Mysterious Antarctica

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

People have always wondered about what mysteries might lurk in unexplored regions. At first, it was just the place over the hill. As we explored more, the mysterious unknown was pushed further and further back, until eventually we had the whole of Earth's surface pretty much explored.

The last continent to be explored and mapped out was Antarctica, and even now, pretty much its entire surface has only been mapped by satellite. Incredible cold and lethal winds conspired to keep humans away, which made it a fertile area for stories about mysterious buried technology, aliens, and monsters. This trend continues today - after all, who knows what may be under the ice?

As time goes on, of course, Science Marches On, and this trope is just as Discredited as the presence of civilizations on the very definitely inhospitable Mars and Venus as portrayed in many an early Planetary Romance.

See also Grim Up North (the polar opposite), Polar Bears and Penguins, Everything's Better with Penguins (hey, penguins live in Antarctica). And Human Popsicle, since Antarctica appears to be a good place to stumble upon Inhuman Popsicles.

Examples of Mysterious Antarctica include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion, Antarctica was the resting place of the angel Adam; disturbing him is what starts the entire series.
  • In Gundam Wing, Heero goes on a mission here...wearing his usual tank top and bike shorts!
  • In the original Mobile Suit Gundam, negotiations between the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon took place in Antarctica, since it was the closest thing to neutral territory in the Earth Sphere. These negotiations eventually lead to the signing of the Antarctic Treaty (sort of a futuristic Geneva Convention that, among other things, outlawed the use of nuclear and biological weapons, as well as Colony Drops).

Comic Books

  • Marvel Comics has the Savage Land, a tropical jungle complete with dinosaurs, created (and sustained) by alien technology.
  • There is an entrance to Skartaris, the Lost World of The Warlord comics, in Antarctica near the South Pole.
  • In the post-Crisis Superman, particularly during the Roger Stern era, the first version of the Fortress of Solitude was in the Antarctic. (It was generally referred to only as "the Antarctic Fortress.")
  • The Martian Manhunter also had a base there, but his was an entire buried Martian City.
  • Averted by Whiteout, as a murder mystery outside one of the research bases proves to be plenty to keep a U.S. Marshal occupied, no fantastical weirdness necessary. It's particularly noteworthy for how desolate and potentially lethal the setting is.
  • In Watchmen Ozymandias' headquarters of Karnak is located here, complete with tropical vivarium.
  • The Mighty Thor found the last survivor of a colony of Vikings who'd made it all the way to Antarctica in the eleventh century. The old man earned a Viking funeral by helping defeat a monster that shrugged off Thor's strongest attacks.
  • Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham, an Elseworld mixing the Dark Knight with H.P. Lovecraft opens with Bruce Wayne and his wards arriving in Antarctica to find out what happened to "the Cobblepot Expedition". Almost all of them died in the Mountains of Madness, Cobblepot himself joined the albino penguins, and one member of the expedition became an undead being that needs the Antarctic cold to survive (a mashup between Mr Freeze and Dr Muñoz from Cool Air).


  • The alien site in Alien vs. Predator is buried under the ice of Bouvetøya Island.
  • The Thing from Another World (1951) and The Thing (1982) are both adaptations of John W. Campbell's short story "Who Goes There?", though the first film is set at the North Pole.
  • The Land Unknown (1957) has a US Navy helicopter crashing into a misty crater full of highly unconvincing dinosaurs.
  • The Last Winter (2006) Who knows what spiritual forces may be lurking in Alaska's permafrost?
  • In the first X Files Movie, Scully is abducted and taken to a giant UFO hidden under the ice of Antarctica.
  • Retrograde (2004) (South Korea). The action is based on a ship trapped in Antarctic sea ice. A team of genetically-altered time travellers come back to the present to try to prevent a future biological disaster. Two opposing time travellers fight it out amongst the ships' crew of polar scientists and researchers.
  • Alien Hunter (2003) (U.S.A./ Bulgaria). This is about Antarctic researchers, signals from outer space and a mysterious object that is found buried in the ice at a research base. If the object is opened and the creature inside awakes, it may lead to the annihilation of earth.
  • Deep Freeze (AKA Ice Crawlers) (2003). Scientists on an Antarctic ice shelf base with questionable activities are killed off one by one by a tentacled monster.
  • Boa (AKA New Alcatraz) (2000). Construction workers digging an inescapable prison at the South Pole come across a giant prehistoric snake preserved in nitrogen.
  • In Transformers, Megatron is discovered underneath the Antarctic ice by Sam Witwicky's great-grandfather.
  • The 1935 film adaptation of She changes H. Rider Haggard's Lost World tale from Africa to the Arctic.


