Story by Walter Starck 

                   Photos by Lucy Pringle

Editor's note: Although this feature has nothing to do with diving or the ocean it does partake of much the same qualities of beauty, mystery and otherworldly experience as does diving. It's possible implications are profound. Mainstream media have not clearly represented it, mainly focusing on poorly founded controversy. The scientific community has largely ignored it. Before deciding for yourself, consider the facts and reasoning. If nothing else you will have to admit that no matter whom or what is behind it, something extraordinary is taking place.


omething very strange is going on. It's been happening in the open, on a large scale, year after year. It occurs all over the world, but is most frequent and elaborate in southern England. In addition to the phenomenon being inexplicable, the human reaction to it is equally strange.
      Forget for a moment whatever you've seen in movies, print or on TV exploiting controversy. The facts present a far more interesting picture. Much is readily verifiable. Add to this all the claims, speculation and beliefs and the whole thing becomes even more fascinating. What follows is an overview. If you wish to learn more there are web links to a wealth of further information at the end.

      Despite their conspicuous public nature, frequency, inexplicability and profound implications, most people simply ignore crop circles. Of those who are willing to go so far as to give them a bit of consideration the majority dismiss them as hoaxes. Among the skeptics are a curious minority who are adamant in their dismissal and become angry and even aggressive if anyone doesn't agree. It's as if denial is really important, and serious consideration of the circles is not only mistaken but dangerous or willfully evil. Only a small minority consider the phenomena with an open mind and think that crop circles are worthy of serious attention.

      The patterns range from simple circles of flattened crop a few meters across, to elaborate geometric designs hundreds of meters wide comprised of several hundred elements of lines and curves. Many of the designs incorporate very sophisticated geometry. Frequently they involve multiple levels of form and relationship. This may include superimposed figures, the combining of 2D and 3D elements, hidden elements defined by visible ones, perceptual ambiguity and complex mathematical positioning and proportioning. Without getting sidetracked into a more detailed discussion here suffice it to say the level of geometric complexity is often far greater than is apparent without careful measurement and analysis. Whoever is responsible is capable of and interested in more than just casual visual appearance. For the mathematically inclined or those interested in more detailed information on crop circle geometry an excellent little book, Crop Circles, The Hidden Form by Nick Kollerstrom is recommended. (See:
sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_0_1/202-9165483-3299044 ) .  For a detailed online presen-tation of  crop circle geometry see: circles_en.htm )
      Effects on downed crops in the formations cannot be accounted for either by human or any known natural causation. Stalks that are beautifully laid side by side can have contrasting patterns that go five layers deep. Small plaited and woven tents and nests are features that frequently appear. Unbroken stems of downed crop appear to have been heated and bent rather than simply flattened by a physical force that would leave most stems broken. To further the mystery, the stem nodes often are elongated or exploded. Strange growth and germination effects in seeds from downed crop are also well documented. Unexplainable magnetic and other soil anomalies have repeatedly been found. This evidence is compelling. It is based on well conducted research, carried out by qualified and reputable scientists and published in respected peer reviewed journals. It clearly indicates unexplained forces are involved in forming crop circles.
      Another notable aspect of the circles is the diversity of design. Although recognizable themes are often followed, each figure is unique. Taken as a whole the formations constitute an impressive body of very sophisticated art.

Impressive Examples from England
      In 1996, a 915' long spiral design made of 151 circles appeared opposite Stonehenge (see sidebar). It arrived within a 45 minute period in the afternoon (most circles form overnight). Several witnesses reported it was not there before 5.30 p.m., but just after 6.00 p.m. the huge figure was spotted and subsequently seen by thousands of persons. A "Julia set," It was the first of many fractal patterns.
      Three weeks after that, the so called Triple Julia appeared (see sidebar). It was a design made up of 194 circles looking like three of the single Julia fractals, radiating out from a center. It actually was three spiral arms constructed so that the first three circles from the center, and all succeeding trios, when viewed from above, formed equilateral triangles. Another thing about this extraordinary formation was that its circles alternated between clockwise and counter-clockwise swirls. Also, each had a unique standing-crop center.
      August, 2001, saw the largest formation ever (see title image). It was at Milk Hill on the Wansdyke, the highest point in Wiltshire. Despite arriving during a pouring rainstorm no muddy footprints were detected in it. It was the size of two football fields and was constructed of 409 circles in an eight armed "Catherine Wheel," named for the fourth century's Catherine of Alexandria.
      Later in August, 2001, two images appeared a week apart in a field next to the radio telescope at Chilbolton, Hampshire  (see sidebar). One was a dot matrix humanoid face; the other was remarkably similar to the binary coded image sent from the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rice to commemorate a major power increase in the world's most powerful such instrument. The crop circle appears to give info about "them" that corresponds to the info about "us" contained in the Arecibo message.
      Then, in August, 2002, at Crabwood, near Chilbolton, Hampshire, an alien face holding a data disk appeared  (see sidebar). The disk contained a dot/dash spiral of flattened crop encoded in ASCII, which read, "Beware the bearers of FALSE gifts & their BROKEN PROMISES. Much PAIN but still time. BELIEvE. There is GOOD out there. We OPpose DECEPTION. Conduit CLOSING. Acknowledge."  (See sidebar)

      Crop circles have been reported in 63 countries, on every continent but Antarctica. In terms of frequency and sophistication of design, southern England, which gets between 75 and 300 formations a year, is by far the leading area.

