By Kyle Bennett

[This article is based on the introduction to Kyle Bennett’s Polar Wandering and the Cycle of Ages. Please see home ppage for details of how to buy this book]

Journeying into the frozen wastes of the far north, nineteenth century explorers found the remains of strange animals, buried under the permafrost. One such explorer was the German geologist Baron von Toll, who travelled through Siberia and to the Arctic islands on behalf of the Russian Academy of Sciences, bringing back the bones of mammoths and sabre-toothed cats from the most northerly of island archipelagos. These finds astonished the Victorian public, leading to wide speculation on how those antediluvian beasts could have survived up there, and on how they died, before lying frozen solid for millennia. How could those inhospitable lands of the far north – the ‘land of eternal ices’ – have supported abundant life in the not too distant past? Mainstream science has never answered this question; it remains an enigma, which few scientists even try and solve.

Digging deeper into the rock strata of the Arctic islands and northern Siberia, an even more astonishing record was uncovered, dated to long before the time when mammoths roamed those lands. One early Arctic adventurer was Captain Nares, who set out on an ocean voyage in 1872, commissioned by the British Government to explore its largely unknown waters. He found rich seams of coal on the isle of Spitsbergen, deep within the Arctic Circle, revealing that great forests once grew there. Similarly, on the other side of the earth, in Antarctica, the Byrd expedition of 1935 found coal beds within 200 miles of the South Pole, together with the fossils of warm-climate animals and plants, painting a picture of a balmy continent abundant with life. Those early expeditions to Antarctica showed it had enjoyed subtropical, and sometime even tropical, climates for millions of years, despite now being the coldest place in the world – the White Continent.

While mammoths were being unearthed in the farthest north, equally bewildering discoveries were being made in Europe and North America. It was found that Ice Ages had recently visited these continents, covering them with mighty ice sheets. As they marched across land, these ice sheets scoured the rocks below and left a trail of debris for geologists to uncover. By piecing these clues together, they found that an immense ice sheet, in some places over a mile thick, had recently lain across much of North America. But the idea of Ice Ages was highly controversial, inducing a hostile response from the scientific establishment. Eventually, however, it became widely accepted due to the sheer weight of evidence supporting it. And the last Ice Age was accepted as being just one of many. Over the ages, ice sheets have left no land untouched, as glacial evidence is found all over the globe, even in the current Tropics!

So how could Ice Ages in the Tropics and extreme warmth near the Poles be explained? It didn’t take long for many scientists to recognise that these paradoxes are two sides of a single coin, demanding a common explanation. The French naturalist George Cuvier (1769-1832) was one of the first to propose that some global event must have wiped out the mammoths of Siberia and caused them to freeze rapidly, allegedly before they even had time to decompose. Together with signs of great geological upheavals which he found in the rock strata, this led Cuvier to believe that life “…has been often disturbed on this earth by terrible events – calamities which, at their commencement, have perhaps moved and overturned to a great depth the entire outer crust of the globe,..” [1[ And a while later, in 1847, a Danish intellectual called Frederik Alexander Gottlieb Klee came up with a similar idea. He proposed in his book Le Déluge that at long intervals the whole surface of the earth shifts in unison, causing a “déplacement au l’axe du globe” – a displacement of the Earth’s spin axis, known today as a pole shift or polar wandering. According to Klee, warm-climate creatures found near the Arctic Ocean lived there when it was nowhere near the North Pole. The climate paradox, he believed, had been solved.

This idea was later proposed in 1866 by Sir John Evans, who held prestigious positions as President of Britain’s Geological Society and Treasurer of the Royal Society. He published a paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, titled “On a possible cause of changes in the position of the axis of the earth’s crust”. This paper sought to explain those strange discoveries of former warm climates near the Arctic, as James Geikie explained in The Great Ice Age (1887):

“Mr Evans has ingeniously south to account for the remains of large tree that are found in Greenland, and for the traces of glacial cold in this country [i.e. Britain], by considering whether it might not be possible that the external crust or shell of the globe had actually slid round its fluid or semi-fluid nucleus, so as to bring the same areas of the external surface under very different conditions. Thus it was suggested that lands, which at one time basked under a tropical sun, might, in the slow course of ages, be shifted to some more northern region, while countries which had for long years been sealed up in the ice of the Arctic Circle might eventually slide down into tropical latitudes.”