  • The Rime of the Ancient Mariner takes place largely in Antarctica.
  • The Takers, an Indiana Jones-homage novel by Jerry Ahern, has an abandoned alien base with working UFO's under the Antarctic ice. It also contains the dead bodies of an earlier Nazi expedition seeking Atlantis—as it turns out, the base's defense system is also in full working order...
  • In Anti-ice, a Steampunk novel by Stephen Baxter, British Antarctic explorers discover a crashed meteorite full of a substance with properties similar to anti-matter.
    • In another book, Evolution, Baxter puts forth the theory that the dinosaurs on the continent (being already adapted for long periods of darkness without much food) surivived the K-T extinction event and continued to evolve into cold-weather forms (Sabre-toothed Allosaurus? Awesome.) until the glaciers formed.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs' The Land That Time Forgot trilogy, the tropical Lost World Caspak is located on a large island in the vicinity of Antartica.
  • In John W. Campbell's Who Goes There?, an Antarctic expedition finds a crashed alien spacecraft with the cryogenically-preserved pilot, which turns out to be malign (and a Voluntary Shapeshifting variation on The Virus that, if it reaches civilization, could bring about The End of the World as We Know It).
  • Graham Hancock's Fingerprints of the Gods theorizes that Antarctica was home to a super-advanced civilization, until the poles shifted and buried them in ice. (Your library might sort this book under non-fiction, but it definitely belongs here.)
  • In H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness, the titular undiscovered Antarctic mountain range (which dwarfs the Himalayas) is the location of the last city of the Elder Things (referred to in the novella as Old Ones, but generally known in Lovecraftian scholarship and fandom as Elder Things to prevent confusion with the Great Old Ones) , a race of Starfish Aliens who fought against Cthulhu and His spawn, now abandoned and inhabited only by Shoggoths, the semi-sentient amorphous former servitors of the Elder Things who now mimic their former master's culture, even carving crude inscriptions after their style into the walls, and imitating the voices of the Elder Things (although only one phrase 'Tekeli-li' so we presume it is just parroting with no understanding).
  • In Andre Norton's novella "People of the Crater" and its sequel "Garan of Yu-Lac", Earth was colonized by a super-advanced civilization, the remnants of which still exist in Antarctica.
  • Edgar Allan Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym and, as a fan-made sequel of sorts to Poe, Jules Verne's An Antarctic Mystery/ The Sphinx of the Ice Fields
    • Poe's work also inspired James DeMille's A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder.
  • The report of an alien spacecraft discovered beneath Wilkes research station serves as the MacGuffin for the various faction in the Matthew Reilly novel Ice Station to fight over.
  • John Taine (Eric Temple Bell)'s The Greatest Adventure has the ruins of a lost supercivilization that created life ... which backfired with a vengeance.
  • Simon Black in the Antarctic (1956) by Ivan Southall. The Australian Ace Pilot battles a lost tribe of cannibalistic Neanderthals.
  • James Rollins stuck a Lost World under volcanic Mount Erebus in Subterranean.
  • In David Weber's The Apocalypse Troll, the titular Troll (an alien-created, human-derived time-traveling cyborg killing machine) first lands in Antarctica. It starts a second Falklands War en route to its more permanent hiding place in the Southern USA.
  • Antarctica by sci-fi author Kim Stanley Robinson. In this Twenty Minutes Into the Future world, secret communities in Antarctica are carrying out piracy and environmental terrorism in order to discourage mining and oil exploitation.
  • The Monster From Earth's End by Murray Leinster. Made into a movie The Navy vs. The Night Monsters (1966). An airplane returns from Antarctica with plant samples, the pilot killing himself as soon as he lands. The plants soon grow into killer monsters.
  • Apartness (1964), by Vernor Vinge (his first sale!). Centuries after a nuclear war, an exploratory mission from the Sudamérican Empire discover a mysterious tribe living in squalor on the Antarctic coast. It turns out they are all that remained of two boatloads of white South Africans that fled their country when the war killed off their patrons in the northern hemisphere and the rebelling black majority literally drove them into the sea.
  • The first of Matthew Reilly's Shane Schofield novels, appropriately named Ice Station, takes place in Antarctica when a research station has discovered what may be an alien spacecraft buried under the ice.
  • Greig Beck's Beneath The Dark Ice makes Antarctica the lost homeland of the cultures of the Americas, and goes one further by sticking a Lost World underneath that.
  • In Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, the Nautilus travels under the Antarctic ice to find that it surrounds an ice free, southern ocean.
  • In The Magicians, part of the students' education takes place at Brakebills South, in Antarctica. It's also a handy place to stash misbehaving professors.
  • A Colder War, an Alternate History Cold War Cthulhu Mythos short story by Charles Stross, it's mentioned that the United States lost the entire 501st Airborne Division on the plateau beyond Mt Erebus (The plateau that had swallowed more U-2 spy planes than the Soviet Union, more surface expeditions than darkest Africa). There's also a gateway to another planet beneath the ice of Lake Vostok.
  • Other Cthulhu Mythos short stories have also carried on the tradition of "Mountains of Madness" -- "Cold Water Survival" by Holly Phillips has a group of adventurers setting up a base on an iceberg that's split off from Antarctica; they realise that various Eldritch Abominations frozen in the ice are slowly thawing out as the berg travels into warmer regions. "The Crevasse" by Dale Bailey & Nathan Ballingrud has a 1920's expedition realise something is hiding in a nearby crevasse, but they aren't silly enough to hang around and find out, and afterwards refuse to acknowledge that what they saw was real.
  • She hears him before she gets there, but Sym in the novel The White Darkness survives in Antarctica with help from what's either a hallucination of a dead explorer in Spirit Advisor form, or the real thing.