      Anecdotal accounts of circles go back to the last half of the 1800s, from stories people remember grandparents telling them when they were young about playing in circles as children. A seventeenth century woodcut depicts the Devil creating what looks very much like a crop circle. The current wave of interest began in the early 1980s in England and intensified from 1989 onward. It has been suggested that the complexity and frequency of the circles have increased as heightened interest has been shown them. It is difficult however, to clearly distinguish cause from effect in this regard.
      In England, circles appear as early as April and as late as September, during the whole growing cycle of crops. Often they are not even detected until the farmer harvests a field.

Eye Witnesses
      There are less than a dozen credible dozen eye-witness accounts of circles forming. All are similar in describing an invisible force appearing out of nowhere and flattening the crops in seconds. Strange lights and high-pitched sounds typically have been experienced as well.

      The media, most of the public, and devout skeptics prefer the hoax hypothesis. With it, the whole phenomenon can comfortably be dismissed.
      In 1990, a watch was mounted on a likely field by the BBC, Japanese television and the British army. The crop circle experts very publicly declared a "hit" when a circle soon appeared, only to discover they had been deliberately fooled -- perhaps by the army, which was off that day. The specter of hoax was first raised, and a certain amount of indifference by the public started to creep in.
      In 1991, two regular pub customers in rural England "confessed" to making the circles. The media jumped on the story as an exposÚ, and Doug and Dave enjoyed public attention despite the illogic of their stories and the ineptitude of their crude demonstrations. After this, hoax became the accepted explanation and other hoaxers have come forth to claim "me too" status.
      The inadequacies of the hoax explanation are manifold. Hundreds of circles were reported before Doug and Dave claimed responsibility. Neither they nor any other claimants have ever demonstrated anything that comes close to the elegance, complexity, size, geometry and precision of those of unknown origin. Their attempts also produce none of the plant changes and other anomalies found in these. Even to lay out the pattern of a complex formation would take a team of surveyors several days. To believe the hoax explanation one must be willing to think that all over the world, night after night, year after year, teams of highly skilled people are creeping around in the dark constructing huge complex designs, never making a noticeable mistake, and, even though many sites are visible from heavily traveled roads, never being caught, disrupted or observed. Interestingly, even a strict quarantine on travel in areas affected by the recent foot and mouth disease epidemic seemed to have had little effect on circle formation. All this would seem certain to try anyone's capacity to believe hoaxers alone account for the phenomena. Amazingly it hasn't. To the contrary, the hoax explanation has been widely accepted without so much as even questioning it
      Even more remarkably, it is in fact the professional skeptics who seem most ready, even determined, to swallow this whole mess of human deception, duplicity and delusion and angrily defend it against any expression of doubt. It would appear that most avowed skeptics aren't truly skeptics at all but only another variety of believer to whom science is not a method but a faith, in which no possibility of reality can be attributed anything not already known to science at this time. The fact that new scientific discoveries are made every year apparently has no relevance to the believers in the completeness of their faith.