In order to demonstrate his theory, Evans built a complicated model (as suggested to him by Francis Galton Darwin, half-cousin of Charles Darwin) which he presented to the fellows the Royal Society. A decade later the subject of Evans’ paper was seriously discussed by member of the Geological Society, on February 21st, 1877. So Klee’s idea was widely debated by the Victorian scientific elite, a fact which all modern researchers on this subject have overlooked (see my guest page,, at the website of Arthur Ryan, author of Are We Worth Our Salt?, for a more detailed discussion of Sir John Evans’ work; or please visit my blog,

Despite this interest from the scientific establishment, it was many years before the idea of polar wandering was further explored. In the 1940s it was formulated into a more complete, modern theory by Hugh Auchincloss Brown, who was an electrical engineer and member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was an amazing character, who wrote his book Cataclysms of the Earth when he was ninety. Studying the strange layering of rock formations – one kind lying upon another – he claimed this was a visible record of successive pole shifts, with different types of rock having been formed in different latitudes. Rocks formed in tropical regions, containing the remains of tropical plants, are often overlain by rocks containing evidence of glaciation, which Brown claimed to mark the transformation from a Life Age into an Ice Age when lands were shifted into the frigid polar zones.

Hugh A. Brown’s ideas were later more fully developed by Charles Hutchins Hapgood (1904-82). He was a graduate of Harvard University, who later became a Professor of the History of Science at Keene State College in New Hampshire after serving in the Office of Strategic Studies (the progenitor of the CIA) as a civilian during World War II. He published his findings in 1958, in his book The Earth’s Shifting Crust, followed ten years later by an updated edition, titled as The Path of the Pole. His theory of Earth Crust Displacement proposed that the solid outer shell of the Earth, called the lithosphere, occasionally slides as a whole over the semi-liquid layers below, causing the poles to change their position on the earth’s surface.

During a crust displacement, some parts of the earth’s surface would move towards the poles, and some towards the Equator, while others would ‘twist’, remaining in similar latitudes but being rotated. So the cycle of Ice Ages is caused by successive crust displacements, moving continents in and out of the polar zones. He claimed the last Ice Age in North America ended when this continent moved southward by around thirty degrees latitude, while at the same time the once-temperate Arctic Ocean and Siberia were moved up to the North Pole. So Hapgood believed he had solved the riddle of Ice Ages, which no other theory has even come close to solving. His theory of Earth Crust Displacement greatly interested the physicist Albert Einstein, who corresponded with Hapgood and provided a foreword to the first edition of The Earth’s Shifting Crust, where he wrote that,

“His idea is original, of great simplicity, and – if it continues to prove itself – of great importance to everything that is related to the history of the earth’s surface. A great many empirical data indicate that at each point on the earth’s surface that has been carefully studied, many climatic changes have taken place, apparently quite suddenly. He has also set forth, cautiously and comprehensively, the extraordinarily rich material that supports his displacement theory. I think that this rather astonishing, even fascinating, idea deserves the serious attention of anyone who concerns himself with the theory of the earth’s development” [2]

Einstein also told Hapgood: “I find your arguments very impressive and have the impression that your hypothesis is correct. One can hardly doubt that significant shifts of the crust of the earth have taken place repeatedly and within a short time.” But for many years his theory did not receive the attention that Einstein said it deserved. Hapgood noted that crust displacements and continental drift were both considered by the German scientist Alfred Wegener in the early twentieth century so as to explain the strange locations of fossil flora and fauna throughout the world. The poles and equator must, Wegener reasoned, have been in different locations than at present, so the idea that the earth’s crust could slide around seemed to provide the solution. However, major authorities in geology at the time, such as George Darwin and J. C. Maxwell, were opposed to the principle of displacements of the whole lithosphere, so it wasn’t properly investigated for many decades. Meanwhile, as Hapgood explains, all the attention was paid to continental drift:

“Since changes in the positions of the poles relative to the continents now apparently had to be accepted, perhaps continental drift would provide a less sensational way out than displacements of the whole lithosphere. It is quite true that the geomagnetic evidence very early indicated clearly that at the very least both things had happened; nevertheless, such is the frailty of the human mind, scientific or not, that displacements of the lithosphere have been pushed into the background, and all the attention has been paid to continental drift.” [3]

The problem was that the geological evidence presented a mystery which the slow process of continental drift – the re-arrangement of the continental plates ­– could not explain. Despite this unwillingness of most scientists to consider displacements of the entire lithosphere, the evidence supporting it grew steadily over the years, aided especially by the invention of the technique of radiocarbon-dating. This technique allows scientists to measure the age of organic material, such as the bones of mammoths and other creatures found in the far north of Siberia. Many of these animals were found to have lived during the height of the last ice age, when large swathes of North America were covered by an immense ice sheet, leaving New York buried under over a mile of ice. Northern Siberia and the Arctic islands were home to roaming herds of herbivores, including mammoths, sabre-toothed cats, horses, rhinoceroses, antelope and bison. The climate was temperate even in the far north of Siberia, as shown by radiocarbon-dated plant and tree remains. Meanwhile, the Arctic Ocean was largely ice-free. The remains of warm-climate species were found in a number of regions, including shells found on Baffin Island, Banks Islands, and even on Axel Heiberg Island, at 81°North Latitude. Also, core samples from the sea-floor of the middle of the Arctic Ocean revealed that the Arctic had been much warmer during the last Ice Age than today, while similar evidence of temperate climates was uncovered in the Ross Sea area of Antarctica.

