Unless you were alive in the 1950s, there’s no accurate way to understand what daily life was like back then. Movies can give you some idea, but they aren’t a substitute for actually being there and experiencing it. Time travel is the only option, and it’ll be a while before that’s invented.
For the intrepid adventurer, though, there may be one unconventional way to travel back to 1959. Deep in Antarctica, on little Detaille Island, lies a research base that was abandoned over six decades ago. Its inhabitants left everything in place when they fled, and its contents remain untouched to this day, waiting for any explorer who dares to brave the cold and step into the past…
The small outpost is called Base W. Established in 1956 by the British Antarctic Survey, or BAS, its original purpose was multifaceted: inhabitants would study the weather, map the island and surrounding area, and gather geology data.
Travels With Kathleen
Although the location was remote, researchers were able to construct several facilities at the base. They built a large main hut to work and live in, a shelter for their sled dogs, an emergency storeroom, an anemometer tower, and two radio masts.
During its normal operation, the tiny base would hold between 8 and 10 people. Supply ships came every few months to bring fresh supplies, new researchers, and various parts for repairs.
Lewnwdc77 / Wikimedia Commons
The facility at Base W also briefly held a post office, though it would’ve been rudimentary compared to our current standards. The staff just collected mail to send on the nearest boat or plane to South America.
Through 1957 and 1958, the base was active and provided valuable contributions to the global scientific community’s understanding of Antarctica. Things seemed to be going well — up until the winter of 1958-1959.
Over the winter, the sea ice surrounding Detaille Island had frozen particularly strong and thick. This was great for expeditions, as it allowed the Base W team to venture from the island over the ice to the Antarctica mainland.
British Antarctic Survey
However, when springtime came and a BAS ship was due to come and relieve the crew from their post, it couldn’t break through the ice. Two U.S. icebreaker vessels were called in to help — but they couldn’t forge a path, either.
As the short Antarctic warm season reached its peak, the ice wasn’t getting any thinner, and soon the little that had melted would begin to refreeze as winter came again. Base W’s team had to make a difficult decision.
K. Walton/British Antarctic Survey
They would run out of supplies if they stayed longer without a ship getting through. So, in March of 1959, the researchers packed up their essential belongings and gear, rounded up the dogs, and sealed up the Base W buildings.
Lewnwdc77 / Wikimedia Commons
The distance to the nearest coastline was over 25 miles away, all an uncharted trek over flat sea ice. However, they had no other choice. So they said goodbye to the base and made the hike to the sea, where the supply transport waited.
Whatever hopes the researchers had of returning to their little outpost were gone by the end of 1959. The BAS decided to permanently abandon Base W, preferring to set up camp at a more suitable northern location, called Port Lockroy.
So, for many years, the old base lay empty. In Port Lockroy, the post office was reinstated, along with a four-person crew who handled mail and studied the local colony of 2,000 gentoo penguins.
Through the decades, the newer base thrived, with many curious tourists coming to the area to see penguins and achieve their life goals of setting foot in Antarctica. As tourism picked up, over 70,000 pieces of mail were sent from the port during a given cruise season.
In 1996, after substantial use, the base at Port Lockroy needed a renovation. Various upgrades were put in place, and a small museum and gift shop were set up to enhance the tourist experience. At the same time, renovators remembered the old Base W just down the coast.
They made the trek over to see it, and when they opened its doors, they found a perfect time capsule of 1959 waiting for them. All of the old supplies and tools were in their original place, and the walls hadn’t faded from the trendy ’50s jadeite green.
Canisters of food still lined the walls, their contents nearly forty years old. Dried vegetables, tinned fruits, and even condiments like the British favorite HP sauce remained sealed and uneaten.
gregpoo / Flickr
In the office area, the old research team’s notes still lay on the desk. They had been mapping the surrounding landscape up until their departure, as evidenced by hand-drawn maps and a protractor, left slightly askew alongside a pair of binoculars.
gregpoo / Flickr
Incredibly, there was no damage to the facility or its contents. Its remote location, and cold weather conditions, were perfect for ensuring that everything stayed well-preserved, down to leftover headphones and other electronic communications equipment.
Michel Setboun/Getty Images
The 1996 restoration team realized they had a unique museum at their fingertips, so they didn’t rearrange it. Besides a little cleaning and winter-proofing, they left the base as they found it, sealed it up again, and returned to Port Lockroy.
