Chapter 17.  Pole Tilting

One of Velikovsky’s many claims in his book Worlds in Collision was that the Earth had been turned upside down in the cosmic upheavals that accompanied the Exodus. Could such a thing really have happened? In the eminently respectable Journal of Physics, in October 1978, there appeared a paper by physicist Peter Warlow which sought to prove that pole tilting, and even total ‘flips’, were not as impossible as most scientists deemed them to be.

Mr Warlow claimed to show that if a planet-sized body were to pass close enough to the Earth, then the gravitational torque acting on the Earth’s equatorial bulge could be big enough to tilt the Earth’s axis, without, however, altering its rate of spin. In an extreme case, the tilt could become a full-blown ‘flip’ in which the Earth’s north and south poles would change places.

Mr Warlow’s paper was ostensibly an attempt to explain the phenomenon of geomagnetic reversal. This requires some explanation. To all intents and purposes the Earth acts as if it has a giant bar magnet embedded in its interior, one benefit of which is that navigators are able to use their magnetic compasses to find their way about. However, geological studies of rocks show that several times in the Earth’s history the polarity of that hypothetical bar magnet has become reversed, with north and south switching roles. To date, no-one has confidently explained how such magnetic reversals could come about, but prior to Mr Warlow’s paper, no-one ever seems to have been adventurous enough to suggest that magnetic reversals are a consequence of the whole Earth turning upside down! Indeed, Mr Warlow’s idea might have been dismissed as an eccentric piece of idle speculation had it not been that he assembled a battery of impressive equations to show just how such a polar flip, magnetic as well as physical, could be induced by the gravitational pull of a passing cosmic body.

Before going any further, we had perhaps better pause to examine a few details. Magnetic reversals are generally reckoned to occur at intervals of several hundred thousand years on average. The last reversal known to have occurred, geologically, is generally quoted as having taken place about 700,000 years ago, though it is thought that a brief reversal also took place between 30,000 and 40,000 years ago. More recent reversals are thought to have taken place by some scientists, but then other scientists, with equal conviction, dispute these conclusions. There is, for example, a claim that a magnetic anomaly occurred in the ninth century BC. There is also, however, good evidence for believing that no magnetic reversal at all has taken place during the past 30,000 years. In other words, controversy rages about the more recent magnetic events.

But what sort of close approach would have to occur for the Earth to be flipped upside down? According to Mr Warlow’s calculations, a body of ten times the mass of the Moon at a distance of 33,000 km could ‘flip’ the Earth. A body of about the same mass as the Earth could accomplish the same feat from a distance of about 66,000 km.

Now, Mr Warlow didn’t actually say this in his paper, but Mars just happens to have a mass about ten times that of the Moon, and Venus just happens to have very nearly the same mass as the Earth. Consequently if, on their Velikovskian tours of the solar system, Mars had got within 33,000 km of the Earth, or Venus within 66,000 km, then the Earth could have been ‘flipped’ just as Velikovsky said it was. Or so Mr Warlow claims.

In fact, without Velikovsky’s proposed scenario, Mr Warlow’s theory of geomagnetic reversals has got problems. The reason is that if Venus and Mars have been on their present orbits for billions of years, as most astronomers believe, then a Warlovian ‘flip’ would have to be induced by a passing chunk of space debris, and what we know of space debris at the present time suggests that it is very unlikely indeed that a big enough chunk would get close enough to do the trick. The vast majority of chunks are much less massive than even the Moon, let alone Mars or Venus.

So, then, Messrs Warlow and Velikovsky walk very much hand in hand, and, in passing we would mention that Mr Warlow has told us in personal correspondence that he believes that Velikovsky will eventually be proved to be one of the greatest thinkers of our age. Likewise, the Velikovskians tend to regard Mr Warlow’s paper as a scientific breakthrough for Velikovsky’s theories. Or at least they did until Victor Slabinski came along.

Dr Slabinski is a physicist whose work is concerned mainly with the problems of the orbital mechanics of satellites, and in 1981 in the Journal of Physics he published an article entitled “A dynamical objection to the inversion of the Earth on its spin axis”. Dr Slabinski showed quite conclusively that Mr Warlow had got his equations wrong (something that had apparently not been noticed by the referees of his paper) and that the torque required to invert the Earth was actually 200 times greater than estimated by Mr Warlow. Such a torque could not be produced by the gravitational pull of any known body in the solar system making a close passage past the Earth. (Slabinski showed it would require a body of 417 Earth masses passing at two Earth radii.)