Live Action TV

  • In the Doctor Who episode "Seeds of Doom", scientists found two pods there that turned humans into creatures that were like giant homicidal rotting broccoli stalks. The pods also made other plants turn against people.
  • In the Stargate 'verse, the Earth's original Stargate (Not the one they've been using all along, that one was brought to Earth at the time of ancient Egypt) was found in Antarctica, and Atlantis also used to be 'parked' there—before the Ancients abandoned Earth, leaving behind an outpost with a superweapon. They also found a living Ancient Popsicle.
  • The Michael Palin travelogue Pole to Pole ends here, of course.

Tabletop RPGs

  • Call of Cthulhu (tabletop game), extrapolating on the aforementioned novella by Lovecraft, has a sprawling campaign called Beyond The Mountains Of Madness. Player characters return to the site of the original expedition to find out why there were only two survivors the first time around.
  • In the Olde World Of Darkness, there were several hints about a Vampire Antediluvian sleeping under Antarctica, with best bets being Malkav on his identity.
  • The New World of Darkness has a lodge of werewolves dedicated to making sure that something stays buried underneath Antarctica. At least... they were dedicated to that purpose. Then someone found a woman's face carved into the ice that started telling them how great they are for rescuing her and... well, they all went batshit and started worshiping it.
  • Antarctica is the home of Killer Penguins in GURPS Technomancer.
  • In Scion, Antarctica is actually Atlantis. The Gods did not approve of the Atlanteans' wholesale Titan-worship and collectively destroyed it.
  • Not much is known about the Warhammer Fantasy Battle equivalent of antarctica, only that the map says 'Here There Be Daemons'. According the fluff there's basically a portal to Hell there, spilling out The Legions of Hell... and there's nobody doing anything about it.
  • Hollow Earth Expedition sets an adventure here, clearly harking back to Lovecraft and Who Goes There.
  • In the Ever Quest Ever Quest tabletop game, the Poles (both north and south) of the moon of Luclin are given the Antarctica treatment.
  • Being based heavily on 20s pulp fiction, Eberron has the Frostfell, a polar continent of ice that serves the exact same purpose.