From then on, Base W became a museum, complete with plaques and visitor information installed in 2011. It’s unlocked, and as long nobody disturbs its artifacts, it remains open to any explorer who can reach it.
Lewnwdc77 / Wikimedia Commons
Some research today suggests a trip to Base W might not be the only way to get a glimpse of 1959. Conducting a high-flying experiment in Antarctica, these NASA scientists have possibly stumbled upon clues very closely connected to our past.
You usually can’t make a career out of playing with balloons, but that’s exactly what Peter Gorham has done. A physicist at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, he has developed technology that’s challenged much of the status quo.
Gorham’s work has helped reshape what we know about the subatomic particles that make up our world. Of course, he hasn’t done it alone. The physicist has made such strides thanks to his good friend ANITA…who happens to not be human at all.
ANITA stands for “Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna.” As you can probably tell from the full definition, this antenna’s functionality often pulls Gorham away from his lush Hawaiian campus and sends him to a far less hospitable environment.
National Student Exchange
With funding from NASA, the ANITA project brought Gorham and other physicists and astronomers to the wastelands of Antarctica. To outsiders, it seemed like an unnecessary relocation, but this locale offers a testing feature unavailable anywhere else on the planet.
University of Hawai’i at Manoa
Because Antarctica is basically uninhabited — unless you count the penguins — there is no radio interference to block ANITA’s findings. Here, Gorham would hopefully observe some of the strangest and most elusive particles known to mankind.
IEEE Spectrum / YouTube
Like his colleagues at the nearby IceCube Observatory, Gorham was after neutrinos. These rare particles were only discovered in the mid-20th century, and their unusual properties fly in the face of many long-held physical laws.
While neutrinos are theoretically all around us, they have the ability to pass straight through other matter — perhaps because they often contain high electrical charges allowing them to move at the speed of light. We still don’t know how they fit into the blueprint of reality.
Institute for Cosmic Ray Research / University of Tokyo
So how did Gorham expect to find any neutrinos in the antarctic sprawl? That’s where his balloon came in. Ferrying the ANITA device inside of it, the balloon could scan a broad area and analyze subatomic activity.
“It flies over the Antarctic continent as a stratospheric balloon payload and looks for the signatures of high-energy neutrinos that crash into some atom in the ice,” Gorham explained. But he was unable to sum up their findings from 2016 so easily.
University of Hawai’i at Manoa
The first couple times the scientists sent up ANITA, they didn’t pick up on much of anything. They met an unusual amount of interference on the scanners, but little else. It took until their third attempt to actually see something.
Antarctic Australian Division
In short, the scientists witnessed “impossible events.” While most of the particles they observed followed the expected patterns of scientific theory, the ANITA researchers saw neutrinos go the opposite way. It all occurred in the sheet of ice.
Most of the particles that ANITA picked up on were coming down and crashing into the ice, which makes sense. What goes up must come down. But there were some tau neutrinos flying straight up from the Earth.
So, assuming ANITA was reading their movement correctly, the only way that these neutrinos could move through the planet in this manner is if their fundamental nature was somehow changing back and forth as they made the journey. One wild theory could explain this.
Perhaps, Gorham suggested, there could be an alternate universe with alternate laws of reality that produced these upward-moving neutrinos. For this other world to have such a phenomenon, time would have to flow backwards.
As a pure hypothetical, it’s not absolutely out of the question for another universe to exist. One could’ve been born out of the same Big Bang that likely played a part in our creation, except this reality took on a different set of rules.
David A. Aguilar
The broader implications of this idea are hard to wrap one’s mind around. It’s hard to picture a similar universe that was created at the same time as ours but is progressing from the future to the past. Granted, this isn’t the first time a scientist has posited that time could be more flexible than we think.
Everybody has heard about Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, even if they can’t explain it themselves. In essence, it holds that time changes based on the given velocity of any given body. So has ANITA taken this time-bending idea a step further?
Probably not, as there are many other factors to consider before accepting this parallel universe. “If these events are real and not just due to oddities in the detector, then they could be pointing to physics beyond the Standard Model,” described IceCube researcher Alex Pizzuto.
Alex Pizzuto / Twitter
The scientific community needs to confirm the validity of this neutrino movement before they can even humor the idea of a parallel universe. More likely, this finding will just reshape how Gorham and other physicists approach particle theory. But nobody can toss out that explanation just yet.
Less mainstream thinkers — though far less credible than physicists — insist that other dimensions exist. A self-described paranormal expert, Fiona Broome, has experienced her fair share of unexplained phenomena over the years. Spirits, shades, and other ghostly entities are among the many otherworldly beings she’s claimed to have come across since the early 1980s.
