Web Culture

How To Use Google Earth To Investigate Conspiracy Theories

Ryan Dube 19-11-2009

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to pack up all of your hiking and camping gear and just take off for a few months to some obscure location in the Brazilian rain forests where there’s an alleged secret ancient city filled with treasures of gold? Or what about exploring the mysterious underground catacombs under the Island of Malta where legend has it there are strange creatures living deep under the earth?


As a person who spends a great deal of his spare time researching old and new conspiracy theories, folklore and legend, I find the prospect of traveling to a remote part of the world for such exploration one of my greatest dreams. However, with a small family to support and responsibilities to my employer and my writing clients, there is very little time left over to travel around the world. With that said, there are times when some claims or legends really require an examination of the land, buildings and civilization surrounding a specific area.

In this update I’d like to take readers on a few amazing adventures to explore some mysterious areas of the earth where local folklore and legend makes claim of strange creatures, scary encounters, secret military bases and countless other conspiracy theories. If you’ve got all of your gear ready and you’re ready to board the flight, let’s head out on our first adventure.

Exploring The Island Of Malta

Back in 2006, I wrote a speculative article about underground caverns around the world, and in particular about the amazing story published in Borderland Science magazine where an employee of the British embassy, Miss Louis Jessup, claimed that when she explored the catacombs beneath the Island of Malta, she had a surreal and terrifying experience where she saw large creatures walking around in the darkness.

To give this story a little bit of reality, it would be interesting to explore the Island of Malta, in particular Valletta, to see if we can’t spot at least the entrances to these underground passages, or determine whether or not these places even exist in the first place. According to the archeological website I found that described the excavated caverns under the temples of this island, these temples with many underground levels of catacombs are scattered all throughout the island. The map below shows a significant temple, called the Hal Saflieni, an ancient site that dates back to 3,600 to 2,500 B.C.

conspiracy theories


It would be interesting to see what the area actually looks like. According to the archaeology site, the area should be free of buildings and structures, but with plenty of pits and recesses in the earth.

investigate conspiracy theories

Let’s jump in our Google Earth plane and see if we can visit the island of Malta and locate the temple.  Typing in “Valletta, Island of Malta” in the “Fly To” field gets us there.

google earth conspiracy theories


Just from this distant overhead view, it’s pretty clear that the island is a beautiful place. The inlet of water must provide some beautiful scenic spots. Exploring the area on foot must be a real treat, with so many old palaces and other buildings to tour. However, we’re here to find the ancient temple Hal Saflieni – which, according to the archeological maps, was located just southwest of Valletta itself.

real conspiracy theories

Sure enough, zooming in a bit closer and rolling the mouse over a few of the site markers lands the right one. Marker C is the legendary Hypogeum itself. Zooming in as much as possible without the map becoming blurry reveals a few details about the real location.

How To Use Google Earth To Investigate Conspiracy Theories earth4


Sure enough, while there are buildings and structures around the area, the Hypogeum itself is an area of land that remains untouched. You can see the brown indentations of Earth where there’s no vegetation and the above ground parts of the ancient structure remains. While you can’t zoom any closer than this, you can click on the Wikipedia symbol to learn more about this particular Hypogeum.

How To Use Google Earth To Investigate Conspiracy Theories earth5

Just reviewing the images of these subterranean caverns, it’s very easy to understand how so many local legends exist about these ancient ruins. To think that this is only one of the many multi-layer underground catacombs throughout this entire island is fascinating.  Thanks to Google Earth, you can actually check out the location and read more about each one.

The Human-Alien Conspiracy Theory – The Military Base of Dulce, New Mexico

This is a very fun conspiracy theory to explore because it’s one that I’ve seen debunked so often it’s almost pointless to pursue. But in this second half of this article, I wanted to show how you can explore even the most remote areas of the earth. Unfortunately I didn’t succeed in solidifying my case for no secret base…read on.


According the the various silly legends and stories within Ufology throughout the years, the legend of the human-alien base near Dulce, New Mexico is an old conspiracy theory that claims that the military created the base around 1969 when Project Blue Book (the Air Force investigation of UFOs) was officially closed. According to the stories, the base entrance is at Mt. Archeleta, and the base itself exists on the Jicarilla Apache Indian Reservation (I’m not sure how the government got the Apache to allow such a project – go figure). Considering that there are actual, geographical locations to check out with Google Earth, this is an excellent exercise to show how you can use Google Earth to debunk such conspiracy theories.

government conspiracy theories

The first thing you’ll notice when you map out the distance from Mt. Archeleta to the Jicarilla Reservation is that it’s well over 40 miles from one location to the other. An entrance to a base over 40 miles from the base itself? Not very likely. Forgetting about the Indian reservation, we’ll zoom in on Mt. Archeleta to show that the terrain is so rugged and the mountain so remote that nothing could ever make it there to enter any sort of “secret base entrance.”

government conspiracy theories

You can zoom in pretty close in this territory, and following the various roads shows both roads or riverbeds traveling between the enormous mountains, but not a single road or trail headed up toward the steep incline toward Mt. Archeleta. There’s no obvious structure or even anything that looks like a cave anywhere around the isolated mountain.

However, with that said, as I was scrolling around the peak of Mt. Archeleta, I noticed a very strange, faint track that looked like an old dirt road. Sure enough, when I looked a bit closer it was – and tracing it back along the winding peak I found that after a very long and twisty journey it joined up with the main road at the base of the mountain. The image below is the road along the ridge, headed toward the Mt. Archeleta peak.

government conspiracy theories

Eventually, the road passes just below the peak of Mt. Archuleta, fades out quite a bit (I thought it ended there because the trail faded), but it does continue on well past the mountain.

famous conspiracy theories

Regardless of the very odd existence of the road (I could find no similar roads along the top of nearby mountain ridges), there was nothing at all in the area to suggest any sort of entrance or even a structure in this isolated and desolate area. Why don’t you take a look around yourself and see if you spot anything out of the ordinary? As you can see, exploring some of these isolated areas can be a lot of fun, especially when you base your searches around the Earth on the very strange and surreal conspiracy theories and legends you’ll find throughout the Internet.

Do you know of any locations on Google Earth that might be fun to explore? Are you able to spot anything strange at any of those locations? Tell us about your Google Earth adventures in the comments section below!

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  1. Bev Montenaro
    November 20, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    Not really what I come to MakeUseOf for. I'm all for the innovative but .... I suppose I can just pretend it's not there and remain in my comfort zone 8-D

  2. kabal
    November 20, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    maybe its easier to watch the History channel about how this conspiracy theory was investigated. Saves u the scrolling through google earth ;-)


  3. Angshu
    November 20, 2009 at 9:33 am

    really innovative idea! :)

  4. Bart
    November 20, 2009 at 7:46 am

    I read a few months ago about someone who thinks they may have discovered Atlantis via Google Earth. Here's the location: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=h&ll=31.28794,-24.417114&spn=2.525395,3.828735&z=8

    It certainly does seem out of place looking at the surrounding area, but I'm still waiting for a decent explanation, considering I'm not a geologist. :)

  5. Fred
    November 19, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Well obviously the government tampered with the satellite imagery in order to hide the location of the entrance. :-)

    • Aibek
      November 19, 2009 at 8:13 pm

      good one!

    • Aibek
      November 19, 2009 at 8:14 pm

      good one!

      p.s. nice read Ryan

  6. Paul Sanduleac
    November 19, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Thanks a lot! Never thought about such an idea with Google Earth, i'll try it myself a little bit later. The only problem would be that not all zones of the globe have such good image quality...