top of page

HERS News and Commentary

     The Smithsonian and the Hollow Earth


How did it all begin? The legend/history/theory of the Hollow Earth is interwoven with US history. The modern story begins with the US Congress and the establishment of the Smithsonian Museums in Washington, DC, in 1858.


I recall my visit years ago to witness a full room display of artifacts, pictures and documents that chronicled the search for the entrance to the Hollow Earth commissiosned by an act of Congress. After a lengthy conversation with the curator, I came away with a new understanding of how that institution was founded. The visit also rekindled my interest in the research and legends of Hollow Earth phenomena.


President Johm Quincy Adams commissioned Lieteanant Charles Wilkes to survey 280 islands and some fifteen hundred miles of the Antarctic coast.












                                                                            John Cleves Symmes, Jr.   Symmes Hollow Earth Model


The story of the expedition actually begins in the early 19th century with John Cleves Symmes, Jr., who believed that the world was hollow and that entrances to the inner world could be found by sailing to the south pole.


Symmes and his friends (eager to find new sealing and whaling grounds) allied themselves to encourage Congress to sponsor a South Seas exploring expedition. The US Navy wanted to learn more about this little known region. Thanks to these varied interests and the encourage of President Adams, Congress in 1828 passed a resolution to send an expedition to the Pacific to examine coasts, islands, harbors, shoals, amd reefs. Despite the resolution, however, ten years passed before the expedition finally salied. It was dubbed the "Deplorable Expedition" because of the endless delays and controversies. Six ships finally departed Hamptonroads, Virginia, on August 18, 1838. The US at that time did not have a national museum and the expedition returned there with large numbers of artifacts, flore and fauna - without a place to keep them. Over 20 scientists of varying specialties brough back thousands upon thousands of never-before seen specimens from around the world.


The Smithsonian became the reluctant repository of the artifacts because of a comprimise between Joseph Henry, the first Smithsonian leader, and Congress. Henry envisioned the Smithsonian as strictly a research institute, not a national museum. Through the expedition did not find the "Holes in the Poles" that Symmes had envisioned, it set into motion the theory that the Earth was nota solid entity but consisted of a hollow center with a central sun. Hamilton, Ohio, boasts a memorial Cleve Symmes statue; a group meets in Hamilton each year to honor Symmes and his theory.

bottom of page