amundsen and Robert F. Scott reached the Pole, followed by a
short quotation from each man, and gives the elevation as 9,301 ft (2,835 m). The current
stake has the position of the planets, sun, and moon on January 1, as well as a copper star
marking the pole.

Ceremonial South Pole

The Ceremonial South Pole. (The dome in
the background was dismantled in 2009

The Ceremonial South Pole is an area set
aside for photo opportunities at the South
Pole Station. It is located a short distance
from the Geographic South Pole, and
consists of a metallic sphere on a plinth,
surrounded by the flags of the Antarctic
Treaty signatory states.

Climate, and day and night

During the southern winter (MarchSeptember), the South Pole receives no sunlight at all, and
from May to July, between extended periods of twilight, it is completely dark (apart from
moonlight). In the summer (SeptemberMarch), the sun is continuously above the horizon
and appears to move in an anti-clockwise circle. However, it is always low in the sky, reaching
a maximum of 23.5 in December. Much of the sunlight that does reach the surface is
reflected by the white snow. This lack of warmth from the sun, combined with the high
altitude (about 2,800 metres (9,186 ft)), means that the South Pole has one of the coldest
climates on Earth (though it is not quite the coldest; that record goes to the region in the
vicinity of the Vostok Station, also in Antarctica, which lies at a higher elevation).
Temperatures at the South Pole are much lower than at the North Pole, primarily because the
South Pole is located at altitude in the middle of a continental land mass, while the North Pole
is at sea level in the middle of an ocean (which acts as a reservoir of heat).

In midsummer, as the sun reaches its maximum elevation of about 23.5 degrees, high
temperatures at the South Pole in January average at 25.9 C (15 F). As the six-month
"day" wears on and the sun gets lower, temperatures drop as well: they reach 45 C (49
F) around sunset (late March) and sunrise (late September). In winter, the average
temperature remains steady at around 58 C (72 F). The highest temperature ever
recorded at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station was 12.3 C (9.9 F) on December 25,
2011, and the lowest was 82.8 C (117.0 F) on June 23, 1982 (the lowest recorded
anywhere on earth was 89.2 C (128.6 F) at Vostok Station on July 21, 1983).

The South Pole has a desert climate, almost never receiving any precipitation. Air humidity is
near zero. However, high winds can cause the blowing of snowfall, and the accumulation of
snow amounts to about 20 cm (7.9 in) per year. The former dome seen in pictures of the
Amundsen-Scott station is partially buried due to snow storms, and the entrance to the dome
had to be regularly bulldozed to uncover it. More recent buildings are raised on stilts so that
the snow does not build up against the sides of them.


In most places on Earth, local time is determined by longitude, such that the time of day is
more-or-less synchronised to the position of the sun in the sky (for example, at midday the
sun is roughly at its highest). This line of reasoning fails at the South Pole, where the sun rises
and sets only once per year, and all lines of longitude, and hence all time zones, converge.
There is no a priori reason for placing the South Pole in any particular time zone, but as a
matter of practical convenience the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station keeps New Zealand
Time. This is because the US flies its resupply missions ("Operation Deep Freeze") out of
McMurdo Station which is supplied from Christchurch, New Zealand.

Mean monthly
sunshine hours
January 558
February 480
March 217
April 0
May 0
June 0
July 0
August 0
September 60
October 434
November 600
December 589

Year (2009) 2,938

Vile Vortices

Vile Vortices map. The
Vortices are aligned to
the same latitudes.

Vile Vortices is a term referring to twelve geographic areas that are alleged by Ivan Sanderson
to have been the sites of mysterious disappearances. He identified them in a 1972 article "The
Twelve Devil's Graveyards Around the World", published in Saga magazine.

The vortices

Sanderson asserts that twelve "vortices" are situated along particular lines of latitude.

The best known of the so-called "vortices" is the Bermuda Triangle. Others include Algerian
Megaliths to the south of Timbuktu, the Indus Valley in Pakistan, especially the city of
Mohenjo Daro, Hamakulia Volcano in Hawaii, the "Devil's Sea" near Japan and the South
Atlantic Anomaly. Five of the vortices are on the same latitude to the south of the equator;
five are on the same latitude to the north. The other two are the north and south poles.

The idea has been taken up by other fringe writers, who have argued that the vortices are
linked to "subtle matter energy", "ley lines", or "electro-magnetic aberration"

Paul Begg, in a series of articles for The Unexplained magazine, criticized the methodology of
writers on the subject of unexplained disappearances. He checked original records of the
alleged incidents. Often, he found, the ships which were claimed to have 'mysteriously
disappeared' had a mundane reason for their loss (see, for instance, Raifuku Maru). Some
were lost in storms, although the vortex writers would claim that the weather was fine at the
time. In other cases, locations of losses were changed to fit the location of the vortex.
Sometimes no record of the ship even existing in the first place was found.

Bermuda Triangle

The Bermuda Triangle, also known as the Devil's Triangle, is a region in the western part of
the North Atlantic Ocean where a number of aircraft and surface vessels allegedly disappeared
under mysterious circumstances.

Popular culture has attributed these disappearances to the paranormal or activity by
extraterrestrial beings.Documented evidence indicates that a significant percentage of the
incidents were inaccurately reported or embellished by later authors, and numerous official
agencies have stated that the number and nature of disappearances in the region is similar to
that in any other area of ocean.

The Triangle area

The boundaries of the triangle cover the Straits
of Florida, the Bahamas and the entire Caribbean
island area and the Atlantic east to the Azores.
The more familiar triangular boundary in most
written works has as its points somewhere on
the Atlantic coast of Miami; San Juan, Puerto
Rico; and the mid-Atlantic island of Bermuda,
with most of the accidents concentrated along
the southern boundary around the Bahamas and
the Florida Straits.

The area is one of the most heavily traveled
shipping lanes in the world, with ships crossing
through it daily for ports in the Americas,
Europe, and the Caribbean Islands. Cruise ships
are also plentiful, and pleasure craft regularly go back and forth between Florida and the
islands. It is also a heavily flown route for commercial and private aircraft heading towards
Florida, the Caribbean, and South America from points north.


The earliest allegation of unusual disappearances in the Bermuda area appeared in a
September 16, 1950 Associated Press article by Edward Van Winkle Jones. Two years later,
Fate magazine published "Sea Mystery at Our Back Door", a short article by George X. Sand
covering the loss of several planes and ships, including the loss of Flight 19, a group of five
U.S. Navy TBM Avenger bombers on a training mission. Sand's article was the first to lay out
the now-familiar triangular area where the losses took place. Flight 19 alone would be covered
in the April 1962 issue of American Legion Magazine. It was claimed that the flight leader had
been heard saying "We are entering white water, nothing seems right. We don't know where
we are, the water is green, no white." It was also claimed that officials at the Navy board of
inquiry stated that the planes "flew off to Mars." Sand's article was the first to suggest a
supernatural element to the Flight 19 incident. In the February 1964 issue of Argosy, Vincent
Gaddis's article "The Deadly Bermuda Triangle" argued that Flight 19 and other
disappearances were part of a pattern of strange events in the region. The next year, Gaddis
expanded this article into a book, Invisible Horizons.

Others would follow with their own works, elaborating on Gaddis's ideas: John Wallace
Spencer (Limbo of the Lost, 1969, repr. 1973); Charles Berlitz (The Bermuda Triangle, 1974);
Richard Winer (The Devil's Triangle, 1974), and many others, all keeping to some of the same
supernatural elements outlined by Eckert.

Larry Kusche

Lawrence David Kusche, a research librarian from Arizona State University and author of The
Bermuda Triangle Mystery: Solved (1975) argued that many claims of Gaddis and subsequent
writers were often exaggerated, dubious or unverifiable. Kusche's research revealed a number
of inaccuracies and inconsistencies between Berlitz's accounts and statements from
eyewitnesses, participants, and others involved in the initial incidents. Kusche noted cases
where pertinent information went unreported, such as the disappearance of round-the-world
yachtsman Donald Crowhurst, which Berlitz had presented as a mystery, despite clear
evidence to the contrary. Another example was the ore-carrier recounted by Berlitz as lost
without trace three days out of an Atlantic port when it had been lost three days out of a port
with the same name in the Pacific Ocean. Kusche also argued that a large percentage of the
incidents that sparked allegations of the Triangle's mysterious influence actually occurred well
outside it. Often his research was simple: he would review period newspapers of the dates of
reported incidents and find reports on possibly relevant events like unusual weather, that were
never mentioned in the disappearance stories.

Kusche concluded that:

The number of ships and aircraft reported missing in the area was not significantly
greater, proportionally speaking, than in any other part of the ocean.
In an area frequented by tropical storms, the number of disappearances that did occur
were, for the most part, neither disproportionate, unlikely, nor mysterious;
furthermore, Berlitz and other writers would often fail to mention such storms.
The numbers themselves had been exaggerated by sloppy research. A boat's
disappearance, for example, would be reported, but its eventual (if belated) return to
port may not have been.
Some disappearances had, in fact, never happened. One plane crash was said to have
taken place in 1937 off Daytona Beach, Florida, in front of hundreds of witnesses; a
check of the local papers revealed nothing.
The legend of the Bermuda Triangle is a manufactured mystery, perpetuated by
writers who either purposely or unknowingly made use of misconceptions, faulty
reasoning, and sensationalism.

Further responses

When the UK Channel 4 television program "The Bermuda Triangle" (c. 1992) was being
produced by John Simmons of Geofilms for the Equinox series, the marine insurance market
Lloyd's of London was asked if an unusually large number of ships had sunk in the Bermuda
Triangle area. Lloyd's of London determined that large numbers of ships had not sunk there.

United States Coast Guard records confirm their conclusion. In fact, the number of supposed
disappearances is relatively insignificant considering the number of ships and aircraft that pass
through on a regular basis.