But perhaps Fiona’s strangest experience came in 2009, when she was invited to speak at Atlanta’s annual sci-fi/fantasy convention, Dragon Con. While sitting in the convention’s green room, Fiona struck up a conversation with the other speakers and discovered an usual similarity among the group.
Atlanta INTown Paper
Apparently, they all seemed to clearly remember former South African president Nelson Mandela dying in prison in the 1980s and the widespread media coverage of his funeral that followed. In reality, Mandela was released from prison in 1990 and died 23 years later in 2013.
Voice of America
Most of the speakers wrote it off as mere coincidence, each of them believing they’d fallen victim to the same widely circulated bit of misinformation. Fiona, however, wasn’t convinced — in her experience, there were no such thing as coincidences.
On the advice of one of her editors, Fiona created a site dedicated to this newfound phenomenon, an experience she coined the “Mandela Effect.” Almost immediately, online users began chiming in to share their thoughts on the subject.
At first, the conversations were light, with some drawing parallels between the Mandela Effect and various works of science fiction. Soon, however, users began coming forward with their own accounts of the phenomenon, including memories of Mandela’s death nearly identical to Fiona’s.
Eventually, the discussion expanded beyond Mandela’s death, with many users finding they had identical memories of things that never existed, as well as those of an alternate historical timeline. So many shared false memories of oddly specific, niche topics.
While talk of the Mandela Effect was primarily contained within Fiona’s website for the first few years, it grew beyond the site in 2015. Upon the online community’s realization that the Berenstein Bears children’s books were actually spelt “Berenstain,” the Mandela Effect quickly became a viral sensation.
amber dawn pullin / Flickr
Since then, hundreds of Mandela Effect-related discussions have popped up online with some truly mind-bending revelations. For example, instead of saying “Mirror, mirror on the wall…” the Evil Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs actually says “Magic mirror on the wall…”
What about Darth Vader’s most famous line in Star Wars? While most people would insist that he tells Luke Skywalker, “Luke, I am your father,” he actually doesn’t say “Luke” at all.
The Mandela Effect has also been observed in the spelling of brand names. Is it “Febreeze” or “Febreze”? “Fruit Loops” or “Froot Loops”? “Sketchers” or “Skechers”? In every case, the latter spelling is correct.
fragglerawker_03 / Flickr / Cerealously / The San Diego Union-Tribune
Even colors have fallen victim to the Mandela Effect. While some people are adamant that the color chartreuse is a maroonish-red or reddish-magenta, it’s actually somewhere between yellow and green.
Christopher Stumm / Flickr
As this phenomenon continues to puzzle the online community, many have asked if there’s any real basis for why we experience the Mandela Effect. According to Fiona, the explanation is even more bizarre than the phenomenon itself.
In Fiona’s words, “The Mandela Effect is what happens when someone has a clear memory of something that never happened in this reality.” She posits that from time to time, alternate realities overlap and take us along for the ride, bringing us into a world just slightly different from our own without us realizing.
From a scientific standpoint, the concept of a “multiverse” containing universes parallel to our own is one scientists generally tend to avoid, as we currently lack the means of determining the plausibility of such a claim. Still, being that the Multiverse Theory can’t be proved or disproved, there’s still a chance that alternate dimensions may be out there.
Marvel Cinematic Universe Wiki
So, does that really mean there’s a universe where Darth Vader addresses his son by name? Or one where we spray our homes with “Febreeze” instead of “Febreze”? Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on which side of the argument you’re on), there is a rational explanation behind the Mandela Effect.
Simply put, this phenomenon is just the reinforcement of misremembered information to the point that it subconsciously becomes fact. You likely remember the “Berenstain Bears” as “Berenstein” because you read the books decades ago and eventually began to equate the pronunciation of the name with its spelling.
As for multiple people having identical memories of the same nonexistent name or event, this is simply a product of social reinforcement of misinformation. If you watched Star Wars twice as a kid but heard “Luke, I am your father” repeated dozens times in the years that followed, chances are you were convinced the line was correct.
And, of course, there’s the internet. In this era of “fake news,” if enough people insist that a fact is true — especially one you’re more than willing to believe —then you’re absolutely going to take it at face value.
So while the Mandela Effect unfortunately isn’t proof of a parallel universe (yet), it does serve as a warning of how dangerously flawed our memories can be. Yet our memories aren’t entirely to blame: for our entire lives, we’ve been fed lies about some of history’s most notable figures and events.
