Recently I ran across several YouTube videos talking about a formation in Antarctica that people claim looks like the walls of a motte-and-bailey castle, and some push it as evidence for pre-modern habitation of the Antarctic continent. The formation – a double-walled oval shape about 120m wide by 175m long – can be seen in Google Earth or Google Maps satellite view at 66°17’10.6″S, 100°29’8.5″E.
Now, I haven’t been all that impressed with the videos I’ve watched to date. Most of them basically boil down to showing the picture, saying “See! It looks like a castle!”, and spinning that into anywhere from 5-20 minutes of fluff. The blog articles haven’t been any better. Some bring in another formation called the Antarctic “Pyramid” as bolstering the claim of human origin – never mind that the “pyramid” is about 4500km away from the “castle” formation, and to my eye is clearly just a natural rock formation anyway:
Just to confuse things, there is another formation called “The Pyramid” that was discovered by the British Antarctic Expedition of 1910-1913, and is in a completely different place – but still 2335 km away, and still obviously a natural formation:
But the main reason I’m unimpressed is that there are a couple of facts about the area near the “castle” formation that you would think proponents of the human origin theory would want to point out – but absolutely none of the stories or videos I’ve seen have pointed these facts out. So let’s fill in a couple of those gaps.
First, if the “castle” were located in an area which was pretty much ice-free year-round and had large areas of standing water – in other words, was about as hospitable for human life as you’re likely to find in Antarctica – don’t you think they’d want to mention that? But in fact, that’s precisely where it is. The formation is located at the southwest edge of an area called the Bunger Hills or Bunger Oasis, which is not only relatively ice-free throughout the year but also has numerous melt ponds and even a fairly large lake.
The “castle” formation is indicated by the “C” marker
Second, the conspiracy theorists among the human-origin proponents love to claim that world governments know about the “true nature” of this artifact (among others) but are covering it up. So you’d think they’d be eager to point it out if there was a research station located right next door, wouldn’t you? How better to investigate something while covering up what you find?
In fact, there are three stations in the Bunger Hills, though none are currently operational. In 1956, the Soviet Union opened the “Oazis” station which they operated until 1959, at which point it was turned over to Poland and renamed the “Dobrowolski” station. Poland operated it for a few more weeks, briefly reopened it in 1979, and officially closed it in 1998. Immediately adjacent to it is the Soviet/Russian “Oazis-2” station which operated from the late 1980s to mid 1990s. A few buildings and a couple of historical pillars remain from the two stations, which are located about 11.8 km ENE of the “castle” formation.
“D” marks Dobrowolski Station, “O” marks Oazis-2 Station. The shore of Lake Figurnoye, the largest lake in the Bunger Hills, is visible at the bottom.
Even closer – a mere 6.6 km NE of the formation – is the Australian “Edgeworth David” summer base, which was in operation from 1986-2006. A few small huts remain.
“E” marks the four huts of the Edgeworth David Base. A melt pond is visible to the southeast.
Here is the map of the Bunger Hills with all three bases and the “castle” formation marked:
The closest active research stations are the Australian “Casey” station 448 km to the east, and the Russian “Mirny” station 333 km to the west. And, while a number of videos and bloggers have tried to tie this formation to Antarctic visits by various prominent personages, those visits were even farther away from the formation. Among them were former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (visited McMurdo Station, 2410 km away), astronaut Buzz Aldrin (visited the Amundsen-Scott Station at the South Pole, 2635 km away), King Juan Carlos of Spain (visited Spain’s two research stations, 5557 km and 5589 km away), and Kirill III, Patriarch of Moscow (visited Russia’s Bellingshausen Station, 5627 km away – almost as far from the formation as you can get and still be in Antarctica).
The kicker, or course, is that while this formation gets attention due to its particular shape and size, it is by no means the only formation like this in the Antarctic. About 40 km SW is another oval-shaped formation of similar size (170m diameter), surrounded by a similar-style meandering formation (you can see part of it on the right edge):
Just 3.8 km SSE is another, much larger (2.2 km long) formation of the same type which contains several smaller ones:
Here’s another smaller (just over 200m wide), not so precise one 22.8 km to the north:
That one also has a large, meandering formation of the same style just a few hundred meters west of it. And finally, just to show they’re not all in the Bunger Hills, here’s a huge formation on the western side of the Amery Ice Shelf, 1360 km away. The oval formation shown is over 1.8 km long, and the eastern “wall” that trails down to the south continues for at least 16 km:
It seems that these formations may be a type of sastrugi – grooves or ridges formed on a snow surface by wind erosion and deposition. While sastrugi normally form in rough lines parallel to the prevailing winds, the surrounding hills may affect the formation of these ridges causing them to curve around and occasionally form closed ovals. But whether they are sastrugi or something else, they seem to be nothing more than natural formations.