The Coast Guard is also officially skeptical of the Triangle, noting that they collect and publish,
through their inquiries, much documentation contradicting many of the incidents written about
by the Triangle authors. In one such incident involving the 1972 explosion and sinking of the
tanker SS V. A. Fogg , the Coast Guard photographed the wreck and recovered several bodies,
in contrast with one Triangle author's claim that all the bodies had vanished, with the
exception of the captain, who was found sitting in his cabin at his desk, clutching a coffee cup.
In addition, the Fogg sank off the coast of Texas, nowhere near the commonly-accepted
boundaries of the Triangle.

The NOVA/Horizon episode The Case of the Bermuda Triangle, aired on June 27, 1976, was
highly critical, stating that "When we've gone back to the original sources or the people
involved, the mystery evaporates. Science does not have to answer questions about the
Triangle because those questions are not valid in the first place... Ships and planes behave in
the Triangle the same way they behave everywhere else in the world."

David Kusche pointed out a common problem with many of the Bermuda Triangle stories and
theories: "Say I claim that a parrot has been kidnapped to teach aliens human language and I
challenge you to prove that is not true. You can even use Einstein's Theory of Relativity if you
like. There is simply no way to prove such a claim untrue. The burden of proof should be on
the people who make these statements, to show where they got their information from, to see
if their conclusions and interpretations are valid, and if they have left anything out."

Skeptical researchers, such as Ernest Taves and Barry Singer, have noted how mysteries and
the paranormal are very popular and profitable. This has led to the production of vast amounts
of material on topics such as the Bermuda Triangle. They were able to show that some of the
pro-paranormal material is often misleading or inaccurate, but its producers continue to
market it. Accordingly, they have claimed that the market is biased in favor of books, TV
specials, and other media that support the Triangle mystery, and against well-researched
material if it espouses a skeptical viewpoint.

Finally, if the Triangle is assumed to cross land, such as parts of Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, or
Bermuda itself, there is no evidence for the disappearance of any land-based vehicles or
persons. The city of Freeport, located inside the Triangle, operates a major shipyard and an
airport that handles 50,000 flights annually and is visited by over a million tourists a year.

Supernatural explanations

Triangle writers have used a number of supernatural concepts to explain the events. One
explanation pins the blame on leftover technology from the mythical lost continent of Atlantis.
Sometimes connected to the Atlantis story is the submerged rock formation known as the
Bimini Road off the island of Bimini in the Bahamas, which is in the Triangle by some
definitions. Followers of the purported psychic Edgar Cayce take his prediction that evidence of
Atlantis would be found in 1968 as referring to the discovery of the Bimini Road. Believers
describe the formation as a road, wall, or other structure, though geologists consider it to be
of natural origin.

Other writers attribute the events to UFOs. This idea was used by Steven Spielberg for his
science fiction film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which features the lost Flight 19
aircrews as alien abductees.

Charles Berlitz, author of various books on anomalous phenomena, lists several theories
attributing the losses in the Triangle to anomalous or unexplained forces.

Natural explanations
Compass variations

Compass problems are one of the cited phrases in many Triangle incidents. While some have
theorized that unusual local magnetic anomalies may exist in the area, such anomalies have
not been shown to exist. Compasses have natural magnetic variations in relation to the
magnetic poles, a fact which navigators have known for centuries. Magnetic (compass) north
and geographic (true) north are only exactly the same for a small number of places for
example, as of 2000 in the United States only those places on a line running from Wisconsin to
the Gulf of Mexico. But the public may not be as informed, and think there is something
mysterious about a compass "changing" across an area as large as the Triangle, which it
naturally will.

Deliberate acts of destruction

Deliberate acts of destruction can fall into two categories: acts of war, and acts of piracy.
Records in enemy files have been checked for numerous losses. While many sinkings have
been attributed to surface raiders or submarines during the World Wars and documented in
various command log books, many others suspected as falling in that category have not been
proven. It is suspected that the loss of USS Cyclops in 1918, as well as her sister ships
Proteus and Nereus in World War II, were attributed to submarines, but no such link has been
found in the German records.

Piracythe illegal capture of a craft on the high seascontinues to this day. While piracy for
cargo theft is more common in the western Pacific and Indian oceans, drug smugglers do steal
pleasure boats for smuggling operations, and may have been involved in crew and yacht
disappearances in the Caribbean. Piracy in the Caribbean was common from about 1560 to the
1760s, and famous pirates included Edward Teach (Blackbeard) and Jean Lafitte.

Gulf Stream

The Gulf Stream is a deep ocean current that originates in the Gulf of Mexico and then flows
through the Straits of Florida into the North Atlantic. In essence, it is a river within an ocean,
and, like a river, it can and does carry floating objects. It has a surface velocity of up to about
2.5 metres per second (5.6 mi/h). A small plane making a water landing or a boat having
engine trouble can be carried away from its reported position by the current.
Human error

One of the most cited explanations in official inquiries as to the loss of any aircraft or vessel is
human error. Whether deliberate or accidental, humans have been known to make mistakes
resulting in catastrophe, and losses within the Bermuda Triangle are no exception. For
example, the Coast Guard cited a lack of proper training for the cleaning of volatile benzene
residue as a reason for the loss of the tanker SS V.A. Fogg in 1972. Human stubbornness may
have caused businessman Harvey Conover to lose his sailing yacht, the Revonoc, as he sailed
into the teeth of a storm south of Florida on January 1, 1958.


Hurricanes are powerful storms, which form in tropical waters and have historically cost
thousands of lives lost and caused billions of dollars in damage. The sinking of Francisco de
Bobadilla's Spanish fleet in 1502 was the first recorded instance of a destructive hurricane.
These storms have in the past caused a number of incidents related to the Triangle.

Methane hydrates

An explanation for some of the disappearances has focused on the presence of large fields of
methane hydrates (a form of natural gas) on the continental shelves. Laboratory experiments
carried out in Australia have proven that bubbles can, indeed, sink a scale model ship by
decreasing the density of the water; any wreckage consequently rising to the surface would be
rapidly dispersed by the Gulf Stream. It has been hypothesized that periodic methane
eruptions (sometimes called "mud volcanoes") may produce regions of frothy water that are
no longer capable of providing adequate buoyancy for ships. If this were the case, such an
area forming around a ship could cause it to sink very rapidly and without warning.

Publications by the USGS describe large stores of undersea hydrates worldwide, including the
Blake Ridge area, off the southeastern United States coast. However, according to another of
their papers, no large releases of gas hydrates are believed to have occurred in the Bermuda
Triangle for the past 15,000 years.

Rogue waves

In various oceans around the world, rogue waves have caused ships to sink and oil platforms
to topple. These waves, until 1995, were considered to be a mystery and/or a myth.

Notable incidents

Theodosia Burr Alston

Theodosia Burr Alston was the daughter of former United States Vice President Aaron Burr.
Her disappearance has been cited at least once in relation to the Triangle. She was a
passenger on board the Patriot, which sailed from Charleston, South Carolina to New York
City on December 30, 1812, and was never heard from again. The planned route is well
outside all but the most extended versions of the Bermuda Triangle. Both piracy and the War
of 1812 have been posited as explanations, as well as a theory placing her in Texas, well
outside the Triangle.

Ellen Austin

The Ellen Austin supposedly came across a derelict ship, placed on board a prize crew, and
attempted to sail with it to New York in 1881. According to the stories, the derelict
disappeared; others elaborating further that the derelict reappeared minus the prize crew,
then disappeared again with a second prize crew on board. A check from Lloyd's of London
records proved the existence of the Meta, built in 1854 and that in 1880 the Meta was
renamed Ellen Austin. There are no casualty listings for this vessel, or any vessel at that time,
that would suggest a large number of missing men were placed on board a derelict that later

USS Cyclops

The incident resulting in the single largest loss of life in the history of the US Navy not related
to combat occurred when USS Cyclops, under the command of Lt Cdr G.W. Worley, went
missing without a trace with a crew of 309 sometime after March 4, 1918, after departing the
island of Barbados. Although there is no strong evidence for any single theory, many
independent theories exist, some blaming storms, some capsizing, and some suggesting that
wartime enemy activity was to blame for the loss.

Carroll A. Deering

A five-masted schooner built in 1919, the Carroll A.
Deering was found hard aground and abandoned at
Diamond Shoals, near Cape Hatteras, North Carolina on
January 31, 1921. Rumors and more at the time
indicated the Deering was a victim of piracy, possibly
connected with the illegal rum-running trade during
Prohibition, and possibly involving another ship, S.S. Hewitt, which disappeared at roughly the
same time. Just hours later, an unknown steamer sailed near the lightship along the track of
the Deering, and ignored all signals from the lightship. It is speculated that the Hewitt may
have been this mystery ship, and possibly involved in the Deering crew's disappearance.

Flight 19

Flight 19 was a training flight of TBM Avenger bombers that
went missing on December 5, 1945, while over the Atlantic. The
squadron's flight path was scheduled to take them due east for
120 miles, north for 73 miles, and then back over a final 120-
mile leg that would return them to the naval base, but they
never returned.

A search and rescue Mariner aircraft with a 13-man crew was
dispatched to aid the missing squadron, but the Mariner itself
was never heard from again. Later, there was a report from a
tanker cruising off the coast of Florida of a visible explosion at
about the time the Mariner would have been on patrol.

While the basic facts of this version of the story are essentially accurate, some important
details are missing. The weather was becoming stormy by the end of the incident, and naval
reports and written recordings of the conversations between Taylor and the other pilots of
Flight 19 do not indicate magnetic problems.

Star Tiger and Star Ariel

G-AHNP Star Tiger disappeared on January 30, 1948 on a flight from the Azores to Bermuda;
G-AGRE Star Ariel disappeared on January 17, 1949, on a flight from Bermuda to Kingston,
Jamaica. Both were Avro Tudor IV passenger aircraft operated by British South American
Airways. Both planes were operating at the very limits of their range and the slightest error or
fault in the equipment could keep them from reaching the small island. One plane was not
heard from long before it would have entered the Triangle.