For example, we’ve always been told that Puritan pilgrims fled Europe and sailed directly to Plymouth Rock, where the refugees quickly worked toward instilling their own pious beliefs in the Native Americans they found there. But that wasn’t the case at all.
The Truth: Pilgrims left politically tumultuous England for Holland in 1607, where they lived for 10 years. Then, worried they were losing themselves in Dutch culture, they sailed west, landing closer to Cape Cod than Plymouth Rock, but the latter became the more popular tourist spot.
2. The Lie: German-born theoretical physicist Albert Einstein was a lazy kid who failed out of school and performed horrendously in math, proving that anyone can skyrocket to the absolute top of their field. Really?
The Truth: Einstein started reading college textbooks at age 11. When he was 16—front row, left—he did fail the entrance exam to Zurich Polytechnic, but not because of knowledge. The exam was in French. He didn’t speak French. Still, he nailed the math portion.
3. The Lie: Human beings evolved from apes. Long ago, there were just a bunch of apes running around. Then, over time, the apes stood taller and got smarter—they became human, as depicted in this famous illustration. But that’s not true.
The Truth: Humans didn’t evolve from apes, and you aren’t the great-great-grandchild of the ape at the local zoo; rather, apes and humans descended from the same distant ancestor—we’re cousins, in a sense. That’s why humans and apes both exist today.
4. The Lie: The Egyptian Pyramids in Giza were built by slaves. After all, who else would be willing to work in the blistering desert heat hoisting nine-ton limestone slabs to the top of a tomb?
The Truth: In 1990, archeologists uncovered the tombs of pyramid workers alongside the historic structures. Egyptians hired and paid 10,000 men to work in three-month shifts, and the king gave skilled laborers—masons, carpenters—full-time positions.
5. The Lie: In the 17th century, Isaac Newton composed his famous law of gravity after sitting beneath a ready-to-be-picked apple tree and taking a renegade falling fruit to the dome. So what did push Newton toward his revolutionizing idea?
The Truth: While on his family’s farm, Newton saw an apple fall from a tree (which you can take a photo with today, below). It didn’t hit him in the head, but rather, made him wonder why things always fall down. At least, that’s what Newton told William Stukeley, who went on to pen a biography on the physicist.
6. The Lie: In an effort to find new trading routes to Asia, Christopher Columbus discovered the hunk of land we now call the United States of America—the first European to set foot on said soil. In reality…?
The Truth: Columbus landed in the Bahamas, and he never set foot on what would become the U.S.A. Even if he had, another European had done so before him: Nordic explorer Leif Erikson docked on the continent 500 years before the man often credited with the feat.
7. The Lie: After 10 years of siege, Greek soldiers took the city of Troy with trickery. They presented the city an enormous wooden horse as an offering. Inside hid armed soldiers, who captured the city once the horse was brought inside city walls.
The Truth: Homer probably imagined the epic ending to the Trojan War for The Odyssey. While the city of Troy did fall, historians believe the seiging army just used a battering ram like the one below that might’ve been misrepresented in oral retellings of the event.
8. The Lie: Ferdinand Magellan, depicted on the left, circumnavigated the globe on a four-year journey from 1519 to 1522. He became the first man ever to complete a voyage around the planet.
The Truth: Magellan never finished the trip! He took a bamboo spear to the heart in 1521 when he involved himself in the politics between the Philippines’ native tribes. Juan Sebastian Elcano, right, finished the circumnavigation with just 18 of the original 270-person crew remaining.
9. The Lie: American Inventor and businessman Thomas Edison invented the light bulb in 1879, an invention the world had never seen before. Turns out, Edison had a bit of help.
The Truth: While Edison did create, patent, and commercialize a light bulb with a long-lasting filament, others invented light bulb first. Sir Humphry Davy, left, for instance, invented one in 1800, right, but the filament burned out too quickly to be viable.
10: The Lie: Christopher Columbus set out on The Niña, The Pinta, and The Santa Maria to prove the earth was round, not flat; his crew was terrified that they were going to sail right off the end of the earth.
Jean Pieri / Pioneer Press
The Truth: 2,000 years before Columbus struck the New World, Greek mathematicians and great minds Pythagoras and Aristotle proved the world wasn’t flat. In fact, Columbus stumbled onto American shores in part because he grossly underestimated Earth’s circumference.
