2004: The Eltanin Enigma

By Peter Brookesmith
May 2004

Whitley Strieber, whose 1987 book Communion did so much to make intergalactic grey dwarves a subject of dinner-table chatter in even the best-regulated households, is clearly a man prepared to entertain many rare and unusual ideas. Visitors to his website may sample the kinds of things that fascinate Strieber, and will find this cogitation:

Between 1962 and 1979 the NSF [National Science Foundation] Polar Research Vessel Eltanin surveyed Antarctic waters, studying the ocean and ocean bottom. In 1964, the ship photographed an unusual object at a depth of 13,500 feet [4,115m]. At the time, there was no submarine that could have carried a piece of technology to this depth.

The object appears to be a pole rising from the ocean floor with twelve spokes radiating from it, each ending in a sphere. The spokes are at 15 degree angles to each other. It is located approximately 1,000 miles [1,600km] south [sic] of Cape Horn, beneath some of the most inhospitable seas in the world. […]

There exists the possibility that it is an antenna or other scientific instrument that was lost by an early research vessel, but once again, this would appear to be a very forced explanation. It seems unlikely that an object could drop through [over] three miles of ocean, and anchor itself on the bottom.

In addition, the position of the antenna is so exact, and so strangely significant, that it would seem almost certain that it was intentionally put there. Who did it, with what technology and why remains unknown. However, it’s clear that there could be an enormous secret connected with the Eltanin antenna, and one that might not be entirely unknown to certain members of the scientific community… […]

Could it be possible that the Eltanin antenna is a piece of ancient technology, or even technology that comes from another world? … Other researchers are now suggesting that modern science might be well aware of the purpose of the object, and might be actively monitoring it or using it in some way. 1

So – how much of this strange tale is accurate? What has led anyone to consider the position of the so-called ‘Eltanin antenna’ to be “so exact, and so strangely significant”, let alone to suggest that the ‘antenna’ might be a chunk of ancient or extra-terrestrial technology? Is it remotely possible to identify this admittedly intriguing-looking object? Let us plumb the depths of history – and of the human mind.

Lost at Sea?

For those well-versed in such factitious riddles as the Bermuda Triangle, it may come as a disappointment to learn that the USNS Eltanin did indeed exist, and did take a photograph of a somewhat mystifying object in 1964. Displacing 1,850 tons [1,880 metric tonnes], 266ft [81m] long, and with a top speed of 13 knots [24km/h], the Eltanin was launched on 16 January 1957 at Avondale, Louisiana, and saw service with the US Navy as an ice-breaking cargo ship. In August 1962 she was reclassified as an Oceanographic Research Ship and became the world’s first dedicated Antarctic research vessel. 2 From then until 1975, her complement of scientists measured temperature, salinity, and depth of the region’s waters, took core samples and, using a camera and strobe light on a cable, photographed the ocean floor. Among other things, analysis of the Eltanin’s core samples led to the realisation that a 1-4km [0.6-2.5mile]-wide asteroid – now known as the Eltanin asteroid – had hit the ocean floor some 2.15 million years ago with the force of 100 billion tons [101.6 billion metric tonnes] of TNT.

The first anyone outside the relatively esoteric universe of polar science heard of the Eltanin was probably in a news item in the New Zealand Herald of 5 December 1964, headlined “Puzzle Picture From Sea Bed”:

The American research ship Eltanin sailed into Auckland yesterday with a mysterious photo taken at 2,250 fathoms [13,500ft/4115m] 1,000 miles [1,600km] west of Cape Horn.


The photograph, which to a layman shows something like a complex radio ærial jutting out of the mud bottom, was taken on August 29 by a submarine camera.

The camera is housed in a metal cylinder pulled along by a cable from the ship. It bounces along the sea bed taking pictures at regular intervals.

Dr Thomas Hopkins, senior marine biologist on board, who specialises in plankton studies, says the object could hardly be a plant.

“At that depth there is no light so photosynthesis could not take place and plants could not live.

“If it is some strange coral formation then no one on board has ever heard about it before.”

Dr Hopkins, a graduate of the University of Southern California, said the ship’s photographer had been thoroughly questioned on how he had developed the photograph.

However, everyone was certain the picture was not faked.

“I wouldn’t like to say the thing is man-made because this brings up the problem of how one would get it there,” he says.