Douglas DC-3

On December 28, 1948, a Douglas DC-3 aircraft, number NC16002, disappeared while on a
flight from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Miami. No trace of the aircraft or the 32 people onboard
was ever found. From the documentation compiled by the Civil Aeronautics Board
investigation, a possible key to the plane's disappearance was found, but barely touched upon
by the Triangle writers: the plane's batteries were inspected and found to be low on charge,
but ordered back into the plane without a recharge by the pilot while in San Juan. Whether or
not this led to complete electrical failure will never be known. However, since piston-engined
aircraft rely upon magnetos to provide spark to their cylinders rather than a battery powered
ignition coil system, this theory is not strongly convincing.

KC-135 Stratotankers

On August 28, 1963, a pair of US Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft collided and crashed
into the Atlantic. The Triangle version (Winer, Berlitz, Gaddis) of this story specifies that they
did collide and crash, but there were two distinct crash sites, separated by over 160 miles
(260 km) of water. However, Kusche's research showed that the unclassified version of the Air
Force investigation report stated that the debris field defining the second "crash site" was
examined by a search and rescue ship, and found to be a mass of seaweed and driftwood
tangled in an old buoy.

SS Marine Sulphur Queen

SS Marine Sulphur Queen, a T2 tanker converted from oil to sulfur carrier, was last heard from
on February 4, 1963 with a crew of 39 near the Florida Keys. Marine Sulphur Queen was the
first vessel mentioned in Vincent Gaddis' 1964 Argosy Magazine article, but he left it as having
"sailed into the unknown", despite the Coast Guard report, which not only documented the
ship's badly-maintained history, but declared that it was an unseaworthy vessel that should
never have gone to sea.

Connemara IV

A pleasure yacht was found adrift in the Atlantic south of Bermuda on September 26, 1955; it
is usually stated in the stories (Berlitz, Winer) that the crew vanished while the yacht survived
being at sea during three hurricanes. The 1955 Atlantic hurricane season shows Hurricane
Ione passing nearby between the 14th and 18th of that month, with Bermuda being affected
by winds of almost gale force. It was confirmed that the Connemara IV was empty and in port
when Ione may have caused the yacht to slip her moorings and drift out to sea.

*SS Cotopaxi

"Lloyd's posts Cotopaxi As 'Missing'", The New York Times, January 7, 1926.
"Efforts To Locate Missing Ship Fail", The Washington Post, December 6, 1925.
"Lighthouse Keepers Seek Missing Ship", The Washington Post, December 7, 1925.
"53 On Missing Craft Are Reported Saved", The Washington Post, December 13, 1925.

*S.S. Suduffco

"To Search For Missing Freighter", The New York Times, April 11, 1926.
"Abandon Hope For Ship", The New York Times, April 28, 1926.

*Harvey Conover and Revonoc

"Search Continuing For Conover Yawl", The New York Times, January 8, 1958.
"Yacht Search Goes On", The New York Times, January 9, 1958.
"Yacht Search Pressed", The New York Times, January 10, 1958.
"Conover Search Called Off", The New York Times, January 15, 1958.
*B-52 Bomber (Pogo 22)

"U.S.-Canada Test Of Air Defence A Success", The New York Times, October 16, 1961.
"Hunt For Lost B-52 Bomber Pushed In New Area", The New York Times, October 17, 1961.
"Bomber Hunt Pressed", The New York Times, October 18, 1961.
"Bomber Search Continuing", The New York Times, October 19, 1961.
"Hunt For Bomber Ends", The New York Times, October 20, 1961.

*Charter vessel Sno'Boy

"Plane Hunting Boat Sights Body In Sea", The New York Times, July 7, 1963.
"Search Abandoned For 40 On Vessel Lost In Caribbean", The New York Times, July 11,
"Search Continues For Vessel With 55 Aboard In Caribbean", The Washington Post, July 6,
"Body Found In Search For Fishing Boat", The Washington Post, July 7, 1963.

*SS Sylvia L. Ossa

"Ship And 37 Vanish In Bermuda Triangle On Voyage To U.S.", The New York Times,
October 18, 1976.
"Ship Missing In Bermuda Triangle Now Presumed To Be Lost At Sea", The New York Times,
October 19, 1976.
"Distress Signal Heard From American Sailor Missing For 17 Days", The New York Times,
October 31, 1976.
Devils Sea

The Devil's Sea (Ma no Umi), also
known as the Dragon's Triangle, the
Formosa (Taiwan) Triangle and the
"Pacific Bermuda Triangle", is a
region of the Pacific around Miyake
Island, about 100 km south of Tokyo.
The size and area varies with the report
(the only reports stem from the 1950s),
with various reports placing it 70 miles
(110 km) from an unspecified part of
Japan's east coast, 300 miles (480 km)
from the coast, and even near Iwo Jima,
750 miles (1,210 km) from the coast.
(Kusche: 259-260)

The area is said to be a danger zone on
Japanese maps, according to Charles
Berlitz's books The Bermuda Triangle
(1974) and The Dragon's Triangle
(1989). He states that in the peacetime
years between 1952-54 Japan lost 5
military vessels with crews lost totalling
over 700 people and that Japanese
government sent a research vessel
boarded by over 100 scientists to study the Devil's Sea, and that this ship too vanished; and
finally that the area was officially declared a danger zone.

According to Larry Kusche's investigation, these "military vessels" were fishing vessels, and
some of them were lost outside the Devil's Sea, even as far as near Iwo Jima, 1000 km to the
south. He also points out that, at that time, hundreds of fishing boats were lost around Japan
every year.

The Japanese research vessel that Berlitz named, Kaiyo Maru No 5, had a crew of 31 aboard.
While investigating activity of an undersea volcano, Myjin-sh, about 300 km south of the
Devil's Sea, it was destroyed by an eruption on 24 September 1952. Some wreckage was
recovered. At least one ship sent an SOS. The other seven boats were small fishing boats lost
between April 1949 and October 1953 somewhere between Miyake Island and Iwo Jima, a
distance of 750 miles. (Kusche: 258)


Kusche, Lawrence David (1975). The Bermuda Triangle mystery - solved. New York:
Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-012475-X.

The Michigan Triangle

The Michigan Triangle is an area of Lake Michigan where unexplained phenomena have
reportedly occurred.


According to author Linda S. Godfrey in her book Weird Michigan (2006), the Michigan
Triangle is located over central Lake Michigan. One side stretches from the town of Ludington
to Benton Harbor in Michigan; another links from Benton Harbor to Manitowoc, Wisconsin; the
final side connects Manitowoc back to Ludington.

There are numerous stories of the supposed appearance of strange creatures,
unexplained vanishings, time standing still, slowing to a crawl, or speeding up, or other
unusual happenings.
George R. Donner

One well-known and often repeated case is that of Captain George R. Donner, who
commanded the Great Lakes freighter O.S. McFarland. While on a journey back from Erie,
Pennsylvania after picking up 9,800 tons of coal, the ship made course westward through the
lakes. It was slow going due to late-spring ice floes, but the ship was making steady progress
toward its destination, Port Washington, Wisconsin, when Donner disappeared.

On the night of April 28, 1937, the captain took to his cabin, with instructions to be awakened
as the ship drew near to port. About three hours later, with Port Washington growing close,
the second mate appeared at the captain's cabin, prepared to awake him, but found no one.
He and the crew searched the ship, but the captain was nowhere to be seen. The mate
reported that the cabin door was locked from the inside, adding to the mystery of the triangle.
Reportedly, the McFarland was 30 mi (48 km) northwest of Ludington, Michigan at the time of
Donner's disappearance; Ludington is reputed to be the nexus of the Lake Michigan Triangle.

The story was allegedly first reported in the 29 April 1937 edition of the Cleveland Press and is
also mentioned in Dwight Boyer's Strange Adventures of the Great Lakes (1974).
Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 2501

Another disappearance took place on June 23, 1950, and involved a Northwest Airlines DC-4
aircraft carrying fifty-five passengers and three crew members. This flight 2501 had departed
from New York City and was due to land at Minneapolis. The last radio contact recorded with
the plane was that it was 3,500 ft (1,100 m) over Battle Creek, Michigan and was going to
change its course to a northwesterly path over Lake Michigan, due to bad weather near
Chicago. After this, the plane disappeared and could not be raised by radio. Considerable light
debris, upholstery, and human body fragments were found floating on the surface, but divers
were unable to locate the plane's wreckage.

Once again, the aircraft was in the center of the supposed triangle when it disappeared.
Aero Vodochody L-39C

On July 3, 1998, an Aero Vodochody L-39C, N7868M, operated by a commercial pilot, was
reported missing over Lake Michigan, in the vicinity west- northwest of Traverse City,
Michigan. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The pilot and
passenger on board were never found.

Worlds Natural Wonder

Travel into the wonders of the world

Sarawak Chamber

Sarawak Chamber is the largest known cave chamber in the world. It is in Gua Nasib Bagus
(Good Luck Cave), which is located in Gunung Mulu National Park, in the Malaysian state of
Sarawak on the island of Borneo.


The chamber was discovered by three British cavers, Andy Eavis, Dave Checkley and Tony
White, in January 1981 during the Mulu'80 Expedition. The story of how it was discovered is
told in the books Underground Worlds and Giant Caves of Borneo.

Later named Sarawak Chamber, it measures 700 m (2,300 feet) long, 400 m (1,300 feet)
wide and at least 70 m (230 feet) high, and was estimated as three times the size of the Big
Room in Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico, then thought to be the largest
underground chamber. Its volume was checked by laser scanning in 2011.

To reach Sarawak Chamber, one must follow a river upstream from the cave entrance. This
long passage has a roof up to 60 metres high, and may require some swimming and a
traverse along a ledge. Accompanied visits can be arranged by the national Park.

Geology and formation

The chamber is due to two main factors. The first of which is uplift in the soil, occurring
between 2 and 5 million years ago. The second is the erosion of the soft limestone and other
rocks, and coupled with high rainfall of the surrounding rainforest, these processes made the
chamber we see today.

Peculiar Stones

Rock and stones everywhere you go.
Who made these things?
What are they for?