11. The Lie: French emperor and military expert Napoleon Bonaparte—depicted in the 1970 film, Waterloo, below—was short, and it hurt his ego. To compensate, he channeled his anger into ruthless militarism and power conquests.
The Truth: British propaganda like that below victimized the tyrant Napoleon I, calling him “Little Boney” and poking fun at his height. In truth, the leader stood at about 5’7″, the average height for a 19th-century Frenchman, but he looked small beside huge Imperial Guards.
12. Washington, D.C. Wasn’t Always Our Capital: Our first was Philadelphia, and we jumped around a lot after that. The list of capital locations includes Baltimore, New York City, Trenton, and even Annapolis in Maryland.
13. Witches Weren’t Burned On The Stake: Salem witches weren’t really set on fire. Instead, they were stoned or drowned, which gave them the chance to prove their magic powers by saving themselves. This never happened.
14. Walt Disney Didn’t Draw Mickey Mouse: Disney’s most famous character is definitely Mickey Mouse. And while the Mickster was Walt Disney’s idea, we actually have Ub Iwerks to thank for designing and drawing this childhood icon from ears to toes.
15. Disney’s Head Isn’t Frozen: Also, stop spreading the rumor Walt Disney had himself cryogenically frozen! He was actually cremated, his ashes spread in a lake. Still, it would have been cool if his ashes remained in the castle of sleeping beauty. Maybe then he’d wake up after a couple years anyway.
16. The Declaration of Independence wasn’t signed on the Fourth of July: Continental Congress voted and drafted it on the 2nd of July, revised it on the 4th, and it was read aloud on the 8th. The final document wasn’t signed until August 2nd. Hold the fireworks!
17. The First Car Was NOT American: As much as we’d like to claim this success with Ford’s Model T, German engineer Karl Benz was almost a century ahead, creating horseless carriages and patenting the first automobile in the 19th century.
18. Pocahontas Didn’t Love John Smith: Why on earth would Pocahontas fall in love with John Smith after he and his people invaded her land and disrespected her people? She didn’t. Pocahontas, or actually Matoaka, only saved John’s life because she wanted to preserve peace.
19. Thanksgiving Wasn’t A Celebration: Some experts suggest the pilgrims showed up on the Native Americans’ teepee steps because they figured they’d all be sick or dead from a plague, so it’d be easy to steal their food!
20. Thomas Edison Didn’t “Invent” Electricity: The only things he invented were stories, taking the findings of true inventors and patenting them. The alternating current electricity supply system was Nikola Tesla’s and the light bulb was Warren De La Rue’s.
21. Abraham Lincoln Wasn’t Thinking About Slaves: He did bring us the Emancipation Proclamation, but he didn’t do it out of the warmth of his heart. His focus was to save the Union no matter what happened to slaves; it just so happened that freeing them was the answer.
22. Feminists Don’t Burn Their Bras: There was one protest in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where bras, girdles, and high heels were burned, but that was pretty much the end of that.
23. Charles Lindbergh Isn’t A Hero: Not only was he not the first to cross the transatlantic in an airplane (that was done eight years earlier, in 1919, by British aviators Alcock and Brown), but he was also a Nazi-sympathizer.
24. The Wild West Wasn’t That Wild: You were probably led to believe that the Wild West was nothing but bank robberies and towns not big enough for two tough cowboys. The good: there were only 12 robberies during that era. The bad: gun violence has increased by over 100,000% since then. The ugly: spurs on your boots.
25. Cowboys Didn’t Wear Cowboy Hats: Those cowboy boots you find at Payless may have been based on historical fashion, but those giant hats you find at costume stores certainly aren’t. These bad boys opted for Bowler hats instead.
26. Jonathan Appleseed Was Real: …Although his last name was actually Chapman. He was a pioneer nurseryman who introduced apple trees to large parts of the Midwest and the East coast. If you love picking apples in the fall, be grateful to Johnny Chapman!
27. Pirates Haven’t Been Around For A Long Time: Most people guess pirates were only around until the 18th century, but they were blowing holes in ships, looting cities, and keelhauling people well into the 19th. One of the last pirates was captured in 1832.
28. It Is NOT Illegal To Burn The American Flag:… depending on the situation. While the act is considered radical, you are allowed to burn the flag under the first amendment, which protects the freedom of speech.
29. George Washington Was Not Our First President: He was our first elected president, but 14 other people before him had ruled the country under that title. Surely it wasn’t George who created this myth though; after all, he cannot tell a lie.