“But it’s fairly symmetrical and the offshoots are all 90 degrees apart. This is why it has been argued over for so long.”

It has been estimated the object is about two feet [60cm] high.

The photograph is to be sent to several United States research foundations for analysis, and Dr Hopkins will take prints back to the University of Southern California.

The Eltanin, owned by the [US] Military Sea Transportation Service, is being used in part of the United States National Science Foundation Antarctic research programme.

It arrived in Auckland yesterday and will be here for six weeks for a refit. 3

In a 1968 article in Saga magazine,4 peddler of popular mysteries Brad Steiger planted the curious submarine object firmly in the fertile soil of fringe knowledge, with the somewhat tenuous claim that the Eltanin’s camera “photographed an astonishing piece of machinery… very much like the cross between a TV antenna and a telemetry antenna. The device, whatever it was, looked as out of place on the ocean floor as a giant squid would look nestled among the computers at IBM.” He went on to speculate that this ‘mechanical apparatus’ was designed to monitor seismic activity.

Speculation, in such cases, is tantamount to knowledge, and so with incisive insight Steiger concluded: “One cannot help becoming a bit uneasy knowing that someone – whether they be space visitors or representatives from some undeclared terrestrial organization – knows quite a bit more about the measurements and crucial rumblings of our planet than our top scientists do.” Aliens or MIB – the specials on the blackboard at the Believers’ Bistro haven’t varied for decades.

Of course, plenty of weird things – some living, some not – exist at enormous depths in the ocean. For most people, the Eltanin picture might have faded into the twilight of half-forgotten scientific curiosities, had not a reader of the Herald with some original ideas of his own become intrigued by it – so much so that he actually visited the ship and questioned the scientists. Like the pantomime beanstalk, a vast and labyrinthine mythology has grown from what he made of the Eltanin’s find.

Unlocking the Grid

In 1952, New Zealand pilot Bruce Cathie had a UFO sighting that “dramatically” changed his life, and inspired a quest to find some order and sense in the phenomenon. Cathie – following the example of French ufologist Aimé Michel 5 – decided to look for patterns in the locations where UFOs were hovering and in their reported flight paths. In an article for Nexus magazine, 6 Cathie explained how, after great labours, he was able to form a complete grid network over the whole of the New Zealand area by gradually plotting onto the map the most reliable UFO sightings. The pattern consisted of lines spaced at 30-minute intervals orientated just on six degrees displacement from true north. Eventually, two similar grids were found to be interlocked with each other, creating rather a complex pattern which could be further reduced to lines with a spacing of seven-and-one-half minutes.


Cathie’s next challenge was to discover if this system of grids was a global phenomenon. At this point, he heard of the Eltanin antenna. “I had a hunch,” he wrote, “that this could be the point I was looking for, upon which to orientate a world grid – if in fact one existed. I spent some time constructing grid patterns on a plastic ball until I found a system which could be transferred onto the world surface and aligned with the ærial-type object and the section of the grid discovered over New Zealand. I found that the patterns matched, and felt sure then that a global system was almost a certainty.”

Further concluding that “the speed of light, mass and gravity acceleration values must have some connection with the grid structure in order to explain the extraordinary manœuvers carried out by the strange craft”, he finally arrived at his ‘basic’ grid structure, which was formed by a series of great circles interlocking at various points around the Earth’s surface.

“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. To do this, I had to convert all our normal systems of measurement into a single set of units, and also convert our time measure into one that would correlate with the grid. After much thought and a long period of trial and error, I finally discovered that angular measure in minute-of-arc values, and a time unit based on 27 units for one revolution of the Earth, was the key to the unlocking of the grid secrets.”