Aboriginal stone arrangement

Aboriginal stone arrangements are a ritual art form constructed by Indigenous Australians,
and are a form of rock art. Typically, they consist of stones, each of which may be about 30
cm in size, laid out in a pattern extending over several metres or tens of metres. They were
made by many different Australian Aboriginal cultures,and in many case are thought to be
associated with rituals.

Particularly fine examples are in Victoria,
where the stones can be very large (up to 1
metre high). For example, the stone
arrangement at Wurdi Youang consists of
about 100 stones arranged in an egg-
shaped oval about 50m across. Each stone
is well-embedded into the soil, and many
have "trigger-stones' to support them. The
appearance of the site is very similar to that
of the megalithic stone circles found
throughout Britain (although the function
and culture are presumably completely
different). Although its association with
Indigenous Australians is well-authenticated
and beyond doubt, the purpose is unclear, although it may have a connection with initiation
rites. It has also been suggested that the site may have been used for astronomical purposes
(Morieson 2003). Other well-known examples in Victoria include the stone arrangements at
Carisbrook and Lake Bolac.

Australia's largest collection of standing stones is said to be at Murujuga, also known as the
Burrup peninsula or the Dampier archipelago, in Western Australia, which includes tall
standing stones similar to the European menhirs, as well as circular stone arrangements.

Left: Part of the Yirrkala stone arrangement
representing a Macassan fishing boat

A very different example is found near Yirrkala
in Arnhem Land, where there are detailed
images of the praus used by Macassan
fisherman fishing for Trepang, several hundred
years before European contact. Here the stones
are small (typically 1020 cm), sit on the
surface of the ground, and can easily be moved
by hand, which also implies that they can be
easily damaged or altered by modern hands, so
that caution is needed when interpreting such
sites. Similar examples are found scattered throughout Australia, mainly in remote or
inaccessible places, and it is likely that there were many more prior to European settlement of

In South East Australia are found Bora rings which consist of two circles of stones, one larger
than the other, which were used in an initiation ceremony and rite of passage in which boys
were transformed into men.


Cromlech is a Brythonic word (Breton/Welsh) used to describe prehistoric megalithic
structures, where crom means "bent" and llech means "flagstone". The term is now virtually
obsolete in archaeology, but remains in use as a colloquial term for two different types of
megalithic monument.

In English it usually refers to dolmens, the remains of prehistoric stone chamber tombs.
However, it is widely used in French and Spanish to describe stone circles. Confusingly, some
English-speaking archaeologists, such as Aubrey Burl, use this second meaning for cromlech in
English too.

In addition, the term is occasionally used to describe more complex examples of megalithic
architecture, such as the Almendres Cromlech in Portugal.

A cromlech
Chambered cairn (cromlech) Dyffryn Ardudwy,
Gwynedd, Wales

Stones of Easter Island

Easter Island (Rapa Nui: Rapa Nui, Spanish: Isla de Pascua) is a Polynesian island in the
southeastern Pacific Ocean, at the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian Triangle. Easter
Island is famous for its 887 extant monumental statues, called moai, created by the early
Rapa Nui people. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with much of the island protected within
Rapa Nui National Park.

Easter Island map showing Terevaka,
Poike, Rano Kau, Motu Nui, Orongo, and
Mataveri; major ahus are marked with

Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean

Country Chile
Region Valparaso
Province Isla de Pascua

Coordinates 277S 10922W
Area [Total] 163.6 km2 (63.2 sq mi)


The most important myths are:

Tangata manu, the Birdman cult which was practiced
until the 1860s.
Makemake, an important god.
Aku-aku, the guardians of the sacred family caves.
Moai-kava-kava a ghost man of the Hanau epe (long-
Hekai ite umu pare haonga takapu Hanau epe kai
noruego, the sacred chant to appease the aku-aku
before entering a family cave.

Birdmen (Tangata manu) paintings in the cave called
"Cave of the Men Eaters"

Stone work

The Rapa Nui people had a Stone Age culture and made extensive use of several different
types of local stone:

Basalt, a hard, dense stone used for toki and at least one of the moai.
Obsidian, a volcanic glass with sharp edges used for sharp-edged implements such as
Mataa and also for the black pupils of the eyes of the moai.
Red scoria from Puna Pau, a very light red stone used for the pukao and a few moai.
Tuff from Rano Raraku, a much more easily worked rock than basalt, and was used for
most of the moai.

Mo'ai (statues)

The large stone statues, or moai, for which Easter Island is world-famous, were carved from
11001680 CE (rectified radio-carbon dates). A total of 887 monolithic stone statues have
been inventoried on the island and in museum collections so far. Although often identified as
"Easter Island heads", the statues have torsos, most of them ending at the top of the thighs,
although a small number of them are complete, with the figures kneeling on bent knees with
their hands over their stomachs. Some upright moai have become buried up to their necks by
shifting soils.

Almost all (95%) moai were carved out of distinctive, compressed, easily worked solidified
volcanic ash or tuff found at a single site inside the extinct volcano Rano Raraku. The native
islanders who carved them used only stone hand chisels, mainly basalt toki, which lie in place
all over the quarry. The stone chisels were sharpened by chipping off a new edge when dulled.
The volcanic stone was first wetted to soften it before sculpting began, then again periodically
during the process. While many teams worked on different statues at the same time, a single
moai took a team of five or six men approximately one year to complete. Each statue
represented the deceased head of a lineage.

Only a quarter of the statues were installed, while nearly half remained in the quarry at Rano
Raraku and the rest sat elsewhere, probably on their way to final locations. The largest moai
ever raised on a platform is known as "Paro". It weighs 82 tons and is 9.8 m (32.15 ft) long.
Several other statues of similar weight were transported to several ahu on the North and
South coasts. It is not yet known how they transported the statues. Possibilities include
employing a miro manga erua, a Y-shaped sledge with cross pieces, pulled with ropes made
from the tough bark of the hau-hau tree, and tied around the statue's neck. Anywhere from
180 to 250 men were required for pulling, depending on the size of the moai. Some 50 of the
statues were re-erected in modern times. One of the first was on Ahu Ature Huke in Anakena
beach in 1958. It was raised using traditional methods during a Heyerdahl expedition.

In 2011, a large moai statue was excavated from the ground, suggesting that the statues are
much older and larger than previously thought.

Tukuturi, an unusual bearded kneeling moai

Six of the fifteen moai at Ahu Tongariki

Ahu Akivi, one of the few inland ahu,
with the only moai facing the ocean
Ahu Tongariki near Rano Raraku, a 15-moai
ahu excavated and restored in the 1990s


Two ahu at Hanga Roa. In
foreground Ahu Ko Te Riku
(with a pukao on its
head). In the mid-ground
is a side view of an ahu
with five moai showing
retaining wall, platform,
ramp and pavement. The
Mataveri end of Hanga Roa
is visible in the
background with Rano Kau
rising above it.

Ahu are stone platforms.
Varying greatly in layout,
many were reworked
during or after the huri
mo'ai or statue-toppling
era; many became
ossuaries; one was dynamited open; and Ahu Tongariki was swept inland by a tsunami. Of the
313 known ahu, 125 carried moaiusually just one, probably because of the shortness of the
moai period and transportation difficulties. Ahu Tongariki, one kilometer from Rano Raraku,
had the most and tallest moai, 15 in total. Other notable ahu with moai are Ahu Akivi,
restored in 1960 by William Mulloy, Nau Nau at Anakena and Tahai. Some moai may have
been made from wood and were lost.

The classic elements of ahu design are:

A retaining rear wall several feet high, usually facing the sea
A front wall made of rectangular basalt slabs called paenga
A facia made of red scoria that went over the front wall (platforms built after 1300)
A sloping ramp in the inland part of the platform, extending outward like wings
A pavement of even-sized, round water-worn stones called poro
An alignment of stones before the ramp
A paved plaza before the ahu. This was called marae
Inside the ahu was a fill of rubble.

On top of many ahu would have been:

Moai on squareish "pedestals" looking inland, the ramp with the poro before them.
Pukao or Hau Hiti Rau on the moai heads (platforms built after 1300).
When a ceremony took place, "eyes" were placed on the Statues. The whites of the
eyes were made of coral, the iris was made of obsidian or red scoria.

Ahu evolved from the traditional Polynesian marae. In this context ahu referred to a small
structure sometimes covered with a thatched roof where sacred objects, including statues,
were stored. The ahu were usually adjacent to the marae or main central court where
ceremonies took place, though on Easter Island ahu and moai evolved to much greater size.
There the marae is the unpaved plaza before the ahu. The biggest ahu is 220 meters (720 ft)
and holds 15 statues, some of which are 9 meters (30 ft) high. The filling of an ahu was
sourced locally (apart from broken, old moai, fragments of which have also been used in the
fill). Individual stones are mostly far smaller than the moai, so less work was needed to
transport the raw material, but artificially leveling the terrain for the plaza and filling the ahu
was laborious.

Ahu are found mostly on the coast, where they are distributed fairly evenly except on the
western slopes of Mount Terevaka and the Rano Kau and Poike headlands. These are the three
areas with the least low-lying coastal land, and apart from Poike the furthest areas from Rano
Raraku. One ahu with several moai was recorded on the cliffs at Rano Kau in the 1880s, but
had fallen to the beach before the Routledge expedition.

A Hare Moa, a Chicken House, image cut from a laser scan collected by nonprofit CyArk

Stone walls

One of the highest-quality examples of Easter Island stone masonry is the rear wall of the ahu
at Vinapu. Made without mortar by shaping hard basalt rocks of up to seven tons to match
each other exactly, it has a superficial similarity to some Inca stone walls in South America.

