One of the most bizarre mysteries to come from Antarctica is the strange story of Carl Disch. Carl was a scientist, an ionospheric physicist to be specific, working at Byrd Station, Antarctica in 1965. On May 8th, about halfway through the notoriously brutal 6-months of darkness that make up the winter season, Carl disappeared, never to be seen again.
He had been working at the station’s radio noise building, presumably partaking in his research. At approximately 9:15 that morning, he left the radio building to return to the main base. It was actually quite far from where he was, about a 1.3 miles (7,000 feet) hike back to the main complex. There was a hard line put up leading from the building’s door back to the main structures. The line was kept up with a post every few meters and was running downhill.
Yet despite all this clear and easy-to-follow trail marker, he never arrived at the main station. By 10:00 a vehicle search party was assembled and set out. Around 11:30 they seemed to have found Carl’s track. It was heading west by southwest away from the camp, and about 4 miles out. Unfortunately, the team had to return to resupply, and by the time they returned to where the tracks had been, they had been covered by fresh snow. As they searched for the next few hours, the wind increased, the temperatures decreased, and the weather worsened. The impending blizzard caused the team to return to the station by 6:15 that afternoon.
At 7, a second group went to search along the supply line. Towards the end of the hour, they formed a human chain and searched from the line to the skyway, the area where the tracks had been found in the morning. Despite the thorough search, no signs or tracks were revealed. Floodlights were set up on the perimeter of the camp and flares were set off every half hour to try and increase the station’s visibility, in hopes that Carl might find his way back.
The next day, May 9th, another vehicle search team was sent out again, this time at around 6 in the afternoon. What this group found might be considered especially interesting. The report stated: “The party found occasional tracks and followed them to about 4 miles south of the station where they disappeared. There was no noticeable shortening of stride in these tracks.” The latter detail is quite bizarre because any person who had been left outside for more than 30 hours on an Arctic winter night would be, at the very least, near death. The team would undoubtedly be looking for tracks of someone crawling or dragging themselves through the snow, not of even placed footprints.
Several more search parties were sent out over the next few days, but no more tracks or signs of life were found. By May 12th, the weather worsened to the point where there was zero visibility, and this lasted for two days. During this time Carl was declared dead, as it is impossible for someone to live out on the ice without supplies for more than 48 hours (many believe this number to be even smaller). To this day, his body has never been found. Some report that about one month after this point, Carl’s dog wandered off the base, and he too was never found.
But according to some, the pair have been seen and heard from a few times since. Interestingly enough, these two sightings come from the same location, Mcmurdo station. This is bizarre because Carl went missing at Byrd station, which is roughly 1400 kilometers inland from here. Despite this, there have been two separate reports of a crazed-looking man showing up at one of the station’s most popular bars, the Erebus Club.
Renamed Gallaghers in the late 90s, after a longtime quartermaster who died at the station. The Club was more of a bar, it had pool tables and a dance floor, and a hamburger grill. There are a few places to get a drink at the station, but this is the most popular for weekends. There is also a steady morning crowd, who come into the drink after their long night shifts.
On two separate occasions, people working at the club have seen a figure looming over them. One employee of the club was closing up one night, putting the money in the safe when he saw the figure. This is what he said:
“I looked over my left shoulder and saw an old man standing at the end of the bar. He was dressed in old gray cold-weather gear and had a white beard and hair. I turned back to the safe, spun the dial, and got up. The guy had gone from the bar, I stepped out into the main room of the club and he was nowhere in sight. There is no way someone could have gotten out of the club that fast. And, I am as certain today as I was then I had seen a man standing at the end of the bar…Billy Ace told me I had seen Carl Disch. Whomever it was I saw that night sure sobered me up. ”
Another employee described seeing the same figure, except this time with a dog. The pair vanished in the same fashion when he looked away. But perhaps the most interesting account comes from the ‘Billy Ace’ character mentioned at the end of that quote.
Billy is a real person, last name Baker, middle name Penguin. It seems he had his middle name changed to penguin after ending his long career in Antarctica. And a long career it was, having done 11 ‘tours’ on the ice during his time with the Navy as a radio operator. He was stationed there for the winters 63, 67, 71, 75, and the summers of 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80. Afterward, he became an active member in several clubs for former Arctic workers and explorers, writing and editing for publications of the same genre. But it was in the winter of 1971 when he reportedly picked up a strange message.
According to a story he had written and published online, he received a message one night while working at Mcmurdo. The message was from Carl, who had gone missing 6 years prior. The message was coming from a station that was only manned during the summer months, No one should have been there at this time of year. This is what he heard:
“I am Carl Disch. To the world I am dead. They believe that my body is but a pinpoint frozen hard to the surface of this white continent. I say to you I, Carl Disch, live. Do not for one moment think that it was a mistake. Everything was planned. They pushed me, tormented me, and bored me with their shallow lives. I left them behind disowning the race called humans.