Some Velikovskians were quick to leap to Mr Warlow’s defence, however. They pointed out that Dr Slabinski had only showed that a torque sufficient to invert the whole Earth could not be produced by the gravitational pull of any known planet. Suppose, they argued, that electromagnetic forces were involved as well as gravity, or that only the shell of the Earth inverted, ‘slipping’, as it were, round the core. Unfortunately no-one has yet turned these suggestions into a feasible mathematical model, and some unkind people accuse the Velikovskians of arm-waving here. So far as we know, Mr Warlow himself has not made any reply to Dr Slabinski, but he did go on to publish a book, The Reversing Earth, in 1982 in which he expanded on his ideas of polar flips.

So, let us go back to circa 1500 BC and the polar flip which Messrs Velikovsky and Warlow believe to have taken place then, despite Dr Slabinski. If the Earth had turned upside down at that time, then the inhabitants of the Earth would (astronomically speaking) have noticed two major things. Firstly, all the familiar constellations would have disappeared, to be replaced by a new set which formerly adorned the opposite hemisphere – northern constellations would have been replaced by southern ones, and vice versa. Secondly, the direction of rotation of the sky would have been reversed. That is, the Sun, the Moon, and the stars would have risen where formerly they had set, and vice versa.

Unfortunately, no historical records have survived which refer directly to such an extraordinary happening, but this no more deters Mr Warlow than it did Velikovsky. Both of them believe that there are clues that it did happen, along with a host of other catastrophic events, in a variety of myths and legends from all over the world. The fact that most of these references are garbled and rather vague is of course neatly explained by the Velikovskian concept of collective amnesia.

For example, in the Bible (Amos 8.9) it says that God caused the Sun to go down at noon, and Mr Warlow explains how it would indeed appear to do so during an axial flip. Orthodox Bible scholars, however, say that Amos was merely referring to a total eclipse of the Sun.

Again, Mr Warlow notes that, according to the ancient historian Herodotus, the Egyptians claimed that the Sun had reversed its direction four times within their recorded history.

Actually what Herodotus ‘said’ varies slightly from translation to translation, but basically it seems to have been pretty much as in the Reverend Cary’s 1901 translation:

During this time, they related, that the sun had four times risen out of his usual quarter, and that he had twice risen where he now sets, and twice set where he now rises; yet, that no change in the things in Egypt was occasioned by this, either with regard to the productions of the earth or the river, or with regard to diseases, or with respect to deaths. (Histories 2.142)

The last sentence of this passage, of course, is a far cry from Velikovskian catastrophism, but we will let that pass. (Actually Mr Warlow believes he can explain it in terms of the way the Earth turned over.) Most importantly, Herodotus did not say that the Sun had suddenly reversed its course, merely that the reversals of rising and setting had taken place over a long period of time.

Now, assuming that this isn’t just pure Egyptian fancy being foisted on a gullible Greek historian, could it have any basis in fact whatever? The answer is that it could, though not quite in the way Herodotus indicated. The explanation probably runs somewhat as follows.

The Egyptian civil calendar consisted of 365 days, made up of 12 months of 30 days apiece, plus 5 extra days known as the epagomenae. The actual solar year, however, consists of 365¼ days, so that the civil calendar would have fallen behind the solar (seasonal) calendar by ¼ day every year, or by 1 day every 4 years. Left without correction, therefore, the civil calendar would have drifted with respect to the seasons, and eventually, for example, summer festivals would have ended up taking place on winter days, and vice versa. We prevent such calendar drift by having leap-years, but the Egyptians didn’t. As a result their civil calendar did drift through the seasons in a way which seems most peculiar to us today.

With summer festivals taking place on winter days – or vice versa – it could be said that the Sun was operating “out of his usual quarter” – that is, “out of his proper course” or “not as he should be”. This could have been misinterpreted by Herodotus – or by his informant – as a literal reversal of the Sun’s motion.

Mr Warlow also quotes a passage of Plato’s Statesman as follows:

God himself guides and helps to roll the world … and there is a time … when he lets go, and the world … turns about and by an inherent necessity revolves in the opposite direction. … Hence there occurs a great destruction of animals which extends also to the life of man.

