A joint effort between British, American, and Canadian forces during the final years of World War Two, Project Habakkuk endeavored to create a floating aircraft carrier made of frozen water and wood pulp, inspired by the idea of a military base built atop a floating glacier. The project failed miserably but produced some fascinating anecdotes, including one incident in which a bullet shot at a block of Pykrete (the name given to the frozen water and pulp concoction) in order to demonstrate the material’s strength ricocheted around a room containing, among other notables, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt. As tempted as I am to write my own take on this intriguing and at times humorous subject, I must admit that the Wikipedia entry on Project Habakkuk is more comprehensive and well cited than any I could produce.
The strange story of Project Habakkuk excites me because it combines grandiose and radically novel ideas, the impassioned efforts of highly capable individuals, the titillating drama of the wartime urgency for the advancing of naval and military technology, the involvement of conscientious objectors, as well as setbacks and failures that are amusingly pitiful. Enjoy.
I have hidden this entry from view due to the grotesque nature of some photographs contained within. Click the link below to see the full article.
Hadji Muhiddin Piri Ibn Hadji Mehmed, better known as Piri Reis, was a Turkish admiral and cartographer who produced many historically important and remarkably accurate maps of the Mediterranean during the first half of the 16th century. Perhaps his most famous map, drawn in 1513, is known as the First World Map. This map has been the subject of much speculation and contention due to some of its striking and peculiar characteristics, specifically its depiction of South America and what may be Antarctica.
Drawn on gazelle skin and measuring 90 cm x 63 cm , the map was lost to the world until its rediscovery in 1929 in Istanbul’s Topkapı Palace, a discovery that has sparked decades of debate. Text on the map states that Reis drew it based largely on ancient cartographical information that he gathered from other maps drawn by Roman cartographer and all-around Renaissance man Claudius Ptolemaeus (better known as Ptolomy) who lived during the 2nd century AD. (Ptolomy, it should be noted, introduced the use of longitude and latitude, which are essential tools of modern cartography). Reis also drew information from Indian, Portuguese, and Arabic maps, and even a map drawn by Christopher Columbus. Some of his source maps, historians speculate, were derived from those housed in the legendary Library of Alexandria before it burned in 48 BC, depriving the modern world of incalculable volumes of ancient knowledge.
Synthesizing information from such diverse sources, Reis compiled one of the most accurate world maps of the 16th century. Here is an illustration of the remarkable precision with which the First World Map depicts the eastern coast of South America.
What makes this map truly fascinating, however, is the land mass depicted to the lower right. While some claim that is it a misplaced representation of Patagonia, others contend that it is in fact the coastline of Antarctica. This latter interpretation has forced historians to drastically reconsider the timeline of ancient geographical knowledge.
If the First World Map does indeed depict Antarctica, this invalidates the widely held assumption that humans first discovered Antarctica in 1820 when a Russian expedition stumbled upon the massive continent. Even more startling, however, is that fact that the area of Antarctica purportedly shown on the map, known as the Princess Martha Coast, has been covered by large sheets of ice, measuring a mile thick, for over 6,000 years. The U.S. Navy Hydrographic Bureau has employed modern technology to peer beneath this cover of ice and map the actual coastline, and has found that the First World Map depicts it with startling accuracy. Here is a letter from Air Force Commander Harold Z. Ohlmeyer to Charles H Hapgood, an expert who has written extensively about Piri Reis, regarding the map’s accuracy:
“6, July, 1960
Subject: Admiral Piri Reis Map
TO: Prof. Charles H. Hapgood Keene College Keene, New Hampshire
Dear Professor Hapgood,
Your request of evaluation of certain unusual features of the Piri Reis map of 1513 by this organization has been reviewed. The claim that the lower part of the map portrays the Princess Martha Coast of Queen Maud Land, Antarctic, and the Palmer Peninsular, is reasonable. We find that this is the most logical and in all probability the correct interpretation of the map. The geographical detail shown in the lower part of the map agrees very remarkably with the results of the seismic profile made across the top of the ice-cap by the Swedish-British Antarctic Expedition of 1949. This indicates the coastline had been mapped before it was covered by the ice-cap. The ice-cap in this region is now about a mile thick. We have no idea how the data on this map can be reconciled with the supposed state of geographical knowledge in 1513.
Harold Z. Ohlmeyer Lt. Colonel, USAF Commander”
Could it be possible that an ancient thalassocracy, unknown to modern historians, discovered and mapped in great detail the coastline of Antarctica 6,000 or more years ago, and then passed this information down through the millennia until it found its way into the Library of Alexandria only to be fortuitously reproduced before it would have otherwise been forever lost upon the library’s destruction? While many modern academics dismiss this theory as fantastical poppycock, I cannot bring myself to discard the possibility that ancient civilizations were advanced in ways that would astound us if only their accomplishments hadn’t been lost to the great eraser of time.
Some Further Reading:
Anyone who has ever gazed at the expanse of the ocean and experienced a mixture of wonderment and terror will feel validated upon learning about the Bloop. This sonic phenomenon, so named due to its distinct sound (“bloop…bloop”), was first picked up via undersea microphones by the United States Navy in the summer of 1997. Instead of tracking Soviet submarines, these Cold War-era microphones detected a sound with an ultra-low frequency that suggests it a) originates from an animal, and b) that this animal is significantly larger than a blue whale (the largest creature ever known to live). Microphone triangulation has placed the origin of the Bloop off the southwestern coast of South America (50 degrees S, 100 degrees W). Listen to the Bloop here.
The mysterious Bloop vanished as rapidly as it appeared. The sound has not been detected since 1997, although this does little to hamper the impassioned speculations of cryptozoologists, science fictions enthusiasts, and marine biologists alike. The notion that there may lie at the bottom of the sea a beast that dwarfs, both in size and in sound-making ability, history’s largest known animals is fodder for both daydreams and nightmares. I know that I, for one, will glance compulsively and fearfully downward into the darkened depths if I ever find myself afloat off the southwestern coast of South America.
Some Further Reading:
BloopWatch.org – A site for H.P. Lovecraft fans that explores the Bloop from a science fiction perspective