William B Stoecker
Mount Shasta and the Hollow Earth
May 14, 2009 | 6 comments
Image Credit: Caia Cupito
[!gad]In June of 1976, when I was still a young man with a fully functioning heart, I climbed Mt. Shasta. It was my fourth attempt, the previous ones having been foiled by equipment failures and weather. As it was, I and my friends had to climb it in a serious storm, and no one who has not survived a storm above timberline even knows what weather is. We struggled up Avalanche Gulch (the entire climb meant a gain of six thousand feet in one day) dodging falling rocks that moved so fast that they whistled. We passed to the right of the Red Bank (some steep rocks at the top of Avalanche Gulch) and walked a narrow path atop a glacier, with a bergschrund (a crevasse at the very top of a glacier) to our left and a steep and icy slope to our right, and then climbed up a low rock wall. Ahead was a kind of plateau and a sloping expanse called Misery Hill, where I smelled sulfur (more on that later). Then we scrambled up the summit crags in the snow and wind, where ice formed on my mustache, and had a wonderful view of absolutely nothing. We were in a cloud. The return journey was easier, but we had to jump from the low rock wall and land atop the glacier; a slight miscalculation would mean a fall into the bergschrund or down the slippery face of the glacier. The descent of Avalanche Gulch went quickly, since we could sit and slide for long distances, ice axes ready to control our descent.
Mount Shasta is a 14,179 foot peak in Northern California. Nothing anywhere near it approaches anywhere near that altitude; even Mt. Ranier in Washington, higher and more glaciated, is surrounded by lesser peaks. Shasta is arguably the most awesome mountain, visually at least, in the lower forty eight states. It is the scene of innumerable paranormal events and ufo sightings, many of them well documented, and these have given rise to some very strange legends. For decades, some people have believed that Shasta is honeycombed by immense caverns wherein dwell all manner of mysterious beings. In 1894 Frederick Spencer Oliver wrote "A Dweller on two Planets," claiming that the survivors of the sunken continent of Lemuria lived in the mountain. In the 1930s Guy Warren Ballard, founder of the I Am Foundation, made the same claim. The science fiction writer Robert Heinlein (a close friend of the mysterious and somewhat sinister Jack Parsons) wrote a novella, "Lost Legacy," about a group of benevolent adepts living in the mountain, who used their paranormal abilities to defeat the evil adepts who ruled the world (some of us believe that the evil adepts are all too real). While, as stated previously, the ufos and paranormal events are well documented, there are some serious problems with the idea of Lemurians living inside the mountain.
First, let us take a somewhat critical look at the idea of Lemuria. There are primates called Lemurs that live on the island of Madagascar, off the southwest coast of Africa, and also in India. In 1864 zoologist Philip Slater proposed that the animals had migrated from Madagascar to India (or vice versa) over an immense land bridge (Lemuria), now submerged. There is no evidence of such a land bridge, and plate tectonics seems to explain the matter; it is now theorized that India broke off from Africa, leaving Madagascar behind, and drifted until it collided with southern Asia, raising the Himalayas. Madame Blavatsky, the founder of Theosophy, took up the idea of Lemuria and peopled it with advanced beings. Author James Churchward renamed it "Mu" and moved it from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific. I have discussed elswhere the reasons why full sized continents cannot sink and why even islands and fragments of continents would take millions of years to do so. This, however, does not rule out the possibility of prehistoric civilizations around the Pacific and Indian Oceans and elsewhere.
As to the immense caverns in Mt. Shasta, remember the smell of sulfur I mentioned? That was from a still active fumarole in what remains of one of the craters of Mt. Shasta (although they scarcely resemble craters today). Shasta is a volcano, part of the Cascade Range, which is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. It consists of four overlapping cones, including its 12,330 foot subsidiary peak, Shastina. It is composed of dacite and andesite, ash, and pyroclastic flows, and it last erupted in 1786 (and is fully capable of erupting again). These rocks tend to be weak and unstable, so large caverns cannot exist; they would simply collapse. And it is hot inside that mountain, too hot for anyone to live there...and that is between eruptions. Small, shallow caves or tunnel systems on the flanks of the mountain or elsewhere in the vicinity are entirely possible, but no Lemurians live in Mt. Shasta.
As long as I am in a more skeptical frame of mind than usual, I might as well take on a related myth, that of the hollow Earth. For centuries people have speculated that our planet may be hollow, with people or various strange beings living within, and that this other world can be entered through deep caverns or by immense openings at the poles. There is so much that is wrong with this that it is hard to know where to begin. There is no way that planets or stars can be hollow; when they are accreted from smaller objects or gas, gravity inevitable pulls everything toward the center, leaving no empty space. If beings of immense power somehow constructed a hollow planet, gravity would immediately cause it to collapse. The Earth's gravity proves that it not only is not hollow, but that its core is particularly dense and heavy. And the interior is hot, hot enough to melt any element, and volcanoes and innumerable measurements prove this. The Earth has been "x-rayed" numerous times by studying the way earthquake shock waves behave as they pass through its interior. The heat and pressure are such that even large caverns cannot exist even a few miles down, as the rocks slowly flow and collapse them, a problem noted by the gold miners of South Africa. As to the supposed openings at the poles, the South Pole is covered by an ice cap and the North Pole is within an ocean some three miles deep. Countless people have flown over both poles, or visited them on foot. There are no openings. Rumors that Admiral Byrd spoke of lands "beyond the pole" are meaningless. As I write this I am "beyond the pole." The North Pole is beyond the South Pole and vice versa. Every spot on Earth is beyond at least one of the poles.
Not satisfied with merely hollowing out the Earth, enthusiasts conveniently light it with a tiny "inner sun" that somehow precariously balances at the exact center. This position would be dynamically unstable, and such a sun would soon crash into one side or the other. And what magical force would cause such a sun to form in the first place? Furthermore, everything that we know about stars shows that they must be many, many times the mass of the entire Earth to sustain their fusion reactions. Even if, as some of us suspect, their energy is at least in part generated by some other process, great mass is still required, which is why even mighty Jupiter does not shine.
But legends of underground realms or perhaps other realities that somehow lie "below" this one or that can be reached by underground routes are very old and very widespread. The Greco-Roman Hades was underground, and the Christian Hell, and numerous realms inhabited by fairies, elves, gnomes, and trolls. Tibetans have legends of a land called Shambhala inhabited by enlightened adepts, located under Tibet or elsewhere in Central Asia, and some believe that its twenty fifth king will emerge to defeat the forces of evil and bring about a golden age. Some accounts say that Shambhala is a purely spiritual realm, and then there are accounts of an underground land called Agartha, and some say that Shambhala is its capital. Or maybe they are two seperate lands and one or the other is inhabited by demons or evil adepts. Accounts are confused and contradictory. The Russian painter and mystic Nicholas Roerich searched for Shambhala in the late nineteen twenties.
William Michael Mott has written in"Caverns, Cauldrons, and Concealed Creatures" of the innumerable accounts, some recent and well documented, of underground realms and encounters with strange beings from these realms. Looking at the whole picture, it is obvious that neither Mt. Shasta nor the Earth can literally be hollow, but high, isolated peaks are often the scene of paranormal events and ufo sightings, and some mysterious things do seem to be happening beneath our feet. We owe it to ourselves to be true skeptics (the self-proclaimed "skeptics" tend to be devout true believers in the atheist/materialist myth) and keep our minds open.
William B Stoecker