Unfortunately Mr Warlow omits to tell us that this ‘reversal’ is actually part of a complete and fictitious reversal of nature, rather like running a film backwards, so that time itself reverses: for example, the old grow young, and birth and death are interchanged. So we rather doubt that Plato was talking about a close passage of the planet Venus or any other cosmic body!

One intriguing myth that is quoted by Mr Warlow, though, is the following extract from a myth of the Hopi Indians, as related by Frank Waters in his book The Book of the Hopi (1969):

So again, as on the First World, Sotuknang called on the Ant People to open up their underground world for the chosen people. When they were safely underground, Sotuknang commanded the twins, Poqanghoya and Palongawhoya, to leave their posts at the north and south ends of the world’s axis, where they were stationed to keep the earth properly rotating.

The twins had hardly abandoned their stations when the world, with no-one to control it, teetered off balance, spun around crazily, then rolled over twice. Mountains plunged into seas with a great splash, seas and lakes sloshed over the land; and as the world spun through cold and lifeless space it froze into solid ice.

Now of course there is no mention of anything like a passing Venus Comet or super-massive chunk of space debris, but we have to admit that this legend – or should we say Mr Waters’ version of it – could be seen as an account of the Earth toppling over, and an Ice Age starting as a result of it.

This is interesting because in 1931 a man called Firth Scott published a curious book called This Reeling World in which he linked the onset of Ice Ages to a rocking of the Earth’s axis.

Mr Scott was in some ways a forerunner of Velikovsky, though in many ways his theory was quite different. He believed that originally the Earth’s axis was at right angles to the plane of the ecliptic – that is, the plane of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. In those days, every part of the Earth enjoyed a perpetual summer, and Mr Scott believed that the legend of the Golden Age actually referred back to this particular period of history. But something happened to disrupt this state of affairs. Mr Scott did not go into details, but it is interesting that in the earlier part of his book he quoted a theory that in the distant past a comet had collided with the Earth. But whatever it was that caused this disruption, one of its effects was to push the Earth’s axis away from its Golden Age vertical, and set it quite literally reeling like a disturbed top.

This reeling was not a very simple affair, and depended on what Mr Scott vaguely described as a balance between gravitational resistance and strain of deflection. The astronomers had latched onto part of this reeling in their observations of the precession of equinoxes, he claimed, but they had only got half of the story, and they were entirely wrong in their belief that the Earth’s axis was precessing always at the same angle (23½ degrees) to the ecliptic.

However, though Mr Scott’s account of the complex and painfully slow reeling of the Earth’s axis was not particularly simple – or specific – its implications regarding the Ice Ages were both elegant and ingenious.

We begin by considering the position of the arctic and antarctic circles.

The arctic circle is today some 23½ degrees away from the north pole, an angle which is determined by the tilt of the Earth’s axis, as shown in Fig. 17.1.

Polar ice caps at the present day

Fig. 17.1

Here the Earth is shown at the winter solstice – that is, at mid-winter in the northern hemisphere. At this time the Earth’s north pole is tilted away from the Sun, and at the point A, on the arctic circle itself, the sun’s rays strike the Earth’s surface at a tangent. That is, to an observer standing at A, the sun is barely peeping over the horizon, even at its maximum elevation. Anyone to the north of A is at this time hidden from the Sun entirely, and experiences a prolonged night that may last literally for months. Six months later, of course, the arctic regions experience varying degrees of midnight Sun by way of compensation.

If the Earth’s axis were tilted even more than its current 23½ degrees – as it is in Fig. 17.2, where the tilt is 60 degrees – the arctic and antarctic circles would be correspondingly further away from their respective poles.

Polar ice caps if Earth’s axis were tilted 60 degrees

Fig. 17.2

Now, Mr Scott’s argument is that if the tilt of the Earth’s axis increases, the area of the Earth’s surface that suffers arctic and antarctic conditions also increases. Correspondingly, if the tilt decreases, the arctic and antarctic zones shrink towards the poles again.

He went on to deduce that as the Earth’s axis reeled back and forth after the impact of the comet or whatever, arctic weather conditions advanced and retreated in accordance with the principles illustrated in Figs. 17.1 and 17.2. This, Mr Scott argued, is precisely what geologists see as the alternating advances and retreats of the glacial ice sheets.

The most severe tilt, and thus the most severe Ice Age, came just after the Earth had been hit by the comet. The Earth’s axis was pushed over to an angle of 60°, as shown in Fig. 17.2, and arctic conditions prevailed in any area outside a zone extending from 30° north latitude to 30° south latitude. This was perhaps a quarter of a million years ago and, amongst a number of other things, it neatly explains the formation of the Sahara and the origin of the pygmies! (Mr Scott firmly believed that many riddles of race, custom, creed and language were explicable in terms of the effects of advancing and retreating ice sheets.)