It should be explained that a ‘harmonic’ in Cathie’s system appears to be any whole number that divides into another whole number – for example, 9 is a harmonic of 27, and 144 is a harmonic of 144,000. The system favours numbers divisible by 3, which is not too surprising, as Cathie converted the 24-hour day into a 27-hour one, and overlaid it on the 360° used to measure latitude and longitude. Suffice to note for now that Cathie lit upon the number 144 (or 144,000 – in his system the two are treated as the same) as “the harmonic reciprocal of the speed of light”, as calculated in his idiosyncratic ‘harmonic’ units. Over the years Cathie drew some noteworthy conclusions from what he found dotted around at critical points on his grid – a foundation point of which, let’s not forget, was the enigmatic Eltanin ‘antenna’. For example:

One of the most startling facts that I discovered by application of grid mathematics was that an atomic bomb is a device based on the geometrics of space and time. To be successfully detonated, the bomb MUST be geometrically constructed, placed on, under, or over a geometric position in relation to the Earth’s surface, and activated at a SPECIFIC TIME in relation to the geometrics of the solar system. I found that it was possible to precalculate the time of various bomb tests, and the locations where it was possible to explode a bomb.

… A logical war cannot be considered under these circumstances. This could be the explanation for the proliferation of conventional weapons in modern warfare.

Cathie also concluded that the lines of his grid, which he believed UFOs slavishly followed, were magnetic lines of force, although geophysicists have failed to notice anything of the kind on their instruments. His most remarkable claim was to have overcome Einstein’s difficulties in reconciling quantum mechanics and relativity theory – a puzzle that still vexes physicists, if not Mr Cathie.

In common with many other people who have made world-shaking discoveries while pursuing answers to questions to which the answer is “No”, Cathie found that his ‘magnetic lines of force’, his ‘harmonic system’, his revelations about nuclear weapons, and his solution of the greatest problem of modern physics, were met without exception by unflinching global indifference. Well, almost. “Over the years,” he reveals, “I have had many direct communications from members of intelligence organisations, top scientific circles and government agencies wishing to know what my latest findings are, and requesting copies of certain parts of my work.”

The Numbers Game

This surreptitious recognition, should it enjoy some actuality, must be a comfort to Mr Cathie when he regards what some others have made of his work.

One industrious individual named Gary Val Tenuta has had the brilliant idea of applying crude numerology to the English alphabet, by assigning a number (from 1 to 26) to the letters A to Z, so A=1, B=2, Y=25, and so on. Following normal numerological practice, double figures (e.g. Q=17 or Z=26) are ‘reduced’ to single digits – thus Q=(1+7)=8, Z=(2+6)=8, etc. The ramifications that Tenuta elicits from this system are certainly astonishing, leading him to ask: “Is it possible that our English alphabet… might be a cipher for decoding information from ancient sources?” 7

Tenuta applies his steely alphanumeric logic to the ‘Eltanin antenna’ and discovers those two words give him 144 – Cathie’s magic number. 8 Remembering that Cathie had used the location of the Eltanin object as the origin (or ‘zero point’) for his global grid (p44), Tenuta takes flight:



171 + 144 = 315

171 – 144 = 27

315 – 27 = 288, or “double” light (144×2)

(2 x 27 = 54 = VOICE = TONE, which fits into this discussion on “communication”…)

HALF = 27

Half of 27 is 13.5 or the harmonic 135


315 – 135 = 180, or “half” circle (360 / 2)



108 + 153 = 261 = THE SPEED OF LIGHT IS THE KEY (and mirror of 162)

153 + 135 = 288, double light (144×2)


288 = 144 x 2 or “double light”.

Subtract The Zero Point number from the “double light” number:


Now catch this:



This is all very remarkable and, no doubt, an original contribution to the sum of human knowledge. It is presumably on work like this, as well as Cathie’s, that Whitley Streiber based his remark that the position of the ‘Eltanin antenna’ is “so exact, and so strangely significant”.

Tenuta’s tenacity, however, pales beside that of Michael Lawrence Morton. Along with a handful of other fearless pioneers, Morton has taken the Cathie global grid and another developed by Carl Munck 9 – the latter using the Great Pyramid at Giza as its prime meridian – and even discovered (or created) a celestial version of it, which he calls the ‘Archæo-Sky Matrix’. 10 By manipulating their latitude and longitude, Morton’s number games create a ‘Grid point value’ (GPV) for any place on Earth, or on Mars – where the prime meridian “self-evidently” runs “through the center of ‘The D&M Pyramid’ at Cydonia” (just by the famous ‘Mars Face’) – or, indeed, anywhere in the starry heavens. Morton manages to find significant numerological relationships between such disparate items as the star Alnitak in Orion’s Belt, the Eltanin object, the value of pi, almost any kind of pyramid you care to mention, the ‘Mars Face’, the Eiffel Tower, Bethlehem in Judæa, sundry ‘crop circles’, Angkor Wat, Nazca, and many other wonders besides. 11

The Answer Unveiled

Fascinating as all this is, the unanswered question remains: what is the ‘Eltanin antenna’? Does anyone know? Now, here’s a teaser: it’s been identified since 1888 at least – a little earlier than its seeming ‘discovery’ in 1964.

