There are few theories more abundantly inspiring to the spirit of adventure within us all than the prospect that within our own Earth there may be a whole new world dwelling beneath our feet. The Hollow Earth theory doesn’t simply suggest our current understanding of geology is false, it actually states that we may one day have to meet the inhabitants of this other world – or many of us may have already. And few proponents of the Hollow Earth Theory ever reached higher up ears in politics than John Cleves Symmes Junior. Symmes not only said the Earth was hollow, he actually claimed this inner world after his own name. Such was the rise (and eventual fall) of Symzonia.
Symmes has a laundry list of claims he can make about his life. Not only was he an American soldier serving in the war of 1812, and not only did he meet an incredible assembly of interesting figures throughout his life, he actually had for a period in some circles of intellectual thought half of an undiscovered world named after him. Symzonia, as he called it was a vast world surrounding the center of Earth, which had a smaller version of the sun held in place by the planet’s constant pull in every direction outward. The inside of the planet, which Symmes said had oceans and continents on it, was already inhabited by intelligent beings that could set up trade with the surface and expand the world as we understood it like colonizing a new world.
In some ways, though his hollow Earth theory would later be refuted by science, Symzonia was the first widely spoken of colony world – much like others that would be seen in science fiction. And most of the elements of off-world colonization were already there.
First, we had a distant and difficult to navigate new world. The only portals to the inner core of the Earth, according to Symmes, were at the Poles. A ship would have to travel up to the North or South poles and then into the globe through a massive hole so large and gradual that a ship may not even notice leaving the Earth, except for the fact that the sun would set behind the waters and then be replaced by another at the planet’s center.
Of course there were plentiful continents to explore. Since the Earth was quickly filling up, and undiscovered countries were dwindling outside of humanity’s own consciousness, there was a definite void for explorers. But if a whole new Earth were to be discovered – complete with all the resources and new exotic animals and legends that go with it, explorers would have their hands full for decades, if not centuries.
And finally there are the inhabitants of this hollow Earth. How would beings living at the center of the Earth be much different than aliens living on a distant planet? The motivation to find and befriend them came as much from human nature as any of the other discoveries.
Unfortunately, the theory of the hollow Earth would wane in the following decades and only see a resurgence over the internet with a dramatic increase in freedom of information sharing. But whether Symzonia exists or not, the story of this chapter of humanity’s exploration alone is worth preserving.