How Nature's Deep Sea 'Antenna' Puzzled the World

eltanin antenna photo
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Oceanographic researchers photographed a strange object, 3 miles beneath the waves.

In 1964, while trolling the depths to photograph the ocean floor, the crew of the oceanographic research ship USNS Eltanin made a startling discovery in the waters near Antarctica. Amid the countless prints of vast terrain 13,500 feet beneath the waves, one picture contained something that no one could imagine: what appeared to be a large antenna, anchored to the seabed. News of the object spread quickly, as did theories of its origins. Some thought it fell off a ship or was placed there by the Soviets, while others insisted that it was extraterrestrial--but the answer turned out to be much closer to home.

According to the Fortean Times, this photo of the object, which came to be known as the "Eltanin Antenna," first appeared in the New Zealand Herald in 1964, calling it "a puzzle in the ocean floor." Early speculation ran wild as to who could have produced such a complex-seeming piece of equipment and was able to lodge it in the sand over three miles below the surface of the ocean.

One writer described it as "an incredible piece of machinery... very similar to a mix of a TV antenna and one telemetry antenna," leading some to believe it likely fell off a boat. Others contended that it would be impossible for such equipment to descend to the depths undamaged and become so well-positioned in the ocean's choppy waters.

A biologist aboard the Eltanin named Dr. Thomas Hopkins, perhaps one of the first to see the photograph, speculated that the long object, with several protruding spokes, was in fact some form of plant life. This, of course, was quickly dismissed due to the fact that no light can reach so far beneath the surface. Still, Hopkins couldn't deny the man-made appearance of the mysterious 'antenna'.

"I would not say that the thing is made by man, because this claim raises the issue of how it would get there," said Hopkins. "But it's very symmetrical and the spokes are 90 degrees apart."

As the strange discovery continued to puzzle the scientific community, retired airline pilot and UFO enthusiast Bruce Cathie proposed a theory that the 'antenna' was actually some alien artifact. The shape of the object and the angle of its spokes, he said, fit precisely into a formula he believed extraterrestrials used to control humanity.

The nodal points of the two grids, when joined by series of small and great circles formed what I have loosely termed polar squares around the north and south geographic poles. It was when I carried out a geometric and mathematical analysis of these sections that I found a direct connection with light, gravity and mass equivalents in a harmonic sense.

As the Red Scare ended and pages of dubious pseudoscientific theories yellowed over time, some might have thought that the origins of the "Eltanin Antenna" would remain a mystery through the ages, until the researcher Tom DeMary A.F. Amos set the record straight.

It turns out that the object, which seemed like some piece of advanced technology or alien broadcasting device was actually discovered in 1888 by Alexander Agassiz, and was not an antenna at all. Rather, it was a species of deepwater sponge, called Cladorhiza concrescens. Later, the sponge's strange appearance drew a similar comparison from scientists Bruce Heezen and Charles Hollister who, studying Agassiz's drawings of the creature, said it "somewhat resembles a space-age microwave antenna."

cladorhiza concrescens photo

As the news of the true origins of the "Eltanin Antenna" spread, and nature was given due credit for the creature's odd design, some in the pseudoscientific community expressed disappointment that their 'alien artifact' had been debunked. It all goes to show that while the human imagination can invent new worlds full of strange, fascinating creatures--there's no shortage of such things in this world as well.