File: Aktion Eichschloss

The file is entitled "Aktion Eichschloss" (Operation Ice Castle). The early notes are in German, and have pictures of men in German uniforms of 1940s vintage. A picture near the front shows a man in Polar gear, labelled "Kapitan Ritscher, 1938". Later on there a number of reports, in English, wherein the name "Lexington" appears in connection with an Antarctic expedition. [Comments appearing like this are "out of character" notes.]

[Just in case you've stumbled on this document through the wonders of google, this is a fictional document designed for use in the game "Call of Cthulhu", though it does contain reference to some real world events. See for more details.]

Section 1 - The Ritscher Expedition

The early sections discuss German expeditions to the Antarctic, particularly the career of Captain Alfred Ritscher. Captain Alfred Ritscher was born on 23rd May 1879 and died on the 30th March 1963. His major claim to fame is that he led a German expedition to the Antarctic in 1938, though he appears to have been selected because he had already led some expeditions to the North Pole and proved courageous and skilful in dangerous situations. The expedition's ship was the called Schwabenland, a special freighter capable of carrying and launching the Dornier Wal (Whale). These aircraft were mounted on steam catapults on the deck of the ship, and thus could be started and refuelled on board the vessel.

The crew was selected and trained by the German Society of Polar Research. The society also invited Richard E. Byrd, the most famous American Antarctic researcher, to join the expedition. Byrd arrived in Hamburg in mid November of 1938 and was given a tour of the expedition preparations, including meeting the crew. In the end, though, Byrd declined and returned to the US, later becoming an Admiral in the United States' Navy.

The Schwabenland left Hamburg on December 17, 1938 and reached the pack ice on January 19 1939 . Over the following weeks, 15  flights took place, covering roughly 600,000 square km. The expedition was considered a success. However, on his return to the Fatherland after the 1938 expedition, Ritscher was seconded to the U-Boat command at the direct request of Admiral Doenitz. After completing a year at the training academy and serving some time at the U-Boat pens in La Rochelle, Ritscher was assigned to command the U-530. Oddly, this submarine was never assigned to one of the Atlantic Wolf Packs. Instead it seemed to make regular patrols to an undetermined destination which seemed to last about 4 months. Ironically, Ritscher did not command its final mission in 1945, having been injured by shrapnel. Under the command of Captain Wilhelm Bernhard, the submarine U-530 entered the Argentinean port of Mar-del-Plata and surrendered to the authorities who noted that the submarine was seriously under manned. Curiously, the U-530 was also listed by other sources as on duty in the Atlantic during the war, attached to various wolf packs, and operating out of Lorient.

The file contains some rather grainy copies of aerial photographs apparently abstracted from the 1938 expedition notes. Interestingly, several of the photographs depict an ice free region with lakes and signs of vegetation that the expedition apparently discovered. The expedition's geologists speculated that this phenomenon was due hot sea bed springs. Another picture appears to show the head of a large statue protruding form the ice.

Section 2 - Other Contemporary Expeditions

The second section goes on to discuss the other contemporary expeditions. Earlier expeditions are ignored, but expeditions that used aircraft are detailed with some care. Admiral Byrd's expedition of the late 1920's in which he overflew the south pole are discussed, along with his return in 1934. However, it is Byrd's "Operation Highjump" in 1946 that gets the most coverage. "Highjump" was a huge expedition consisting of at least 13 ships and over 4000 men. It was designed to give the US military experience in extremely cold weather conditions though scientific research was listed as the primary objective of the expedition. Interestingly, the documentation includes an original manifest for a marine landing vessel not otherwise mentioned, along with is contingent of almost three hundred marines. There is also mention of one flight which returned an improbable three hours late, with the crew claiming that they had to throw all their mapping equipment out to maintain height.

Several other expeditions are discussed at length - the ill fated 1930 Miskatonic University Expedition and the 1934 expeditions: Barsmeier-Falken, Starkweather-Moore and Lexington.

Although the 1930 MU expedition achieved many of its goals, it is remembered mostly for the tragic loss of many of the expedition. On January 23rd 1931 a party led by Professor Lake broke through into caves that proved to be a spectacular trove of fossils. For two days Lake's radio reports of the team's findings entranced the world and promised to revise archaeology texts. It was not to be. On the afternoon of the 24th a huge storm blew down from the mountains and, when it cleared, Lake's party where dead, and the camp scattered to the four corners. The expedition leader, Professor William Dyer, along with several colleagues, spent several days searching for survivors, but failed.

The Lexington expedition of 1934 was headed by the industrialist Acacia Lexington. Its initial purpose appears to have been publicity - Acacia would have been the first woman to set foot at the South Pole, first woman to over fly it and so on. The Starkweather-Moore expedition was jointly led by the British explorer James Starkweather and the Smythe Professor of Palaeontology William Moore. Their goal was to perform aerial and ground based mapping as well as to discover the last resting place of Professor Lake and hopefully rediscover the geological caves. Both expeditions suffered a series of mishaps and several casualties, including the death of James Starkweather, but they returned with a great deal of information including detailed maps of the mountain range beyond Lake's Camp. The dossier provides some speculation that information was suppressed by the remaining expedition leaders.

The Barsmeier-Falken expedition was led by Professors Barsmeier and Falken. Their expedition was funded by several private sponsors with a view to finding exploitable mineral resources. There are also several reputable reports that the expedition was expecting to find a subtropical enclave that had been reported by several expeditions of the eighteen hundreds. The expedition was an abject disaster. Although much mapping was done, the expedition's finds were mostly destroyed in a fire that consumed most of their base. A substantial number of expedition members, including Falken were killed either at the main base or during a cave in near a secondary base. Barsmeier and rest of the expedition returned to Germany in disgrace but Barsmeier committed suicide in 1935. Interestingly, the location of the secondary base is very close to the location of the Ritscher expedition's statue find.

A final note of interest is a copy of a picture of Acacia Lexington in polar gear. The picture is hand labelled 1938, but there seems to be no supporting evidence of any such expedition. She stands in front of an aeroplane. A second figure can be seen in the cockpit but the flying helmet obscures the features. An aircraft designation number is stencilled down the side of the plane.

Section 3 - The Wacky Stuff

Section 3 consists of a number of apparently unrelated items.

[This write-up is by Mike Lay, though the image was abstracted from Chaosium's "Beyond the Mountains of Madness" campaign book.]