Mark Twain once said "Truth is stranger than fiction." You decide after reading this.
There was a story in the news recently of a huge iceberg that broke away from a glacier in the Antarctic (the southern one). The size of this ice sheet was almost 278 square miles, or 8 times the size of Pine Island.
So why I am mentioning the glacier in a history article? Well, the name of the glacier is Pine Island. Yes, glaciers have names, too. After World War II, the USS Pine Island (our seaplane tender from last week's article) was chosen for an exploratory mission in waters around the Antarctica. Operation "Highjump," as it was named, began in August 1946 and ended in February 1947. This task force included 4,700 men, 13 ships and multiple aircraft.
After World War II, the USS?Pine Island participated in an exploratory mission in the waters around Antarctica, where a glacier was also named Pine Island. These mountains are in Antarctica.
The "official" purpose of Operation "Highjump" was to establish an Antarctic research base. But a highly controversial German documentary named UFO - Technology Secrets and the Third Reich, suggested that the real reason for Operation "Highjump" was to search for a secret German UFO station still operating in the Antarctic after the war.
As far back as the late 1800s, the Germans were involved in the exploration of the Antarctic as a possible territory. In December 1938, the German vessel Schwabenland steamed from Hamburg and headed to the Antarctic. She reached the ice pack in January 1939. Flights from the Schwabenland took place over roughly 200,000 square miles of the Antarctic and the planes automatically photographed a grid of this area. One fifth of Antarctica was observed and charted this way. To lay claim to this territory, they dropped several thousand small Nazi flags over the area from their planes. They named this territory Neuschwabenland.
It was thought the Germans wanted to use this remote area for some kind of research, or as a base for military operations.
There were also stories that the Germans, while exploring the Antarctic, found a downed flying saucer (UFO). The story further goes that they were able to reverse engineer the UFO and make their own UFOs. Reverse engineering is to take something apart to see how it works so you can use that technology to build your own.
There were never any official reports of Operation "Highjump" finding a German UFO base. But beginning in the early 1950s, there was an increase of UFO sightings in the southeast United States, in particular in the state of Nevada.
Following the war most parts of Neuschwabenland were renamed according to the Antarctic Treaty of 1957.
The new names of Queen Maud Land, Princess Martha Coast and Princess Astrid Coast appeared on new maps of the area. But even today many of the mountains in the northern Antarctic area carry German names such as Mhlig-Hoffman Mountains and Wohltat Mountains. They stand as the last reminder of the German colony of Neuschwabenland.
For more history of Pine Island, visit the Museum of the Islands, Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sunday, 1-4 p.m.
The museum is conveniently located next to the Pine Island Library at 5728 Sesame Drive off Stringfellow Road. Call 239-283-1525.
Tim Knox is museum historian at the Museum of the Islands.