      Despite an abundance of ongoing physical evidence with which to work the mainstream scientific establishment has almost totally ignored the crop circle phenomena. Most of the research that has been conducted has been by individuals on their own without access to high level facilities plus a few maverick academics whose work is not accorded much credibility by the mainstream. Science is as much about credibility, verification and acceptance as it is about discovery. Although the independent investigations strongly indicate unusual events it is difficult to assess their validity. Some of the independent research appears well founded. Much does not meet normal scientific standards of techniques, controls and verification. In science unusual findings not coming from recognized sources by way of established journals tend to be simply ignored
      The BLT Research Team is one important exception. They have mainstream credentials, facilities and backing and have been investigating the circles for some years. They have found unusual and difficult to explain alterations in the cell structure of the crop plants, changes to the composition of the soil in circles, and growth abnormalities in the plants involved. This work been conducted using up to date methods and techniques, published in peer reviewed scientific journals and are of a nature so as to be readily accessible to verification. Some of their findings have also been independently confirmed by the Dutch researcher Eltjo Hasselhoff.
      BLT offer a hypothesis of some involvement of plasma vortices in the actual creation of the formations, and under laboratory conditions small plasma vortices sometimes do execute simple geometric figures, but their involvement in circle formation is purely conjecture and actual measurement or detection of such vortices have not been made. Conditions of temperature, pressure and energy gradients required for plasma vortex formation in the laboratory are far removed from those occurring naturally in the atmosphere. The capacity to execute a few simple geometric forms also does not explain a vast array of unique, elegant and highly complex designs so even if plasma vortices do exist and are involved what is directing them poses a still greater mystery.
      One report (} on short lived radio-nucleotides from a crop circle indicates that something even more puzzling and powerful may well be involved.
      In addition to the above examples a number of individual researchers have looked into and speculated on crop circles but very little else in the way of firm evidence has been published in the primary scientific literature. Basic research on circles using well accepted methodologies with results reported in mainstream journals is especially needed in that it presents a form and presence that can not be so easily dismissed. Such would a wedge in the door to broader consideration both by science and the wider society.
      Recently (October 2002) NASA at Space Center Houston featured a public crop circle exhibition. This provoked strong criticism from both scientists and the media. The objections basically amounted to a hoax being the only acceptable explanation and open minded presentation by NASA lent credibility to consideration of other possibilities. It appears that to many the hoax explanation has achieved the status of political correctness whereby even considering anything else is deemed highly improper.
      Even more recently (January 2003) a BBC Science online report took a decidedly open minded look at crop circles. While not endorsing any conclusions it presented clear evidence and argument that they cannot be either readily explained or dismissed as hoaxes.
      It appears we are edging closer to the point where mainstream science begins to acknowledge something inexplicable and non-trivial is taking place. Like the emperor with no clothes that recognition would open the way to a more general public acknowledgment of circles as an unexplained phenomena of some significance, not simply a prank. The web links at the end of this essay provide access to more detail on research findings and current efforts.

Secret Government
      Among those inclined to a conspiracy view of the world, suspicion of secret military activity finds some support. While there is evidence of military interest in the phenomena (at least in England) there is no evidence or reasonable supposition as to why, how or if they might be involved in creating it. This explanation raises much the same doubt as does the hoax hypothesis in respect to night after night, year after year activity, no mistakes, very sophisticated designs, and no one being caught. The idea of testing some kind of top secret technology by spending decades using it to inscribe elegant art in farmers' fields hardly demands serious consideration. Large-scale, long term secret conspiracies are an oxymoron. People talk. What leaks may be incomplete and distorted but rumors invariably start to circulate. In the case of circles the rumors are only raw suspicion and they lack any of the details or specifics that inevitably accompany reality.
      Disinformation is another matter. The multiple branches of intelligence sponsored by modern governments embody a world of secrecy, suspicion and deceit. They enjoy considerable freedom of action with loose accountability and oversight. Within limits they are free to do what they please. It is quite possible, even probable, something that is ongoing, public, large scale, inexplicable and outside the control or even understanding of government would be seen as a potential threat. Widespread public awareness of such things might well be perceived as undesirable. With no benefit apparent and some detriment possible from public awareness, a decision to play crop circles down, at least until more is known, could be seen as sensible. It is not inconceivable that encouraging or even instigating some doubt and discredit might have been decided upon.

Aliens and Mystico-religious
      Beyond what might be called the "normal" explanations are a miscellany of ideas and beliefs that are outside consensus reality. These include involvement of spirits or extra-terrestrial or other-dimensional beings. The appearance of strange lights, UFO sightings, equipment failures, electromagnetic disturbances, remarkable coincidences and various psycho-physiological effects are offered as anecdotal support. There is no evidence, theory, or argument to evaluate. Here, we are outside the realm of science and rational understanding.
      Hollywood has made its contribution in this area with the big budget film, "Signs," released in August, 2002. It depicts the circles as involved with sinister activity by extra-terrestrials that produces justifiable, even admirable, violent human response. The benign reality of the real phenomena is ignored as is the likely real world outcome of attacking aliens who are vastly more technologically advanced than we are.

      In terms of human-made explanations, a hoax or prank is one thing. Decades of effort for no conceivable return is quite another. The secret military activity hypothesis fails to suggest any answer. They have large areas reserved for their exclusive use. On farms they would run a good risk of being observed and of damage claims and conflicts with civilian authorities.
      In terms of aliens from elsewhere in the universe, scoffers ask, "Why would they come trillions of miles to make graffiti in farmers' fields?" This rhetorical question has been used by skeptics to point out the ridiculousness of the idea of non-human involvement in circle creation. In fact, it much more clearly demonstrates the naivety of the questioner. There is clear evidence for some kind of sentient involvement. There is no credible explanation for human origination. There is no need to presume that aliens must come from far away, that they would come only for this purpose, or that to produce the circles they must in fact be here. They could have been here all along, live just next door in another dimension, or be doing it remotely.