Let us take a look at the climatic conditions associated with the great-tilt Ice Age of Fig. 17.2. Mr Scott describes them thus:

Reconstructing the terrestrial conditions as they would be in the circumstances, there would be, within the equatorial zone, a wide belt, some 60 degrees across, where a high temperature and a humid atmosphere would induce intense and prolific vegetation wherever a land surface existed. Beyond that belt the polar ice caps would extend both north and south, the zone of contact, where the ice line reached its nearest to the equator, being the scene of perpetual inundation caused, firstly, by the thawing of the ice along the extreme edge of the ice caps, and, secondly, by the cold air over the ice precipitating the humidity in the atmosphere as rain along the zone of demarcation and as snow farther in over the ice.

Torrents of rain and gushing water would wash away the soil and materials necessary to plant growth, leaving behind an insoluble residue of silica. This took place at or near the 30° latitude parallels, remember, and is precisely where we find the Sahara, the Kalahari and the Syrian deserts, not to mention the deserts of Australia and America. The Gobi desert was formed at the same time, Mr Scott argued, the awkward fact that it is rather north of the 30° north parallel being neatly explained by the presence of the Himalayas.

At that time, of course, the entire human race was forced to live in the equatorial regions, which meant that, on the whole, things got a bit crowded. There was fierce competition for living space, and, inevitably, some folk just had to live up near the ice lines.

Mr Scott had a theory that the human race was naturally rather indolent, and that progress was made only when and where it had to be made. Many teachers observe much the same phenomenon in their classrooms even today, so that on this count at least, Mr Scott’s hypothesis is not entirely implausible! Thus, those tribes who had to fight for survival up near the ice line and who had to migrate in accordance with the whims of the ice, made more progress towards civilisation than those tribes who stagnated in the comfort of the equatorial forests.

That, according to Mr Scott, is why the pygmies are still stuck in an equatorially distributed stone-age rut, and why civilisation flowered in regions well away from the equator.

Applying similar reasoning to later Ice Ages, Mr Scott came up with some novel ideas on European prehistory. He rejected traditional archaeological thinking, particularly its ideas on the antiquity of man, and boldly ventured to explain stone circles, camps, dolmens and earthworks in a pre-glacial context. According to Mr Scott, European history can be divided into three ice-linked phases, which can be roughly summarised as follows:

  1. 70,000 to 40,000 years ago: the arctic circle retreated from the 45th to 57th latitude parallel, then advanced again from the 57th to the 50th.
  2. 40,000 to 16,000 years ago: the arctic circle retreated from the 50th to the 62nd parallel, then advanced from the 62nd to the 55th.
  3. 16,000 years ago to the present day: the arctic circle retreated from the 55th parallel towards the 67th; it will reach the 67th parallel in about 400 years time.

According to Mr Scott, the ancestors of most modern Europeans migrated here from Asia some 70,000 years ago – that is, at the beginning of phase 1. Their migrations were governed, as we have already seen, by the advancing and retreating ice lines, and because their lives were constantly threatened by hostile natural forces, their ascent towards civilisation was rapid. (The pygmy, of course, had already stagnated in the equatorial regions, as had the aborigines in Australia.) Between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago, Mr Scott went on, the migrating tribes reached Britain, and about 40,000 years ago, the beginning of phase 2, they began erecting the stone circles, the dolmens and the earthworks so familiar to us today. All this is news to the orthodox archaeologists, of course. They stubbornly persist in the belief that the age of megalithic building in Britain was a mere 4000 years ago. But that is the least of their worries, if Mr Scott is anything to go by.

To tribes living on the hostile ice line, the Sun was the god who fought against the eternal menace of the arctic ice. Here, then, is one reason for the growth of Sun worship. But more than that, if the Sun was, in effect, the bringer of life, and if it was his movement that governed the lives of the people, then any tribe with an ounce of megalithic common sense would keep a very careful eye on him. According to Mr Scott, this is precisely what all the dolmens and the stone circles were built to do. Mr Scott describes the dolmen building of phase 1 thus:

With the Arctic Circle in the 45th parallel of latitude, the angle of obliquity would be 45 degrees. This would mean sunrise at the winter solstice at 45 degrees south of east – in other words, due south-east – instead of the 23 degrees south of east as at the present. The Brittany dolmens, which have been oriented, face south-east. The inference is inevitable. They were constructed as a means, crude perhaps, but for all that serviceable, whereby the southern trend of the sunrise at the winter solstice could be watched and recorded.