Stone houses

A Hare Moa, a Chicken House, image cut
from a laser scan collected by nonprofit

Two types of houses are known from the
past: hare paenga, a house with an
elliptical foundation, made with basalt
slabs and covered with a thatched roof that
resembled an overturned boat, and hare
oka, a round stone structure. Related stone
structures called Tupa look very similar to
the hare oka, except that the Tupa were
inhabited by astronomer-priests and located near the coast, where the movements of the
stars could be easily observed. Settlements also contain hare moa ("chicken house"), oblong
stone structures that were used to house chickens. The houses at the ceremonial village of
Orongo are unique in that they are shaped like hare paenga but are made entirely of flat
basalt slabs found inside Rano Kao crater. The entrances to all the houses are very low, and
entry requires crawling.

In early times the people of Rapa Nui reportedly sent the dead out to sea in small funerary
canoes, as did their Polynesian counterparts in other islands. They later started burying people
in secret caves in order to save the bones from desecration by enemies. During the turmoil of
the late 18th century, the islanders seem to have started to bury their dead in the space
between the belly of a fallen moai and the front wall of the structure. During the time of the
epidemics they made mass graves that were semi-pyramidal stone structures.


Petroglyphs are pictures carved into rock, and Easter Island has one of the richest collections
in all Polynesia. Around 1,000 sites with more than 4,000 petroglyphs are catalogued. Designs
and images were carved out of rock for a variety of reasons: to create totems, to mark
territory or to memorialize a person or event. There are distinct variations around the island in
terms of the frequency of particular themes among petroglyphs, with a concentration of
Birdmen at Orongo. Other subjects include sea turtles, Komari (vulvas) and Makemake, the
chief god of the Tangata manu or Birdman cult.

Petroglyphs are also common in the Marquesas islands.

Makemake with two birdmen, carved from red
Fish petroglyph found near Ahu Tongariki


A megalith is a large stone that has been used to construct a structure or monument, either
alone or together with other stones. Megalithic describes structures made of such large
stones, utilizing an interlocking system without the use of mortar or cement.

The word 'megalith' comes from the Ancient Greek megas meaning great, and
lithos meaning stone. Megalith also denotes an item consisting of rock(s) hewn in definite
shapes for special purposes. It has been used to describe buildings built by people from many
parts of the world living in many different periods. A variety of large stones are seen as
megaliths, with the most widely known megaliths not being sepulchral. The construction of
these structures took place mainly in the Neolithic (though earlier Mesolithic examples are
known) and continued into the Chalcolithic and Bronze Age.

Megalithic tomb, Mane Braz, Brittany

Clooneen wedge tomb,
the Burren, Co. Clare, Ireland

Stonehenge, Wiltshire, United Kingdom, is
one of the world's best known megalithic

Poulnabrone portal tomb, Ireland

Early stone complexes in eastern Turkey

At a number of sites in eastern
Turkey, large ceremonial
complexes from the 9th
millennium BC have been
discovered. They belong to the
incipient phases of agriculture
and animal husbandry. Large
circular structures involving
carved megalithic orthostats
are a typical feature, e.g. at
Nevali Cori and Gbekli Tepe.
Although these structures are
the most ancient megalithic
structures known so far, it is
not clear that any of the
European Megalithic traditions
are actually derived from them.
At Gbekli Tepe four stone
circles have been excavated
from an estimated 20. Some
measure up to 30 metres across. The stones carry carved reliefs of boars, foxes, lions, birds,
snakes and scorpions.
European megaliths

The most common type of megalithic construction in Europe is the portal tomb a chamber
consisting of upright stones (orthostats) with one or more large flat capstones forming a roof.
Many of these, though by no means all, contain human remains, but it is debatable whether
use as burial sites was their primary function. Though generally known as dolmens the correct
term accepted by archaeologists is portal tomb. However many local names exist, such as
anta in Portugal, stazzone in Sardinia, hunebed in the Netherlands, Hnengrab in Germany,
dysse in Denmark, and cromlech in Wales. It is assumed that most portal tombs were
originally covered by earthen mounds.

The second-most-common tomb type is the passage grave. It normally consists of a square,
circular, or cruciform chamber with a slabbed or corbelled roof, accessed by a long, straight
passageway, with the whole structure covered by a circular mound of earth. Sometimes it is
also surrounded by an external stone kerb. Prominent examples include the sites of Br na
Binne and Carrowmore in Ireland, Maes Howe in Orkney, and Gavrinis in France.

The third tomb type is a diverse group known as gallery graves. These are axially arranged
chambers placed under elongated mounds. The Irish court tombs, British long barrows, and
German Steinkisten belong to this group.

Another type of megalithic monument is the single standing stone, or menhir. Some of these
are thought to have an astronomical function as a marker or foresight, and, in some areas,
long and complex alignments of such stones exist, for example, at Carnac in Brittany.

In parts of Britain and Ireland the best-known type of megalithic construction is the stone
circle, of which examples include Stonehenge, Avebury, Ring of Brodgar, and Beltany.
These, too, display evidence of astronomical alignments, both solar and lunar. Stonehenge, for
example, is famous for its solstice alignment. Examples of stone circles are also found in the
rest of Europe. They are assumed to be of later date than the tombs, straddling the Neolithic
and the Bronze Ages.


Large T shaped Hunebed D27 in Borger-
Odoorn, Netherlands.

Megalithic tombs are aboveground burial
chambers, built of large stone slabs
(megaliths) laid on edge and covered with
earth or other, smaller stones. They are a
type of chamber tomb, and the term is
used to describe the structures built across
Atlantic Europe, the Mediterranean, and
neighbouring regions, mostly during the
Neolithic period, by Neolithic farming
communities. They differ from the
contemporary long barrows through their
structural use of stone.

There is a huge variety of megalithic tombs. The free-standing single chamber dolmens and
portal dolmens found in Brittany, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Sweden, Wales,
and elsewhere consist of a large flat stone supported by three, four, or more standing stones.
They were covered by a stone cairn or earth barrow.

Examples with outer areas, not used for burial, are also known. The Court Cairns of southwest
Scotland and northern Ireland, the Severn-Cotswold tombs of southwest England and the
Transepted gallery graves of the Loire region in France share many internal features, although
the links between them are not yet fully understood. That they often have antechambers or
forecourts is thought to imply a desire on the part of the builders to emphasize a special ritual
or physical separation of the dead from the living.

The Passage graves of Orkney, Ireland's Boyne Valley, and north Wales are even more
complex and impressive, with cross-shaped arrangements of chambers and passages. The
workmanship on the stone blocks at Maeshowe for example is unknown elsewhere in
northwest Europe at the time.

Megalithic tombs appear to have been used by communities for the long-term deposition of
the remains of their dead, and some seem to have undergone alteration and enlargement. The
organization and effort required to erect these large stones suggest that the societies
concerned placed great emphasis on the proper treatment of their dead. The ritual significance
of the tombs is supported by the presence of megalithic art carved into the stones at some
sites. Hearths and deposits of pottery and animal bone found by archaeologists around some
tombs also implies that some form of burial feast or sacrificial rites took place there.

Further examples of megalithic tombs include the stalled cairn at Midhowe in Orkney and the
passage grave at Bryn Celli Ddu on Anglesey. Despite its name, the Stone Tomb in Ukraine
was not a tomb but rather a sanctuary.

Other structures

Associated with the megalithic constructions across
Europe, there are often large earthworks of various
designs ditches and banks, broad terraces, circular
enclosures known as henges, and frequently artificial
mounds such as Silbury Hill in England and Monte
dAccoddi in Sardinia. Sometimes, as at Glastonbury
Tor in England, it is suggested that a natural hill has
been artificially sculpted to form a maze or spiral
pattern in the turf.

It seems that spirals were an important motif for the
megalith builders, and have been found carved into
megalithic structures all over Europe along with
other symbols such as lozenges, eye-patterns,
zigzags in various configurations, and cup and ring
marks. While not a written script in the modern
sense of the term, these symbols are considered to
have conveyed meaning to their creators, and are
remarkably consistent across the whole of Western

Spread of megalithic architecture in Europe

In Western Europe and the Mediterranean, megaliths are, in general, constructions erected
during the Neolithic or late stone age and Chalcolithic or Copper Age (4500-1500 BC). Perhaps
the most famous megalithic structure is Stonehenge in England, although many others are
known throughout the world. The French Comte de Caylus was the first to describe the Carnac
stones. Legrand d'Aussy introduced the terms menhir and dolmen, both taken from the Breton
language, into antiquarian terminology. He interpreted megaliths as gallic tombs. In Britain,
the antiquarians Aubrey and Stukeley conducted early research into megaliths. In 1805,
Jacques Cambry published a book called Monuments celtiques, ou recherches sur le culte des
Pierres, prcdes d'une notice sur les Celtes et sur les Druides, et suivies d'Etymologie
celtiques, where he proposed a Celtic stone cult. This completely unfounded connection
between druids and megaliths has haunted the public imagination ever since . In Belgium,
there is a megalithic site at Wris, a little town situated in the Ardennes. In the Netherlands,
megalithic structures can be found in the northeast of the country, mostly in the province of
Drenthe. Knowth is a passage grave of the Br na Binne neolithic complex in Ireland, dating
from c.3500-3000 BC. It contains more than a third of the total number of examples of
megalithic art in all Western Europe, with over 200 decorated stones found during

Timeline of megalithic construction


Excavation of some Megalithic monuments (in Britain, Ireland, Scandinavia, and France) has
revealed evidence of ritual activity, sometimes involving architecture, from the Mesolithic, i.e.,
predating the Neolithic monuments by centuries or millennia. Caveats apply: In some cases,
they are so far removed in time from their successors that continuity is unlikely; in other
cases, the early dates, or the exact character of activity, are controversial.


