Apologies if this is off-topic, but becoming part of an international Antarctic conspiracy has officially made my impossible list. Sorry not sorry.
I’ve shared this in a few interviews and podcasts before but this is the first time I’ve written about it on the site. Let’s call this.
“The one time I accidentally started an an Antarctica conspiracy theory.”
As with all good conspiracies – this one starts on reddit….
If you throw in a “Antarctica” and “conspiracy” into google or reddit, you’ll get a handful (okay more than a handful) of conspiracies about secret world underground governments that have relocated to the ice continent in order to re-take over the world, conquer middle earth, launch nukes, or something of the sort.
This one however, is my favorite:
A few years back, Strava – the running and cycling app – released a cool new feature. It would automatically show you heat maps of all the routes you’ve biked or run.
You could easily see the routes and locations that you run the most and have a visual heatmap of anywhere you’ve ever run – cool.
It also released a crowdsourced version where you could see where strava members have run the most all around the world.
Some places seemed normal.
You would expect these to be super heavy along trail routes, cycling routes and big cities where people constantly run.
And they did.
But like most things involving reddit – people started digging further.
Specifically, they started to run into heatmaps in the middle of nowhere – places that shouldn’t have people anywhere near them.
And they found more and more. And they were all specifically geometrically shaped. Like, they were running around the perimeter of a building or compound or something.
And…that’s exactly what happened.
Turns out – the strava heat map accidentally revealed locations of unofficial / secret government facilities around the world – and the perimeters that the people would run around throughout the day.
You can imagine – this was like crack to internet conspirators around the world. So people started digging more.
And they started poking around Antarctica.
Dun dun dun
(you can see where this is going).
The sleuths of reddit quickly found a bunch of anomalies and heat maps around Antarctica.
WHAT ARE PEOPLE DOING THERE.
Specifically, one of them called out this location – between two mountain ranges and near – what looks like a blue water source.
What could be down there?
Secret government facility? Underground bases. The entrance to middle earth? Secret ex-nazis hiding out until they take their revenge?
The hypothesis were endless….
After all, these aren’t random movements. They seems like suspiciously – accurate trapezoids that almost look like people are moving around the edges of a trapezoid shaped building.
Here’s one of the comments from a thread:
Sure enough – a strangely geometric shape in between mountains and eerily next to a water source.
I’m not sure how I stumbled across the thread, but somehow I found this and this map immediately seemed familiar to me.
Not just the blue ice and the mountain range on one side, but something about the pattern. I had a particular amount of physical pain associated with that type of movement.
So of course, I went back to my Strava to check my history.
And look what I found:
Ice Marathon 100k Part 2 (my watch batteries died from the cold)
Turns out the inner trapezoid on the public heatmap was the 10k route at Union Glacier in Antarctica. I don’t know a lot of parts of Antarctica, but I know that 10k route very well. I ran around it 10x!
The little triangle coming off of it is the modified 10k loop that the marathoners would add on so they’d hit 42k on their 4th loop and complete a full marathon..
I wasn’t sure about the larger loop, so I emailed ALE about the larger trapezoid and they responded along with an explanation and an aerial map of the actual camp.
They responded below:
Small trapezoid is the 10k route. It is also used for the marathon most years now, when it is extended to 10.55km to give 42.2km on four circuits. On the occasions when we have run a 100km, it is also used for that because it is easy to monitor. I can remember joining in the 100km race for a run around the 10k loop and running a half during the 7 Continent Challenge both in January 2016 (the wonders of Strava).
The larger, odd-shaped trapezoid, is the 21.1km half marathon route. I have run this and we would start the half on the runway road. It’s a lovely route because it is so far out on the glacier, however, it is really hard to monitor, for the same reason, and much more subject to poor weather. Hence we have tended to use the 10k/10.5k route these days for marathons, halfs, etc.
Joel did an impressive 17:46:42 100k run in 2017. A good time on any surface, let alone snow/ice.ALE partner David Rootes
It’s tempting to think this is all just a bit too convenient of an explanation – but then they forwarded me this high-res map of the camp and it matches up perfectly.
Mystery solved. The route in question really is just an 10k loop for racing events and the larger one was the extended 21k loop.
A MUCH less exciting answer than an underground antarctic conspiracy base.
Fortunately (or not), this question still pops up in a thread from time to time.
Unfortunately – and I hate to break it to everyone, but there’s no underground bases in Antarctica (at least this part – unless this is a very elaborate cover scheme).
Trust me – I wish there was an underground Antarctic lair that I’m conspiring to keep secret from all the underlings, unfortunately – the strava heat maps are just mine & a bunch of other athletes data from pushing themselves to their limit at the end of the earth and almost freezing to death.
Yes, I know saying that part out loud just means that TPTB got me and now I’m controlled opposition (which is exactly what I’d want you to think if I wasn’t, right? Right.)
Although if you want to check my work – you can always head down there, run a 100k race, find out for ourself and knock 3 things off your impossible list at once!
The Truth Is Out There!
Reminder: push your limits, do hard things, tell a great story. Start here.