After years of benign neglect outside the circles, spheres and grids of numerology, the Eltanin object resurfaced, so to speak, in the 8 October 2003 edition of the e-zine UFO Roundup, edited by Joseph Trainor – who likes to add a blast from the ufological past at the end of each issue. That led to a brief discussion on Errol Bruce-Knapp’s ‘UFO UpDates’ list, and to another on Jan Aldrich’s ‘Project 1947’ list, following questions raised by indefatigable ufological cataloguer and cartographer Larry Hatch. ‘Project 1947’ member Tom DeMary, a researcher in underwater acoustics in his day job, contacted oceanographer AF Amos, who had been on the USNS Eltanin in the Antarctic in the 1960s (although not on the cruise in question), and asked him for clarification.

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Amos referred DeMary to The Face of the Deep by Bruce Heezen and Charles Hollister (Oxford University Press, 1971). Although the chief scientist on the Eltanin hadn’t immediately been able to identify the object in the picture, Dr Hollister did. It had first appeared in Three Cruises of the Blake (2 vols, Riverside Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1888) by Alexander Agassiz. The Blake had explored the Antarctic regions in the 1870s and 1880s. Heezen and Hollister explained:

While the bath sponges are limited to the warmest shallow waters of the continental shelf, a few of their bizarre relatives are rather commonly found in the deep sea. Cladorhiza, a particularly dramatic one which somewhat resembles a space-age microwave antenna, was not uncommon in the early dredge hauls of Challenger and Blake…

Alexander Agassiz observed that ‘they are sponges 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.’ Cladorhiza has been photographed on a manganese-nodule-covered bottom in the Bellingshausen Sea… The Agassiz drawing shows the club-like appendages to be curved, the lower drooping down and the upper raised; whereas, in the photograph we see that this creature actually lives erect with the appendages oriented horizontally at right angles to the nearly straight vertical stem. The tips of the appendages show up so brightly in the photograph as to suggest that either they are of an extremely light color or that they phosphoresce. 12

Armed with this information, Larry Hatch tidied up a few loose ends and published the results on his website (www.larryhatch.net/ELTANIN.html).

The ‘Eltanin antenna’, no matter how you look at it, is a sponge. Not the kind you’d find useful in your bath, but a living creature nonetheless, and one that biologists have examined in the flesh. It is definitely not a mechanical device or an alien implant in the ample bosom of Mother Earth. Nor was the position of the Eltanin example, no matter how significant it may be to numerologists, exactly remarkable. As its earliest chronicler noted, Cladorhiza concrescens lives all over the place in these latitudes – usually in large clumps – on the ocean floor. The one snapped by the Eltanin happened to be a loner, standing tall amid a forest of manganese nodules. Its full taxonomic profile:

Phylum: Porifera

Class: Demospongia

Order: Poecilosclerida

Family: Cladorhizidae

Genus: Cladorhiza

Species: Concrescens

A final note. The purveyors of alternative realities became a trifle upset when Larry Hatch pointed out the simple facts to the numerologists. Inevitably, he was accused of being an Establishment disinformation agent and (less politely) a manure spreader. 13

1 See www.unknowncountry.com

2 The officially-recorded depth, cited in Heezen ‘ Hollister [see below], at which the ‘Eltanin antenna’ was photographed is 3,904 metres (12,808ft, or 2,135 fathoms).

3 Thanks to Murray Bott and Peter Hassall for making this clipping from the files of Henk Hinfelaar available.

4 Brad Steiger ‘ Joan Whritenour, “Unidentied Underwater Saucers”, Saga, June 1968: see pp 36–37.

5 See Aimé Michel, Flying Saucers and the Straight Line Mystery. Criterion Books (New York) 1958; originally published as Mystérieux Objets Célestes, Arthaud (Paris) 1958.

