Throughout history there have occasionally been found objects or artifacts that don’t really seem to fit in with our established knowledge of the world. These anomalous objects tend to baffle and confuse, rarely finding any definitive answers and often left swirling in the realm of speculation and conjecture. One of these is surely a strange structure found on the bottom of the Antarctica seas, which was found by chance and which has incited discussion to this day.
In the 1960s, Antarctica might as well have been an alien world. It was a faraway, isolated, frigid land largely inhospitable to life as we know it, and although we still don’t know much about this continent today, at that time is was like another planet unto itself. In order to do research in the forbidding region, the National Science Foundation of the United States in 1962 created an elaborate, technologically advanced floating laboratory called the USNS Eltanin, which was the world’s first dedicated Antarctic research vessel and tasked with exploring Antartica and surrounding waters over a four-year period, at the time in waters just about uncharted as the furthest reaches of the solar system. While they made many findings and shed light on our knowledge of the region, they would also uncover things out there in those secluded depths that would go on to propel themselves into truly great mysteries.
On August 29, 1964, the USNS Eltanin was engaged in photographing the ocean floor 1,000 miles west of Cape Horn with a cable mounted camera at a depth of approximately 3,904 meters (13,500 feet) when they made a remarkable find. There along the mostly bleak and barren bottom they managed to snap pictures of a very strange structure, which stood upright at 2 feet high in the middle of nowhere on the lifeless seabed and with its symmetrical nodules, spokes and protrusions ending in a spherical top, it looked very much like an elaborate artificial radio antenna array. It was surely an unexpected thing to find down there, an anomaly, and when it the photographs were picked up and released by the New Zealand Herald on December 5, 1964, the puzzling images immediately caught the attention of UFOlogists and Fortean researchers, who would dub it “The Eltanin Antenna” and claim that it was an out of place alien artifact put there in that remote location for inscrutable purposes. The object would be excitedly discussed and debated for years, with famed paranormal writer Brad Steiger in 1968 calling it “an astonishing piece of machinery… very much like the cross between a TV antenna and a telemetry antenna.”
Theories swirled at the time, ranging that it was a piece that had simply fallen off a boat, to more conspiratorial theories such as that it was a secret Russian project, to more fringe ideas that it was the doing of aliens. Others suggested that it was perhaps some type of undiscovered plant life, but marine biologists were skeptical of this, as there was no sunlight down there to support it, and one biologist, a Dr. Thomas Hopkins, would say of it:
I wouldn’t like to say the thing is man-made because this brings up the problem of how one would get it there … But it’s fairly symmetrical and the offshoots are all 90 degrees apart. This is why it has been argued over for so long.
In the end, no one knew, and since it was so far under the surface in one of the most hostile and inaccessible environments on earth there was no way to reach it again and no efforts made to try and relocate it. In the meantime, the bizarre object made the rounds in numerous UFO and paranormal publications, including SAGA Magazine, The INFO Journal, and Fortean Times, a habitat in which it often seemed to pick up added details and conjecture that really muddied the waters as to trying to figure out what was actually going on and what it really was. At the time it was aggressively pushed by many writers, in particular Steiger, as a true anomaly and possibly alien artifact, but in more recent years the story has picked up more mundane possibilities. One of the most popular of these was the suggestion that what is seen in the images is a type of deep sea carnivorous sponge called Cladorhiza concrescens, which was discovered in 1888 by Alexander Agassiz and was described in the initial report:
It somewhat resembles a space-age microwave antenna, with a long stem ending in ramifying roots, sunk deeply into the mud. The stem has nodes with four to six club-like appendages. They evidently cover like bushes extensive tracts of the bottom.
This seems like a very rational approach to the mystery, but there have been arguments against this idea. One is that the crew of the USNS Eltanin, with their crew of scientists and marine biologists, did not come to that conclusion on their own. Another is that this species of sponge is known to exist in large colonies, where as this object was solitary out on a desert of nothingness. There is also the fact that when compared to photos of Cladorhiza concrescens, the Eltanin Antenna does not seem to completely match, looking somewhat different, especially in that it is obviously more symmetrical, regimented, and even in form than one would expect one of these sponges to be. Details like this have made sure that the Eltanin Antenna has remained discussed and debated to this day, with many proponents of the idea that it is indeed an anomalous artifact placed there by either nefarious human organizations or aliens, for purposes ranging from measuring fault activity to mind control.
There is really no way to know what this strange artifact was when looking at it based solely on a few photographs. It could really be anything, although no one explanation has really seemed to satisfy everyone at this point. Was this just some anomalous sea sponge that managed to find its way way out there on its own? Or was it something else entirely? Whatever the case may be, no one has found the original Eltanin Antenna since, and we will probably never know the full answer.