Video Games

  • The main entry in the Shin Megami Tensei series, Strange Journey, is set in another dimension access from Antarctica. It's slowly growing and will consume the world if not solved.
  • Halo: the Expanded Universe novel "Ghosts of Onyx" briefly mentions The Covenant digging in Antarctica, and there's only one reason The Covenant dig.
  • Tomb Raider 3's Excuse Plot revolves around four mysterious artifacts made out of a meteor that crashed into Antarctica, presumably the work of an ancient civilization.
  • The Penumbra series is a well done pastiche of various Mysterious Antarctica sci-fi horror stories, set in the modern day. It takes place in northern Greenland though.
  • The final Allied mission in Red Alert 2: Yuri's Revenge is to destroy Yuri's final Psychic Dominator, which has been hidden in Antarctica.
  • In Star Control 2, it is mentioned that when the Ur-Quan blasted all ancient human historical sites from space, Antarctica was one location they targeted. No one knows why.
  • Similar to the Operation Highjump conspiracy theory (see below), in Call of Duty Black Ops a Russian special task force is assembled to take out the last vestiges of the Nazi regime in a secret polar base developing Nova 6 about a month after WW 2 officially ended. It takes place in the Arctic Circle, but it's similarity to the conspiracy theory is probably not a coincidence.

Real Life

  • Many popular "alternate history" interpretations of human's prehistory suggest that Antarctica was the location of Atlantis and that, rather than sinking beneath the ocean, it was covered in ice and drifted south.
    • Another theory that at least makes somewhat more sense is that the Earth's crust suddenly shifted, bringing Antarctica from the equator to the South pole.
  • A common conspiracy theory is that many of the remaining Nazis ran to a base in Antarctica after the Second World War, where they built UFO's and escaped to the Moon/discovered a hollow earth/did something else.
    • Some basis in Real Life - Nazi Germany claimed Antarctic territory before the war, which has never actually been contested by anyone. However, nobody else recognised the claim, so it's not considered to still belong to a state with no population. The flags are still there, though.
    • Conspiracy Theorists maintain that Operation Highjump—a scientific expedition to Antarctica in 1946 with a suspiciously-large military component—was actually the last shots of World War II as the allies flushed out the secret Antarctic Nazi military bases and superweapons.
  • In the 19th Century Symmes Holes leading to a Hollow Earth were supposed to exit at the North and South Poles.
  • The Vela Incident. In 1979 a satellite detected a double-flash of light which some speculated was an unauthorised nuclear test near Bouvet Island, inspiring a couple of novels, and perhaps the choice of location for Alien vs. Predator.
  • Antarctica in it's prehistory was actually quite the strange place. It was lumped with Australia to form Gondwana and boasted some truly unique forms of prehistoric life. In some ways, it was akin to a real-life Lost World, as differences in climate and evolving in isolation to the rest of the world allowed for creatures to exist who's families were very rare or extinct elsewhere. For instance, Temnospondyls lived in Southern Australia and Antarctica, where the cold climate kept them safe from crocodiles, which had driven the rest of their group into extinction virtually everywhere else in the world. The last remnants survived into the Early Cretaceous, when nearly everywhere else they had been extinct since the late Triassic.
  1. Actually an outflow of an iron oxide-tainted plume of saltwater.