In answer to those folk who slavishly adhered to the archaeologists’ idea that dolmens were constructed simply as tombs, Mr Scott argued that they were pressed into service as tombs only later. This was long after they had served their astronomical purpose, and at a time when they had acquired something of a religious significance as shrines. “Thus as time went on,” he wrote, “and the original use of the dolmen was lost in the haze of legend and myth, ambitious chiefs, or honoured leaders, might be buried in or near it, and the fundamental purpose for which it was originally reared would thus be further obscured.”

As for Stonehenge, Mr Scott claimed that it was built to observe the Sun at the winter solstice some 13,000 years ago – its ditch and ramparts being the remains of a sort of interglacial camping site!

Curiously enough, many archaeologists now agree that Stonehenge was at least in part an astronomical observatory, though of course not in the sense envisaged by Mr Scott, and certainly not in the same historical context. The way the archaeologists see it, there wasn’t a polar bear in sight when Stonehenge was being built.

The subject of ice, though, brings us to another brand of pole tilting, as proposed by Hugh Auchincloss Brown in his book Cataclysms of the Earth, published in 1967.

Every year, it is calculated, some 293 cubic miles of ice are added to the south polar ice cap alone. It stands to reason, argues Mr Brown, that sooner or later the sheer weight of ice at the Earth’s north and south poles will literally tip the Earth off its present axis.

He likens the Earth to a spherical spinning top in a state of perfect balance. If a blob of molten lead is allowed to fall onto the top, and somewhat away from its axis of spin, then the top will begin to wobble, and eventually topple on its side.

Mr Brown argues that this is precisely what happens to the Earth when its ice caps get so heavy that they disturb the balance of the Earth on its axis: the Earth topples on its side, and the polar regions end up on the new equator.

The consequences of this are both sudden and severe. Anyone who has ever tried to move a pan full of water too suddenly will know that the water has a tendency to slosh over the side of the pan. When the Earth goes into a tilt, Mr Brown believes, the Earth’s oceans do much the same, and the result is a gigantic tidal wave that sweeps the globe. The severe flooding caused by the last such catastrophe (about 5000 BC) is today still remembered in the story of Noah, and in connection with the final submergence of Atlantis.

Again, if the polar and equatorial regions were to suddenly switch places, this would explain several very puzzling things.

For example, Mr Brown points out that several mammoths have to date been found frozen inside blocks of arctic ice. That the creatures died suddenly is evident from the undigested food in their stomachs, Mr Brown argues, and indeed, some of them died so suddenly that they didn’t even have time to swallow their last mouthful of food. Finally, the vegetation on which these creatures fed is shown on analysis to be essentially tropical. All these things, Mr Brown believes, fall simply into place if we accept that one minute the mammoths were munching away in the tropical undergrowth and the next minute, following a sudden pole tilt, they were freezing to death in the Arctic!

Then there are the Berbers. Why, in the Sahara desert, of all places, do we find Berber rock carvings that depict swimmers? Mr Brown argues that just after the last pole tilt, about 7000 years ago, the Sahara Basin was a vast inland sea around which the Berber culture developed. But its position near the new equator, following a pole tilt, meant that by 3000 BC the Sahara Sea had simply evaporated away, leaving only the carvings of the swimmers to remind us of its former existence.

The inevitable question, of course, is how long have we got before the ice builds up again to such an extent that another pole tilt becomes due?

Mr Brown estimates that the last tilt occurred about 5000 BC, and that the previous one occurred some 6000 years before that. In other words, we can expect a tilt any day now since, on past performances, one is several hundred years overdue already!

But Mr Brown is not defeatist about all this. On the contrary he has very definite plans for averting this imminent disaster. He proposes that a number of meteorological stations be established to keep a watch on the rate at which ice is being added to the polar caps. Once we know that, he argues, we can simply artificially destroy, possibly using atomic energy, enough ice to maintain the Earth’s equilibrium. Simple, but expensive, and so far as we know, no-one has yet taken Mr Brown’s ideas seriously enough to actually act on them. Meanwhile, the ice keeps piling up … though of course global warming has now entered into the picture!