On a bleak Saturday night six years ago I walked out the door of Longwire Station. I never returned. They searched for me, as I knew they would, following my straight deliberate steps for several miles. They never found me and not one of them realized they had been tricked. They gave up and I Carl Disch was free of them. I Carl Disch the most alone man in the world.
It has not been an easy task to sustain myself for six years. At times the endless singing of the winds almost drives me mad: I begin to long for human companionship. As quickly as the longing begins it vanishes, however, for I have been tormented, scorned, and betrayed by my fellow humans – even those who I tried to love. Yes, it seems foolhardy to willingly subject myself to such hardship and loneliness when men such as Byrd and Shackleton so narrowly escaped the effects. But my story makes theirs pale in comparison.
I am a genius. In the early recollections of my childhood, I was aware that I was exceptional. They sensed it too and because of it they were afraid of me. I, therefore, walked away from their insecurities, paranoia, and petty jealousies. Born of ordinary folks, I lived a normal life, but only to my first birthday. Now twenty-five years later, I have regained the tranquility of that first year of my life here in my shack which shifts slowly with the rest of this continent. Soon after my first birthday, my folks were killed in a vicious Nebraska tornado and I landed in an adoption home, nameless and without a worldly possession. There in the orphanage, I closely watched the others. Even then, as I saw them drool and shake their senseless rattles, I knew I was above them. I was not to be one of them. Perhaps even then they were plotting against me and maybe even then Carl Disch was dreaming of getting away from these people. The pink bird flew its painted way across the headboard of my crib. The headboard that tasted vaguely of a substance I would later identify as enamel when I rose up to lick it as all smart one-year-old children tend to do, was to be a sign, a sign for the future and my salvation. Years later Byrd Station was all there was to be seen as I snuck my last look at humanity as I glanced back over my shoulder.
When I was fifteen months old, an elderly couple named Disch came, saw, and adopted me. “We’ll call him Carl, Carl Disch,” she spoke with great enthusiasm. The agony had begun.”
Unsurprisingly this has caused a lot of debate. Naturally, this has been debunked from the sheer fact that it is believed to be impossible that anyone could survive 6 years on the ice. It also seems this comes from a story where Billy has woven together true fact and fiction. He speaks of real people who were there at the time, but also of others who were not. This has led people to completely dismiss the story. But Billy is still alive, as he had posted a picture of a penguin table on his Facebook page last month. So I reached out to him to see if there was any truth to this supposed message.
It took a few weeks for me to hear from him. He actually responded via email, to a post I put up looking for information about Disch on an arctic explorers website. He asked for my full name and some other info before asking me what I already knew about Carl. I told him what I knew, what you just read, and asked if there was any legitimacy to the radio transmission. I didn’t really get a straight answer, he said: “A lot of it is Fiction, Fact, and [Fantasy] from Baker’s [Almanac]. But it is all based on stories that have been told and retold. Over, and over, and over again.”
But he followed this up with an 8-page document with the information that he collected over the years, of stories about Disch. In it, there were quite a few things of interest that couldn’t be found readily available online. First was an alternate version of the radio story, where instead of the lengthy radio transmission, the shorter transmission of “CQ CQ DE NBN NBN QSP NGD NGD.” Which translates to: “Any Station This Is Brockton Station Pass To McMurdo Station.” was heard. This message would be received at stations around the ice, usually during the winter months when Brockton was closed. But Brockton is several hundred miles from Bryd, where Carl went missing, and in this shorter version of the story, no names are given.
Another interesting detail is a letter that was sent by Carl’s brother, Walter Disch. The letter’s tone is angry, and it refutes essentially everything said in the supposed radio message. He states that Carl was not an orphan and ends his letter by saying “Carl was not, and is not, the “weirdo” [y’all] have been, and continue to be.” I asked Billy Ace about this and he said that the letter was a “no-shitter.” When I asked about what he thought of Walters’ anger towards the legend that has formed, he replied: “His brother was upset and I was worried for a long time. But later I let it go. It has been a long time so I don’t remember all the details.”
The last intriguing piece of information was two more reports that I couldn’t find anywhere online. It was from a pilot who was running relief missions from Byrd station. He wrote that he remembered people telling him how they would find “Carl Disch was Here” scratched into doors in the camp after the season. And when leaving, the naval crew instructed him over the radio to padlock the doors to one of the huts. The pilot asked why because this was a precaution not normally taken on the lonely continent. He said that the entire crew responded in unison, exclaiming they needed it locked because of “carl!”
So it seems the legend has been exaggerated. The reported message is a fabrication, but mysterious messages do seem to be heard from time to time. People see ghostly figures on the continent and it seems, despite his brother’s request, these sightings have merged with the Story of Carl. They have become a legend, perhaps the continent’s first Urban legend, one that is still believed in by the people who have worked and lived on the ice. So next time you leave your Arctic station, remember to lock up, or ol’ Carl might stop by and help himself to your supplies.