Technology is a wonderful thing, but it can sometimes feel as though the magic of discovery is lacking in our modern world. Where before we would pore through book after book in search of some esoteric nugget of knowledge, now we have only to search our question on Google and we’ll receive an instant answer. Of course, this makes everything a lot easier, but it’s also hard to deny that the romance and drama of a good mystery is lacking in the post-digital era.
Or so we thought. Google’s Maps service should have simply been a way to help everyone get around, and that’s what we mainly use it for; it’s great for calculating public transport times, figuring out alternative routes to places, and so on and so forth. What we didn’t expect, though, was that Google Maps would uncover some seriously weird things about our planet and the people who live on it. Here are 5 super-secret places we can now see for ourselves thanks to Google Maps and its close cousin, Google Street View.
Secret Scientology Facility – Mesa Huerfanita, New Mexico (35.523965, -104.573202)
We begin with an organisation which is certainly not without its fair share of controversy and secrecy. The Church of Scientology is well-known for keeping closely-guarded secrets, as well as some of its more unusual religious and spiritual beliefs. In Mesa Huerfanita in New Mexico, a symbol for the Church of Spiritual Technology (the academic arm of the Church of Scientology) is clearly visible using aerial photographs and Google Maps. The Church of Scientology itself states that the facility is a repository for the writings of its founding father, L. Ron Hubbard. Supposedly, the symbol serves as a guide for future Scientologists who will need to know where to go when they return from other places in the universe.
Pentagram – Kazakhstan (52.479761, 62.185661)
Those of a spiritually squeamish disposition, look away now. This huge 360-meter pentagram is carved just off the shore of the Upper Tobol Reservoir, and it’s pretty disturbing-looking on first glance. So, is this pentagram what remains of a sinister ritual to summon a demon? Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your outlook) not. It’s a park which was created during the Soviet Union era, when Kazakhstan was a Soviet state. The star was a widely-used symbol during Soviet Communist rule; you’d often see it decorating public buildings, flags and national monuments. Mystery solved…for now.
Isla El Ojo – Argentina (-34.252167, -58.829833)
Could this be the first evidence of alien life landing on Earth? Well…no, probably not, but it doesn’t hurt to dream, right? Isla El Ojo is a strange landmass in the Buenos Aires province of Argentina. It’s an island encircled by what appears to be a perfectly round body of water, giving the whole island a definite crescent moon shape. Supposedly, there have been many UFO sightings over the area, with some witnesses describing a strange triangular flying object near the water and others reporting “disk-shaped objects flying in front of the moon”. We’ll hold off on judgement for now, but it’s safer to assume that nature works in mysterious ways.
Sail Rock – Antarctica (-63.049083, -60.959000)
Sometimes, romantic ideals can get the better of otherwise sound-minded explorers. Such was the case with Sail Rock, an island in the South Shetland island group just off Antarctica. Sail Rock is 30 meters tall, and it’s named for its distinctive sail-like shape (from a distance). When the island was first discovered via Google Maps back in 2016, theories circulated as to its true nature. Was it a sea monster? Was it a crashed UFO? Was it a giant squid? It was, of course, none of these things; it was simply Sail Rock. Still, it was nice to speculate for a while, and it’s still a beautiful sight on Google Maps.
Human Mouth – South Sudan (12.370367, 23.322272)
This slightly lopsided-looking human mouth can be found in the Darfur region of southern Sudan. Ringed by trees and barren plains, the “mouth” is an incredibly distinctive shape when set against the relative repetition of its surroundings. Unfortunately, it’s not evidence of giants walking the earth; rather, it’s a somewhat visually idiosyncratic hill formation. Human beings seeing faces or facial features in things is a documented phenomenon; it’s called “pareidolia”, and it refers not only to seeing faces, but to discerning patterns where they don’t exist or weren’t intended.
We hope this list has lit the spark for mystery and adventure in you. If you know where to look, or if you’re willing to wander around the virtual environments of Google Maps, there’s still plenty to see. Just be sure to let someone know if you do finally find that UFO we lost, eh?