Circa 5000 BC: Constructions in Portugal (vora). Emergence of the Atlantic Neolithic
period, the age of agriculture along the western shores of Europe.
Circa 4800 BC: Constructions in Brittany (Barnenez) and Poitou (Bougon).
Circa 4400 BC: Constructions in Malta (Skorba temples).
Circa 4000 BC: Constructions in Brittany (Carnac), Portugal (Lisbon), France (central
and southern), Corsica, England and Wales.
Circa 3700 BC: Constructions in Ireland (Knockiveagh and elsewhere).
Circa 3600 BC: Constructions in England (Maumbury Rings and Godmanchester), and
Malta (gantija and Mnajdra temples).
Circa 3500 BC: Constructions in Spain (Mlaga and Guadiana), Ireland (south-west),
France (Arles and the north), Sardinia, Sicily, Malta (and elsewhere in the
Mediterranean), Belgium (north-east) and Germany (central and south-west).
Circa 3400 BC: Constructions in Ireland (Newgrange), Netherlands (north-east),
Germany (northern and central) Sweden and Denmark.
Circa 3300 BC: Constructions in France (Carnac stones)
Circa 3200 BC: Constructions in Malta (aar Qim and Tarxien).
Circa 3000 BC: Constructions in France (Saumur, Dordogne, Languedoc, Biscay, and
the Mediterranean coast), Spain (Los Millares), Sicily, Belgium (Ardennes), and
Orkney, as well as the first henges (circular earthworks) in Britain.


Circa 2500 BC: Constructions in Brittany (Le Menec, Kermario and elsewhere), Italy
(Otranto), Sardinia, and Scotland (northeast), plus the climax of the megalithic Bell-
beaker culture in Iberia, Germany, and the British Isles (stone circle at Stonehenge).
With the bell-beakers, the Neolithic period gave way to the Chalcolithic, the age of
Circa 2400 BC: The Bell-beaker culture was dominant in Britain, and hundreds of
smaller stone circles were built in the British Isles at this time.

Bronze Age

Circa 2000 BC: Constructions in Brittany (Er Grah), Italy (Bari), Sardinia (northern),
and Scotland (Callanish). The Chalcolithic period gave way to the Bronze Age in
western and northern Europe.
Circa 1800 BC: Constructions in Italy (Giovinazzo).
Circa 1500 BC: Constructions in Portugal (Alter Pedroso and Mourela).
Circa 1400 BC: Burial of the Egtved Girl in Denmark, whose body is today one of the
most well-preserved examples of its kind.
Circa 1200 BC: Last vestiges of the megalithic tradition in the Mediterranean and
elsewhere come to an end during the general population upheaval known to ancient
history as the Invasions of the Sea Peoples.

African megaliths
Nabta Playa
Nabta megalith. Nabta Playa at the southwest corner of
the western Egyptian desert was once a large lake in the
Nubian Desert, located 500 miles south of modern-day
Cairo. By the 5th millennium BC, the peoples in Nabta
Playa had fashioned the world's earliest known
astronomical device, 1000 years older than, but
comparable to, Stonehenge. Research shows it to be a
prehistoric calendar that accurately marks the summer
solstice. Findings indicate that the region was occupied
only seasonally, likely only in the summer when the
local lake filled with water for grazing cattle. There are
other megalithic stone circles in the southwestern

Middle Eastern megaliths

Dolmens and standing stones have been found in large areas of the Middle East starting at the
Turkish border in the north of Syria close to Aleppo, southwards down to Yemen. They can be
encountered in northern Lebanon, southern Syria, Israel, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. The most
concentrated occurrence of dolmen in particular is in a large area on both sides of the Great
Rift Valley, with greater predominance on the eastern side. They occur first and foremost on
the Golan Heights, the Hauran, and in Jordan, which probably has the largest concentration of
dolmen in the Middle East. In Saudi Arabia, only very few dolmen have been identified so far
in the Hejaz. They seem, however, to re-emerge in Yemen in small numbers, and thus could
indicate a continuous tradition related to those of Somalia and Ethiopia.

The standing stone has a very ancient tradition in the Middle East, dating back from
Mesopotamian times. Although not always 'megalithic' in the true sense, they occur
throughout the Orient, and can reach 5 metres or more in some cases (such as Ader in
Jordan). This phenomenon can also be traced through many passages from the Old
Testament, such as those related to Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, who poured oil over a
stone that he erected after his famous dream in which angels climbed to heaven (Genesis
28:10-22). Jacob is also described as putting up stones at other occasions, whereas Moses
erected twelve pillars symbolizing the tribes of Israel. The tradition of venerating (standing)
stones continued in Nabatean times and is reflected in, e.g., the Islamic rituals surrounding
the Kaaba and nearby pillars. Related phenomena, such as cupholes, rock-cut tombs and
circles also occur in the Middle East.

Asian megaliths

Megalithic burials are found in Northeast and Southeast Asia. They are found mainly in the
Korean Peninsula. They are also found in the Liaoning, Shandong, and Zhejiang in China,
Kysh and Shikoku in Japan, Dong Nai province in Vietnam and parts of India. Some living
megalithic traditions is found on the island of Sumba and Nias in Indonesia. The greatest
concentration of megalithic burials is in Korea. Archaeologists estimate that there are 15,000
to 100,000 southern megaliths in the Korean Peninsula. Typical estimates hover around the
30,000 mark for the entire peninsula, which in itself constitutes some 40% of all dolmens
Northern style

Northern-style megalithic burial from Jukrim-ri,
Gochang-eub, North Jeolla Province, Korea.

Northeast Asian megalithic traditions originated in
Manchuria, in particular the Liao River basin. The
practice of erecting megalithic burials spread quickly
from the Liao River Basin and into the Korean
Peninsula, where the structure of megaliths is
geographically and chronologically distinct. The
earliest megalithic burials are called "northern" or
"table-style" because they feature an above-ground
burial chamber formed by heavy stone slabs that form a rectangular cist. An oversized
capstone is placed over the stone slab burial chamber, giving the appearance of a table-top.
These megalithic burials date to the early part of the Mumun Pottery Period (c. 1500-850 BC)
and are distributed, with a few exceptions, north of the Han River. Few northern-style
megaliths in Manchuria contain grave goods such as Liaoning bronze daggers, prompting some
archaeologists to interpret the burials as the graves of chiefs or preeminent individuals.
However, whether a result of grave-robbery or intentional mortuary behaviour, most northern
megaliths contain no grave goods.
Southern style

Southern-style megalithic burials are distributed in the southern Korean Peninsula. It is
thought that most of them date to the latter part of the Early Mumun or to the Middle Mumun
Period. Southern-style megaliths are typically smaller in scale than northern megaliths. The
interment area of southern megaliths has an underground burial chamber made of earth or
lined with thin stone slabs. A massive capstone is placed over the interment area and is
supported by smaller propping stones. Most of the megalithic burials on the Korean Peninsula
are of the southern type.

As with northern megaliths, southern examples contain few, if any, artifacts. However, a small
number of megalithic burials contain fine red-burnished pottery, bronze daggers, polished
groundstone daggers, and greenstone ornaments. Southern megalithic burials are often found
in groups, spread out in lines that are parallel with the direction of streams. Megalithic
cemeteries contain burials that are linked together by low stone platforms made from large
river cobbles. Broken red-burnished pottery and charred wood found on these platforms has
led archaeologists to hypothesize that these platform were sometimes used for ceremonies
and rituals. The capstones of many southern megaliths have 'cup-marks' carvings. A small
number of capstones have human and dagger representations.


These megaliths are distinguished from other types by the presence of a burial shaft,
sometimes up to 4 m in depth, which is lined with large cobbles. A large capstone is placed
over the burial shaft without propping stones. Capstone-style megaliths are the most
monumental type in the Korean Peninsula, and they are primarily distributed near or on the
south coast of Korea. It seems that most of these burials date to the latter part of the Middle
Mumun (c. 700-550 BC), and they may have been built into the early part of the Late Mumun.
An example is found near modern Changwon at Deokcheon-ni, where a small cemetery
contained a capstone burial (No. 1) with a massive, rectangularly shaped, stone and earthen
platform. Archaeologists were not able to recover the entire feature, but the low platform was
at least 56 X 18 m in size.
Living megalith culture of Indonesia

People on Nias Island in Indonesia move a
megalith to a construction site, circa 1915.
Toraja monolith, circa 1935.

Indonesian archipelago is the host of Austronesian megalith cultures in past and present.
Living megalith culture can be found in Nias, an isolated island offcoast western North
Sumatra, Batak culture in interior North Sumatra, Sumba island in East Nusa Tenggara, also
Toraja culture in interior South Sulawesi. These megalith cultures remain preserved, isolated
and undisturbed well until late 19th century.

Several megalith sites and structures also found across Indonesia. Menhirs, dolmens, stone
tables, ancestral stone statues, and step pyramids structure called Punden Berundak were
discovered in various sites in Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi, and Lesser Sunda Islands.

Punden step pyramid and menhir can be found in Pagguyangan Cisolok and Gunung Padang,
West Java. Cipari megalith site also in West Java displayed monolith, stone terraces, and
sarcophagus. The Punden step pyramid is believed to be the predecessor and basic design of
later Hindu-Buddhist temples structure in Java after the adoption of Hinduism and Buddhism
by native population. The 8th century Borobudur and 15th-century Candi Sukuh featured the
step-pyramid structure.