Of equal import are the theories of Dr Adam Barber of Washington, DC, who is the President, Managing Trustee, Director and (we believe) sole member of the Barber Scientific Foundation. His work, The Coming Disaster Worse than the H-Bomb, describes how within the next few decades the Earth will tip onto its side, so that the seas will sweep across the continents and produce a global flood – unless, of course, we do something about it.

The theory is based upon the behaviour of a gyroscope. Apparently Dr Barber made his discovery while constructing one of his seventy-five perpetual motion machines (none of which has actually worked). The Earth has a ‘small orbit’, spread over the main one, which is 9,865,621,106,441,698,602 miles long – a figure derived by means of a calculation which would no doubt be crystal-clear if only we could make head or tail of it. When the Earth’s axis makes a right angle with both the large and small orbits, as may happen around 21 June or 21 December each year, the Earth may tilt, completing its shift in a mere 1½ hours. The last occasion was (naturally) at the time of Noah’s Flood, so that another tip is just about due.

To guard against this, Dr Barber suggests fastening jets on to high peaks on opposite sides of the Earth, so that when the shift starts the jets can be switched on to jerk the world back to its original position. It is also wise to have boats moored by one’s front gate, so that they can be used if the flood waters become too threatening – or, perhaps, construct a large gas balloon complete with rope ladder, so that members of the household can swarm up the ladder at the first sign of danger, and stay inside the balloon until the waters have subsided. Whether all these precautions are really necessary remains to be seen. Dr Barber thinks that they are – and, of course, he may be right!

So far, our pole tilters have been in deadly earnest. But our review of the subject would have been incomplete without the inclusion of Dorothy Starr’s ‘Pole Watchers’ Club’.

As an organisation, they tend to follow Hugh Auchincloss Brown’s idea that it is the build-up of ice at the Earth’s poles which causes the tilting. The consensus of opinion seems to be that a tilt could hit us any day now, but despite this, the pole watchers are a far from miserable lot. Indeed their approach to tilting is conducted in more of a party atmosphere than an academic one, and the club is as much a pen-pal organisation as anything else, with pole tilting as its unifying theme. A monthly magazine, called Pole Watchers’ Newsletter, is issued to all members, and though pole tilting is the major talking point, several issues have found time to consider a variety of other unorthodox topics such as pyramid energy, astral projection, Atlantis, flying saucers and health foods.

The front cover of the newsletter, by the way, is a very jolly affair. In one corner it sports a delightful little picture of the globe, its poles clogged up with ice, and in imminent danger of tilting! In the opposite corner is a charming picture of a penguin, and therein lies a tale.

The penguin motif dates back to the newsletter for May 1971. That was when the Pole Watchers’ Club celebrated its second birthday, and, naturally enough, they had a party to celebrate. It was at this party that the Pole Watchers’ Puppet Theatre presented its first (and by all accounts only) performance of the miniature play “Lucky Penguins”. The dramatis personae are a family of penguins living in Antarctica, when, in the middle of scene 2, the Earth begins a pole tilt:

GRANDPA PENGUIN: That Ice Mountain is going to move!
PAPA PENGUIN: Why? Its been there for thousands of years. How do you know?
GRANDPA PENGUIN: Something in the air. I feel it. And we move with it!
MAMA PENGUIN: You’re growing childish, Grandpa!

Suddenly, the stage shakes. Rocks and ice cubes fly around. The stage turns slowly, then faster and faster until it fades out of view. Under it a green carpet with flowers appears in bright sunshine.

Hence the penguin motif.

But the Pole Watchers’ Newsletter does have its more serious side, and some pole watchers have formed a Polar Shift Protection Committee for the purposes of persuading the US government to prepare for the coming cataclysm. One pole watcher called Paul Doerr has even bought a cabin up in the mountains, well away from the tidal-wave dangers of the coast. And the August 1980 newsletter carried a report by Mrs Starr on the Shelter Cave Community, who, as their name suggests, are well prepared for any pole shift.

But just how drastic would a pole shift be? Pole watcher Robert Schiller believes they can get very violent indeed. In the September 1980 issue of Pole Watchers’ Newsletter he put forward the novel idea that the asteroid belt may have been formed by a planet that tilted its poles a bit too rapidly for its own good! We rather doubt that Mr Schiller is right about this, but just in case, perhaps we had better keep an eye on the Earth’s polar regions. After all, you never know.…