6 Bruce Cathie, “The Harmonic Conquest of Space”, Nexus, October 1994; also available at www.whale.to Cathie has also published several books, including: Harmonic 33, A.H.’A.W. Reed (Wellington NZ), 1968; Harmonic 695, the UFO, and Antigravity, co-authored with Peter N. Temm, A.H.’A.W. Reed (Wellington NZ), 1971; Harmonic 288, the Pulse of the Universe, A.H.’A.W. Reed (Wellington NZ), 1977; and The Harmonic Conquest Of Space (n.d.), The Energy Grid (n.d.), and The Bridge to Infinity (n.d.), all from Adventures Unlimited Press (Kempton, IL). For a mere 4, one can also purchase a computer program (GridWorks) that “will calculate all the values required for the geometric unified field. Instant answers to the unified equations and compilation of unified tables etc.” There is a revealing, if uncritical, summary of the leaps of logic and faith that led Cathie to his beliefs about the significance of the Eltanin object in David Wilcock’s The Shift of the Ages, Chapter 9

7 The answer to this question is also “No”. But see “Introduction to Crypto-Numerology” hometown.aol.com/codeufo

8 See “The Mystery of the Eltanin Antenna and the Alphanumeric ‘144’ Connection” at hometown.aol.com/codeufo.

9 Here is an example of Munck’s work, as advertised on his website www.pyramidmatrix.com The Code 2000 – Carl Munck: Carl tries to “avoid the math” as he clearly demonstrates the simple, yet beautiful elegance with which ancient monuments and pyramids were placed in the global matrix to let anyone know why there are where they are [sic]. Learn how the “Temple of the Giant Jaguar” at Tikal points to sunken Lemurian ruins off the coast of Okinawa that were recently discovered by a scuba team. (Munck does this by using the sunken pyramids at Rock Lake as a clue.) Now, learn how these Lemurian ruins connect themselves to Tiahuanaco and the pyramids of China’s Xian Province; again, without using Code Math (well, OK maybe a little, but it’s fifth grade stuff to figure this one out). Learn the relationship between Olympus Mons, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and the former position of the Great Pyramid and how they relate to hyperdimensional physics and anti-gravity. Much more is covered in Carl’s most authoritative look yet at the global matrix.

10 See matrix-messenger.tripod.com

11 For a sample of Morton ‘ Company’s eclectic approach to cartography and mathematics Here is a short sample from that, which should certainly count as a classic among Things That Make You Go “Hmmmm…”: Not only is 2.480502134 the Grid Point Value of The “Eltanin Antenna” … it is a decimal-harmonic of the Y2K Grid LONG for SIRIUS. AND; not only is_23687.05056_the Grid LONG of The “Eltanin Antenna” … it is a decimal-harmonic of the Y2K Grid Point Value of SIRIUS. AND .. “Eltanin” is a *NAME* (Arabic .. “El Tanin”) for .. the Star “GAMMA DRACONIS” … !! AND … (GAMMA DRACONIS * Eltanin Antenna) .. = Quetzalcoatl Complex Grid Point Value = 9.118906529; at Teotihuacan, Mexico. AND … “Quetzalcoatl” is one of the *names* for .. “Thoth/ Ningishzidda/ Hermes/ Kukulkan/ Mercury”. Yes , all one-and-the-same person … { See Z.Sitchin} the_Nibiruan_who designed The Giza Complex, and he probably designed a lot of other wonderful buildings and monuments. {And he was really “good at math”}. Readers may also be interested in reading the comprehensive demolition of Sitchin’s deeply original thinking by Ian Lawton

12 Heezen ‘ Hollister, op. cit., pp 35–7.

13 Michael Lawrence Morton wrote: “This is a very desperate Regurgitation [sic] of a Lie… this absurd ‘sponge’ bullshit is being circulated, currently, by a person named Larry Hatch who is a long-time disinformationist… The Establishment or, at least a significant portion of their minions, is very frightened. And very desperate. And so they are predictably resorting to any -and -all Lies and various ploys of deception… trying to “stave-off” the ever- more-quickly -crumbling facades and false-pinions of their empire.” In striking contrast, to his credit, Whitley Strieber responded to the findings detailed in this article by putting up a new page on his website on the Eltanin object, and included a link to Larry Hatch’s web page on the issue. See www.ianlawton.com

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