It was evidence such as this which convinced Hapgood that the last Ice Age was in fact the last Polar Age. This conclusion was supported by the field of geomagnetism, which studies the position of the polar axis in the past by measuring the magnetic signal imprinted in rocks. It revealed that the geographical poles had changed their locations on the Earth’s surface many, many times. Throughout the vast expanses of geological time, many pole positions had been recorded, with all the continents having been within the polar regions on numerous occasions, causing a succession of Polar Ages. According to Hapgood these pole shifts happen roughly every forty thousand years, and are irregular both in timing and in direction, leading to a chaotic-looking, zig-zagging pattern. Throughout the last few million years at least, the North Pole has remained in or near the Arctic Ocean, having zig-zagged across this ocean numerous times.

Hapgood estimated that the North Pole was previously in the Hudson Bay area of Canada, at 60° North, 83° West, where it remained from 50,000 to 17,000 years ago. This was a similar conclusion to Brown’s, who called it the Hudson Bay Ice Age. Before then, the North Pole was in the Greenland Sea at 72°North, 10°East for 20,000 years, during the last major glaciation of Europe. Still earlier, it was near the Yukon District of Canada, at 63°North, 135°West. So Hapgood believed there have been three pole shifts in the last 100,000 years. The last crust displacement was estimated by Hapgood to have taken under 5,000 years to complete, ending no later than 12,000 years ago. This was shown by rapid changes in climate and the rapid meltdown of the Laurentide Ice Sheet in North America. This vast ice sheet took only a millennium or two to largely disappear, while Siberia and the Arctic rapidly froze. He concluded that “the evidence points to a very rapid transit of the pole from its old to its new home. It must have completed its transition in a matter of centuries rather than millennia.”

Such a movement of the crust requires a force capable of sliding it over the semi-liquid layers below, within the asthenosphere – named from the Greek word for weakness. This layer begins at a depth of 30 to 40 miles below the earth’s surface, and continues down to a depth of 180 to 250 miles, below which intense pressure makes the deeper layers effectively solid. It has been discovered to be a soft, semi-liquid layer, due to the melting of rock which begins at this depth. Hapgood speculated that the outer layers of the earth would slide over a ‘weak’ layer found 100 miles below the surface. This layer of rock is called the ‘wave-guide layer’, and was discovered by the Soviet geophysicist V. V. Belousov in the 1950s. Due to heat and pressure at this depth, chemical changes occur in the rock, reducing it strength. Satellite observations have recently found that this layer is very liquid, so that if a force great enough to move the crust had built up, this weak layer would give way, allowing the layers above to glide over it.

Just like Sir John Evans a century earlier, Hapgood proposed that ice caps developing off-centre of the poles could provide such a force to make the crust slide. The action of centrifugal forces caused by the spinning of the earth would then act to ‘push’ these misplaced ice caps towards the Equator. If this force were large enough, it would cause a ‘break’, or ‘shearing’, at the weakest layer within the asthenosphere, resulting in the whole crust being displaced and the misplaced ice caps being moved away from the poles. Hapgood later had major doubts about this idea because the centrifugal force generated by misplaced ice caps wouldn’t be great enough to shift the crust, even though they can be miles thick. He did, however, maintain that gravitational imbalances within the lithosphere must be the general cause of crust displacements.

So the cause is still a mystery. But given that the causes of mountain-building, volcanism, continental drift and various other phenomena are still mysteries, with theories concerning them being highly speculative, this state of affairs isn’t unusual. The inner earth remains a no-man’s land, and we are forced to scratch around on the surface for most of our clues.

But luckily enough, more than enough clues have turned up over the years. As will be shown in Part I, since Hapgood wrote The Path of the Pole a vast body of evidence has amassed supporting his work, gathered from many fields of science. He had in fact gathered lots of new evidence himself, which he planned to include in a new edition of his book. This was never published, however, as he was killed one night in December, 1982. He was hit by a car. The edition he was about to publish when he died at the age of 78 did not alter the basic tenets of his theory, [4] but would have presented some compelling new evidence.