Lore Lindu National Park in Central Sulawesi houses ancient megalith relics such as ancestral
stone statues. Mostly located in the Bada, Besoa and Napu valleys.
Madia Gonds of Maharashtra, India

A study mentions living megalithic practices amongst the Madia Gonds. The Madia Gonds live
in Bhamragad Taluka of Gadchiroli District of Maharashtra, India.
Analysis and evaluation

Megaliths were used for a variety of purposes. The purpose of megaliths ranged from serving
as boundary markers of territory, to a reminder of past events, to being part of the society's
religion. Common motifs including crooks and axes seem to be symbols of political power,
much like the crook was a symbol of Egyptian pharaohs. Amongst the indigenous peoples of
India, Malaysia, Polynesia, North Africa, North America, and South America, the worship of
these stones, or the use of these stones to symbolize a spirit or deity, is a possibility. In the
early 20th century, some scholars believed that all megaliths belonged to one global
"Megalithic culture" (hyperdiffusionism, e. g. 'the Manchester school', by Grafton Elliot Smith
and William James Perry), but this has long been disproved by modern dating methods. Nor is
it believed any longer that there was a European megalithic culture, although regional cultures
existed, even within such a small areas as the British Isles. The archaeologist Euan Mackie
wrote "Likewise it cannot be doubted that important regional cultures existed in the Neolithic
period and can be defined by different kinds of stone circles and local pottery styles (Ruggles
& Barclay 2000: figure 1). No-one has ever been rash enough to claim a nation-wide unity of
all aspects of Neolithic archaeology!"
Types of megalithic structures

The types of megalithic structures can be divided into two categories, the "Polylithic type" and
the "Monolithic type". Different megalithic structures include:

Polylithic type

Dolmen: a free standing chamber, consisting of standing stones covered by a capstone
as a lid. Dolmens were used for burial and were covered by mounds.
Taula: a straight standing stone, topped with another forming a 'T' shape.
Tumuli or barrows
Punden or Punden Berundak: step earth and stone pyramid, similar to tumuli but
enforced with stone walls.
Cairns or Galgals
Cromlech (ed., a Welsh term)
Sessi or Stazzone
Round Towers
Marae (Polynesia)
Ahus with Moai and Pukao (Easter Island)

Monolithic type

Menhir: a large, single upright standing stone.
Alignements (or Stone row avenues [e.g., Linear arrangement of upright, parallel
standing stones])
Cycoliths (or stone circles)
Trilithon: Two parallel upright stones with a horizontal stone (called a lintel) placed on
top, e.g. Stonehenge.
Orthostat: an upright slab forming part of a larger structure.
Stone ship
Statues such as most moai

Standing Stone

One of 60 standing stones from the Ring of
Brodgar located in Stenness, Orkney.
Standing stones, orthostats, liths, or more
commonly megaliths (because of their large
and cumbersome size) are solitary stones set
vertically in the ground and come in many
different varieties.

Standing stones are usually difficult to date,
but pottery found underneath some in Atlantic
Europe connects them with the Beaker people;
others in the region appear to be earlier or
later however.

Where they appear in groups together, often in
a circular, oval, henge or horseshoe formation,
they are sometimes called megalithic

Stone Circle (Bronze Age)

A stone circle is a monument of standing stones arranged in a circle. Such monuments have
been constructed across the world throughout history for many different reasons.

The best stone tradition of stone circle construction occurred across the British Isles and
Brittany in the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age, with over 1000 examples still surviving to
this day, including famous examples like Avebury, the Rollright Stones and Stonehenge.
Another prehistoric stone circle tradition occurred in southern Scandinavia during the Iron
Age, where they were built to be mortuary monuments to the dead.

Outside of Europe, stone circles have also been erected, such as the Bronze Age examples
from Hong Kong.

The size and number of the stones varies from example to example, and the circle shape can
be an ellipse.

Swinside stone circle, in the Lake District, England.

Dates and archaeology of European Megalithic stone circles

All experts agree that stone circles are of pre-Christian date, but beyond that stone circles
have proven difficult to date accurately. Radiocarbon dating has produced a wide range of
dates at different sites. This is at least partly due to an inadequacy of materials suitable for
radiocarbon dating that can be reliably obtained from the sites. The diversity of radiocarbon
evidence may also suggest that stone circles were constructed over a very long period, or
were sometimes reconstructed at later dates. It is often not clear when building started. A
further obstacle to dating is that there are generally no other archaeological artifacts
associated with the stone circles. 'Traditional' archaeological artifacts, such as pottery shards,
bones, etc., are not often found at the sites, and when found are frequently of a later date
than the associated stone circle.

The sites display no evidence of human dwelling, and rarely encompass graves. This suggests
that stone circles were constructed for ceremonies (perhaps religious ceremonies) and were in
use on ceremonial occasions only. The type of ceremonies (if any) is entirely unknown. An
alternative hypothesis is that they were a form of amulet or talisman, i.e., an entity
acknowledging and appeasing supposed spirits dwelling in nature, meaning that their
ceremonial use was secondary to their talismanic value, or equal to it. The crudeness and
variety of the stones excludes the possibility that they had astronomical observation purposes
of any precision. Sometimes a stone circle is found in association with a burial pit or burial
chamber, but the great majority of these monuments have no such association. A stone circle
is an entirely different entity from a henge, and different also from an isolated monolith, yet
sometimes these other types of ancient stone monuments are found in close proximity.

The earliest known circles were apparently erected around five thousand years ago during the
Neolithic period and may have evolved from earlier burial mounds which often covered timber
or stone mortuary houses. The suggestion that they may have evolved from earlier burial
mounds is undercut by the fact that, of the hundreds of Neolithic and Bronze Age circles that
have been identified, none are provably centered on a burial. That suggests religious context,
the details of which are still obscure.

During the Middle Neolithic (c. 37002500 BC) stone circles began to appear in coastal and
lowland areas towards the north of the United Kingdom. The Langdale axe industry in the Lake
District appears to have been an important early centre for circle building, perhaps because of
its economic power. Many had closely set stones, perhaps similar to the earth banks of
henges, others were made from unfounded boulders rather than standing stones.

By the later Neolithic, stone circle construction had attained a greater precision and popularity.
Rather than being limited to coastal areas, they began to move inland and their builders grew
more ambitious, producing examples of up to 400 m diameter in the case of the Outer Circle
at Avebury. Most circles, however, measured around 25 m in diameter. Designs became more
complex with double and triple ring designs appearing along with significant regional variation.
These monuments are often classed separately as concentric stone circles.

The final phase of stone circle construction took place in the early to middle Bronze Age
(c.22001500 BC) and saw the construction of numerous small circles which, it has been
suggested, were built by individual family groups rather than the large numbers that
monuments like Avebury would have required.

By 1500 BC stone circle construction had all but ceased. It is thought that changing weather
patterns led people away from upland areas and that new religious thinking led to different
ways of marking life and death.


Concentric stone circle

A concentric stone circle is a type of prehistoric ritual monument consisting of a circular or
oval arrangement of two or more stone circles set within one another. They were in use from
the late Neolithic to the end of the early Bronze Age and are found in England and Scotland.

Connected features as some sites include central mounds, outlying standing stones, avenues
or circular banks on which the stones are set. Burials have been found at all excavated
concentric stone circles both inhumations and urned or unurned cremations. A funerary
purpose is thought likely, especially by Burl who sees the Cumbrian sites as being analogous
to the kerbs that surround some chamber tombs and cobble pavements have been found in
the centre of many examples. Alternatively, they may be skeuomorphs of earlier timber circle
sites rebuilt in stone, especially the examples in Wessex.

Recumbent stone circle

Recumbent stone circles are a variation found throughout the British Isles and Brittany. They
are a form peculiar to the north east of Scotland and south west Ireland (Drombeg stone circle
near Glandore and Rosscarbery, Co. Cork). Recumbent stone circles date back to approx 3000

A recumbent circle is formed principally of a ring of stones, like all other stone circles;
however, there is one, large recumbent stone laid on its side, usually flanked by the two
largest of the standing stones immediately on either side. The stones are commonly graded in
height with the lowest stones being diametrically opposite to the tall flankers. It is not
uncommon for the circle to contain a ring cairn and cremation remains. The recumbent stone
lies between the SSE and SW points of the circle. It is thought that this configuration was used
for lunar observations and the changing of the seasons however such an alignment would
coincide with the Winter Solstice Sunset. These circles are usually in good farmland, near hill-

Easter Aquhorthies recumbent stone circle near Inverurie,
Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Dunnideer recumbent stone circle near Insch, Aberdeenshire,


Megalithic monuments are found in especially great number on the European Atlantic fringe,
with stone circles particularly common in the British Isles.

British Isles

There are approximately 1,000 stone circles and 80 stone henges in Britain and Ireland. The
French archaeologist Jean-Pierre Mohen in his book Le Monde des Megalithes says: "British
Isles megalithism is outstanding in the abundance of standing stones, and the variety of
circular architectural complexes of which they formed a part...strikingly original, they have no
equivalent elsewhere in Europe strongly supporting the argument that the builders were

Often oriented on sight lines for the rising or setting sun, it is possible that, for their builders,
the cycle of seasons was very important.

The largest stone circle in Britain is at Avebury, the second largest stone circle is the Great
Circle at Stanton Drew stone circles, and the Ring of Brodgar contains the third largest stone
circle in Britain.

Drombeg stone circle at County Cork, Ireland. Erected between 150 BC and 130 AD

Stone circle at the Carrigagulla complex, County Cork, Ireland

The Castlerigg stone circle is thought to date from the Bronze Age.

Continental Atlantic Europe

On the European continent, there are several examples in Brittany: two on the island of Er
Lannic and two more suggested at Carnac. The Petit Saint Bernard circle lies further afield, in
the French Alps. They are also known as harrespil in the Basque country, where villagers call
them mairu-baratz or jentil-baratz that means "pagan garden (cemetery)", referring to
mythologic giants of the pre-Christian era.


There was a separate period of stone circle building from the eighth to the twelfth century in
West Africa. The best known are the Senegambian stone circles, built as funerary monuments,
with more than a thousand known. Other stone circles can be found on the Adrar Plateau in

A stone semicircle, comprising seven 600 kilogram megaliths, has been discovered in the
drowned neolithic village of Atlit Yam in the Mediterranean Sea about 1 kilometre off the shore
of the Israeli city of Haifa. The stones had cupmarks carved into them and were arranged
around a freshwater spring, which suggests they may have been used for a water ritual.

"Megalithic" stone circles are also found in Hong Kong.

Stone Circle (Iron Age)

The stone circles of the Iron Age (ca. 500 BC ca. 400 AD) were a characteristic burial
custom of southern Scandinavia, especially on Gotland and in Gtaland during the Pre-Roman
Iron Age and the Roman Iron Age. In Sweden, they are called Domarringar (judge circles),
Domkretsar (judge circles) or Domarsten (judge seats). They should not be confused with
the Stone circles of the Bronze Age and Britain.

