Who would believe that the earth is hollow and home to underground vegetation and animals? Such is the fantasy of science fiction, not of reasoned, rational minds, right? Certainly, such notions would not be embraced by the President of the United States!
Or would they?
John Cleves Symmes circulated a flyer in 1818 in which he posited that the earth is actually a hollow sphere, containing a number of concentric spheres. He believed these strata could be accessed through openings at the northern and southern poles. Within these hidden worlds, Symmes’ believed one could find “a warm and rich land, stocked with thrifty vegetables and animals, if not men.”
Symmes’ claims were scorned by many, but he did capture the attention of more than a few people. Among them was none other than President John Quincy Adams. Symmes met with the President in 1828 and convinced him to lobby Congress for a publicly-funded expedition to the south Pacific in pursuit of one of the elusive openings to the underworld.
The House of Representatives was convinced — somewhat. It approved the sending of one US Navy vessel, provided it could be done within the existing budget. The Senate was less convinced and refused to approve the compromise measure.
Adams was not deterred and continued to push for the expedition. It was left to his successor, President Andrew Jackson, to put an end once and for all to what ended up being a hollow pursuit.