Since his death in 1982, the general idea of rapid polar wandering has gained momentum. Although Hapgood is never openly recognised (let alone Hugh A. Brown, or Klee!), the idea is now proposed by eminent scientists as an explanation for many paradoxes of geological history. However, ‘rapid’ to a geologist can easily mean a few million years, and few of them (if any) have considered the possibility of much faster shifts, largely because they violate the principles of Uniformitarianism, a philosophy which proclaims that all geological processes occur slowly and gradually. Similarly, there is a complete refusal to consider whether rapid polar wandering has occurred in the more recent past, and whether it is the cause of Ice Ages.

Recent research has provided an astonishing climatic history of the remote past, with rapid and dramatic changes in climate being identified by studies of rock formations throughout the globe. This pattern of climatic change continues right down from hundreds of millions of years ago to tens of millions of years ago. For example, the Arctic Ocean has witnessed astonishing changes throughout the ages. Tropical or subtropical Life Ages being followed by Ice Ages, with the Arctic moving back and forth between the Tropics and the North Pole many times. The results from recent paleomagnetic research have supported the conclusion, revealing that all parts of the earth’s surface have changed latitudes many times, far too quickly to be accounted for by continental drift.

There has also been much more research into the recent past, which has supported Hapgood’s estimation that the North Pole was near Hudson Bay during the last Ice Age. New evidence suggests that the transition of the poles ended a mere fifteen thousand years ago, later followed by violent ‘global superfloods’. It then took many millennia for the world’s climates to change and then stabilise – for the world to settle into its new position. So polar wandering is not some distant phenomenon, unrelated to human history. As modern humans have been around a few millions years, our ancestors lived through many Polar Ages and experienced many pole shifts, whether they happened to live in cities or caves, whether they were hunter-gatherers or farmers.

So the birth – or perhaps re-birth – of civilisation in the Middle East and the valleys of Pakistan about ten thousand years ago, was a stone’s throw away from the last pole shift. It wasn’t some distant event, but the very birth of their age. They would have risen up in the shadow of the last pole shift, which would have dominated their histories and shaped their mythologies and belief systems – the most common view being of the cyclical nature of History and Time.

But where did these people live before they settled in Indo-Pakistan, Mesopotamia and Egypt? Were they forced to migrate from the temperate lands of Siberia, or even of West Antarctica, when they were moved nearer to the frigid poles? Recent archaeological discoveries in Siberia have completely changed the known history of this region, revealing that tribal peoples lived there through much of the last Ice Age, and suggesting that these tribes then migrated to warmer climes following the last pole shift.

Were they also forced to migrate from low-lying plains and valleys that were inundated when the mighty Laurentide Ice Sheet melted away? Marine archaeologists have uncovered the remains of what appear to be the ruins of great cities on the seafloor, causing bitter arguments about whether they are man-made or are just natural formations, with the jury still very much out. The history of sea level rise following the glacial meltdown shows that many of these mysterious ruins were last above water when the North Pole was still in Hudson Bay, so the builders of these structures lived in the last Polar Age, before being forced to migrate to higher ground or warmer climes and rebuild their lives from scratch – just as the stories of so many cultures recount as having happened.

Every pole shift would have changed the position of the sun and stars. As viewed from the ground, it would displace the entire sky; people living on part of the earth’s surface moved towards one of the polar zones would experience the sky changing its orientation and the circumpolar stars rising to greater prominence; the sun would take a new course, moving along a lower path across the sky. So polar wandering is also a cosmological phenomenon, the stuff of myth and religion. And like those distant memories of immense flooding, preserved since at least Sumerian times, experiences of the shifting Heavens would be remembered and preserved in myth and fable, forming a collective memory found in the traditions of cultures all over the world.

Human experience of this event would have been passed down, generation after generation. Frederik Klee showed in Le Déluge that the traditions of many ancient cultures may contain just such a memory, found right at the core of some of the most sacred mythological and religious traditions, including the Bible and other sacred texts. And human experience of the tumultuous effects of the last crust displacement, such as earthquakes, major climatic change and glacial meltdown, would also have been transmitted through time. The echoes of the shifting earth may still reverberate in the lore of ages, transmitted unerringly through time. Indeed, time becomes immaterial, these myths gaining a semblance of immortality. As the arch-traditionalist Michael Hoffman II said, there’s something inherently totalitarian in dismissing the vast body of folklore and mythology just because it is old and traditional. And it seems the old folks’ were right: the world does go through a Cycle Ages, each age ended when the sky falls and the Sun wanders from its path across the Heavens.

Kyle Bennett


  • [1] Cuvier, in Rose & Rand Flem-Ath (1995) When the Sky Fell, Stoddard Publishing, Ontario, p. 37.
  • [2] Albert Einstein, in Hapgood, Charles Hutchins (1958) Path of the Pole. Souvenir Press, London, Foreword to First Edition, p. xiii.
  • [3] Charles Hapgood, Path of the Pole
  • [4] White, J. (1980) Pole Shift, A.R.E Press, Virginia Beach.