A minor stone circle in Brndsen (5902N 1436E / 59.04N 14.60E / 59.04; 14.60),
Hardemo parish, Nrke. Although, Nrke is north of the main distribution area, the province
has 50 remaining stone circles.

In the 1st century, the tradition was brought across the Baltic Sea to the area of modern-day
Northern Poland, probably by the Goths, as excavations made in 20th as well as in the end of
19th century indicate.

The stone circles were sometimes used as burial grounds.

The circles are usually round, or elongated ellipses. The stones may be very large and they are
usually between 9 and 12. Sometimes there are as few as 68. One stone circle, the circle of
Nssja (near Vadstena), comprises as many as 24 stones. Excavations have shown burnt coal
in the centre of the circles and they are nowadays considered to be incineration graves.

There is a widespread tradition that the circles were used for things, or general assemblies.
Similar circles were used for popular assemblies in Denmark until the 16th century, and in Vad
parish in Vstergtland, the village assemblies were held in a stone circle until the 19th

Even if knowledge that the stone circles were graves was later lost, it was still fresh in the
13th century as testify these lines by Snorri Sturluson in the introduction of the Heimskringla:

As to funeral rites, the earliest age is called the Age of Burning; because all the dead
were consumed by fire, and over their ashes were raised standing stones.


Gettlinge burial field, land, Sweden
Hulterstad burial field, land, Sweden
Jelling stones, Vejle, Denmark
Stoplesteinan, Norway
Odry, Poland
Wsiory burial field, Poland

Left: A stone circle in northern
Poland where the Goths had
settled after their emigration
from Scandza.


The prehistoric monument of Stonehenge has long been studied for its possible connections
with ancient astronomy. Archaeoastronomers have claimed that Stonehenge represents an
"ancient observatory," although the extent of its use for that purpose is in dispute. Many also
believe that the site may have had astrological/spiritual significance attached to it as well.

The discovery of evidence for a neighbour to the Heel Stone has challenged the interpretation
of it as a midsummer sunrise marker. The second stone may have instead been one side of a
'solar corridor' used to frame the sunrise.

Early work

Stonehenge features an opening in the henge earthwork facing northeast, and suggestions
that particular significance was placed by its builders on the solstice and equinox points have
followed. For example, the summer solstice sun rose close to the Heel Stone, and the sun's
first rays shone into the centre of the monument between the horseshoe arrangements. While
it is possible that such an alignment can be coincidental, this astronomical orientation had
been acknowledged since William Stukeley drew the site and first identified its axis along the
midsummer sunrise in 1720.

Stukeley noticed that the Heel Stone was not precisely aligned on the sunrise. Year to year,
the movement of the sun across the sky appears regular. However, due to temporal changes
in obliquity of the ecliptic, illumination declinations change with time. The purported Heel
Stone alignment with summer solstice sunrise would have been less accurate four to five
thousand years ago. The Heel Stone, in fact, is located at 1/7 of circumference from due
North, as noted by archaeologist James Q. Jacobs. Stukeley and the renowned astronomer
Edmund Halley were to attempt what amounted to the first scientific attempt to date a
prehistoric monument. Stukeley concluded the Stonehenge had been set up "by the use of a
magnetic compass to lay out the works, the needle varying so much, at that time, from true
north." He attempted to calculate the change in magnetic variation between the observed and
theoretical (ideal) Stonehenge sunrise, which he imagined would relate to the date of
construction. Their calculations returned three dates. The earliest of which, 460 BC, was
accepted by Stukeley. That was incorrect, but this early exercise in dating is a landmark in
field archaeology.

Early efforts to date Stonehenge exploited tiny changes in astronomical alignments and led to
efforts such as H Broome's 1864 theory that the monument was built in 977 BC, when the star
Sirius would have risen over Stonehenge's Avenue. Sir Norman Lockyer proposed a date of
1680 BC based entirely on an incorrect sunrise azimuth for the Avenue, aligning it on a nearby
Ordnance Survey trig point, a modern feature. Petrie preferred a later date of AD 730. The
necessary stones were leaning considerably during his survey, and it was not considered

An archaeoastronomy debate was triggered by the 1963 publication of Stonehenge Decoded,
by British-born astronomer Gerald Hawkins. Hawkins claimed to observe numerous
alignments, both lunar and solar. He argued that Stonehenge could have been used to predict
eclipses. Hawkins' book received wide publicity, in part because he used a computer in his
calculations, then a rarity. Archaeologists were suspicious in the face of further contributions
to the debate coming from British astronomer C. A. 'Peter' Newham and Sir Fred Hoyle, the
famous Cambridge cosmologist, as well as by Alexander Thom, a retired professor of
engineering, who had been studying stone circles for more than 20 years. Their theories have
faced criticism in recent decades from Richard J. C. Atkinson and others who have suggested
impracticalities in the 'Stone Age calculator' interpretive approach.

Newham and the Station Stones

Newham had found an alignment for the equinoxes by drawing a line between one of the
Station Stones with a posthole next to the Heel Stone. Moving away from the sun, he also
identified a lunar alignment; the long sides of the rectangle created by the four station stones
matched the moon rise and moonset at the major standstill.

Two of the Station Stones are damaged and although their positions would create an
approximate rectangle, their date and thus their relationship with the other features at the site
is uncertain. Stonehenge's latitude is unusual in that only at this approximate latitude (within
about 50 km) do the lunar and solar events above occur at right angles to one another. More
than 50 km north or south of the latitude of Stonehenge, the station stones would have to be
set out as a parallelogram.

Gerald Hawkins' work

Gerald Hawkins' work on Stonehenge was first published in Nature in 1963 following analyses
he had carried out using the Harvard-Smithsonian IBM computer. Hawkins found not one or
two alignments but dozens. He had studied 165 significant features at the monument and
used the computer to check every alignment between them against every rising and setting
point for the sun, moon, planets, and bright stars in the positions they would have been in
1500 BC. Thirteen solar and eleven lunar correlations were very precise against the early
features at the site with precision falling during the megalithic stages. Hawkins also proposed
a method for using the Aubrey holes to predict lunar eclipses by moving markers from hole to
hole. In 1965 Hawkins wrote (with J. B. White) Stonehenge Decoded, which detailed his
findings and proposed that the monument was a 'Neolithic computer'.

Atkinson replied with his article "Moonshine on Stonehenge" in Antiquity in 1966, pointing out
that some of the pits which Hawkins had used for his sight lines were more likely to have been
natural depressions, and that he had allowed a margin of error of up to 2 degrees in his
alignments. Atkinson found that the probability of so many alignments being visible from 165
points to be close to 0.5 (or rather 50:50) rather that the "one in a million" possibility which
Hawkins had claimed. That the Station Stones stood on top of the earlier Aubrey Holes meant
that many of Hawkins' alignments between the two features were illusory. The same article by
Atkinson contains further criticisms of the interpretation of Aubrey Holes as astronomical
markers, and of Fred Hoyle's work.

A question exists over whether the English climate would have permitted accurate observation
of astronomical events. Modern researchers were looking for alignments with phenomena they
already knew existed; the prehistoric users of the site did not have this advantage.

Alexander Thom's work

Alexander Thom had been examining stone circles since the 1950s in search of astronomical
alignments and the megalithic yard. It was not until 1973 that he turned his attention to
Stonehenge. Thom chose to ignore alignments between features within the monument,
considering them to be too close together to be reliable. He looked for landscape features that
could have marked lunar and solar events. However, one of Thom's key sites, Peter's Mound,
turned out to be a twentieth-century rubbish dump.

Later theories

Although Stonehenge has become an increasingly popular destination during the summer
solstice, with 20,000 people visiting in 2005, scholars have developed growing evidence that
indicates prehistoric people visited the site only during the winter solstice. The only megalithic
monuments in the British Isles to contain a clear, compelling solar alignment are Newgrange
and Maeshowe, which both famously face the winter solstice sunrise.

The most recent such evidence supporting the theory of winter visits includes bones and teeth
from pigs which were slaughtered at nearby Durrington Walls. Their age at death indicate that
they were slaughtered every year, either in December or January. Mike Parker Pearson of the
University of Sheffield has said, "We have no evidence that anyone was in the landscape in

Stone row

A stone row (or stone alignment), is a linear arrangement of upright, parallel megalithic
standing stones set at intervals along a common axis or series of axes, usually dating from the
later Neolithic or Bronze Age. Rows may be individual or grouped, and three or more stones
aligned can constitute a stone row. "Alignement", a French word, has been used to identify
standing stones rows of long processional' avenue.

Stone rows differ from a prehistoric avenue, in that the stones are always in a broadly straight
line rather than following a more curving route. Stone rows can be few metres or several
kilometres in length and made from stones that can be as tall as 2m, although 1m high stones
are more common. The terminals of many rows have the largest stones and other megalithic
features are sometimes sited at the ends, especially burial cairns. The stones are placed at
intervals and may vary in height along the sequence, to provide a gradated appearance,
though it is not known whether this was done deliberately. Stone rows were erected by the
later Neolithic and Bronze Age peoples in the British Isles, parts of Scandinavia and northern

The most famous example is the Carnac stones, a complex of stone rows around Carnac in
Brittany. There are a number of example on Dartmoor including the row at Stall Down and
three rows at Drizzlecombe and the Hill O Many Stanes in Caithness. In Britain they are
exclusively found in isolated moorland areas. The term alignment is sometimes taken to imply
that the rows were placed purposely in relation to other factors such as other monuments or
topographical or astronomical features. Archaeologists treat stone rows as discrete features
however and alignment refers to the stones being lined up with one another rather than
anything else. Their purpose is thought to be religious or ceremonial perhaps marking a
processual route. Another theory is that each generation would erect a new stone to
contribute to a sequence that demonstrated a people's continual presence.

Down Tor stone row on
Dartmoor in South Devon, UK
Part of the Kerlescan alignment in Carnac (Brittany, France)

Beenalaght - Six stones, County Cork, Ireland
Eightercua - Four stones, County Kerry, Ireland
Knocknakilla - Four stones (one fallen), County Cork, Ireland