      Although the origin, methodology and purpose of crop circles remain unknown, the evidence is sufficient to make some reasonable assumptions: They are intended for us. An unknown force is involved in their formation. Their design reflects a high level of intelligence. They are not so much intended to instruct with specific information as to provoke thought and awareness. Their intent is benign and care is being taken not to harm anyone. Their frequency and their content have a relationship to the response they receive. There is no reason to suspect human origination other than the lack of any other explanation. There is no reason to not suspect involvement of non-human intelligence other than a refusal to consider such a possibility.

      We are confronted with the true unknown and anything is conceivable. However, it is still possible to proceed a bit further without abandoning either reason or what we understand to be reality. What follows isn't a belief or even a theory but rather some observations and possibilities that may be worth further consideration.
     Evidence is beginning to accumulate that planets are a common, perhaps ubiquitous accompaniment of star formation. In every galaxy there are likely millions, perhaps billions of planets of a size and orbit suitable for life. The elements and compounds necessary for life are widespread. The probability of life being restricted to Earth alone is remote. The probability of it being widespread seems overwhelming. Natural selection assures that over time life will evolve forms with better and better mobility, sensory and nervous systems, cooperation, communication and the ability to manipulate their environment.
      It is not unthinkable to imagine an advanced society that has abandoned hardware in favor of an advanced capacity for more direct manipulation of the world. Via quantum entanglement it might even be able to effect real time awareness and a form of presence wherever it chooses. A technology vastly more advanced than our own might well be unrecognizable to us. Assuming it should have to resemble a sophisticated version of our own is at best naive and most probably simply wrong.
      There are many stars much older than our sun. Life forms far more evolved than we are must be common. So where are they? Why isn't SETI picking up a cacophony of signals from advanced civilizations? Why aren't extraterrestrial spacecraft zooming around everywhere? Why haven't they announced themselves or taken over and rounded us up for some nefarious purpose? The answer could be they don't exist but it seems more likely it's because they don't behave like we do and possess capabilities we can't recognize or even imagine.
      More and more powerful technology also provides more and more power to destroy. Security becomes ever more difficult and breaches more devastating. A truly advanced civilization cannot survive without an accompanying advance in its psycho-social structure. This would seemingly have to involve high levels of cooperation, mutual concern and tolerance, abandonment of violence as a tool of government, and the abolition of destructive technology, i.e. weaponry.
      Advanced technology would likely afford long life and low mortality. A society which kept on growing would soon run out of space and resources. Any advanced civilization will have had to come to grips with the finiteness of its world and its limits. If the current rate of global population growth of the past 50 years were to continue we would need to send 15,000 people an hour to another planet just to keep growth in check. In another 50 years we would have to start occupying two more planets and in a thousand years we would have filled up a million Earths. Only 500 years after that we would have overrun a billion.
      Fortunately global growth appears to be rapidly decreasing. Most developed countries already have a rate of increase that is below replacement level and the latest UN population report shows dramatic falls in birth rates in various developing nations. Once one comes to terms with the necessity of zero population growth it's a whole different game. Then the only real question becomes what is optimal size? Without going into detail here, suffice it to say that taking into account a broad range of factors including resource availability, environmental impacts, productivity, sustainability, and psycho-social effects it appears the optimum is somewhat less than the current level.
      It does not seem improbable that advanced consciousnesses would have an awareness of self broader than our current one and would recognize a commonality in all consciousness. It is also not unreasonable that they might take care to avoid detrimental effects on more primitive cultures.
      We likely would have nothing they want. And they likely would have access to anything they wished to know about us without our being aware of it. Announcing themselves without our being prepared might do more harm than any benefit to us. Providing us with knowledge of far more advanced technology would surely be disastrous -- at this stage of our development it would be like giving high explosives to teen age boys.
      Seen from the perspective of a culture further advanced than our own, we would be nearing a critical stage of our evolution, when we either will start thinking sensibly about what we are doing or possibly even destroy ourselves. Crop circles could be a gently nudge to wake us up and to provoke fresh new thinking.

     Serious investigation of the crop circles phenomenon is warranted. It promises to be important and could well be profound. Any human-made explanation would have to be fascinating; a conclusion that non-human intelligence is involved would truly be profound.
      Are we ready for such a possibility?
      We face great and growing dangers of our own making. If advice is being offered, we would be foolish indeed to ignore it. If we are on our own and it's totally up to us to figure out for ourselves what to do, we are going to have to be a lot more determined to pursue reason, accept truth and be open to possibilities than we ever have been before. Either way, the same mindset is required, and attention to the circles is a good place to start.

      The author is indebted to the following persons for valuable information and suggestions on crop circles: Suzanne Taylor of, Lucy Pringle (photographer and independent researcher), Marshall Dudley ( physicist ) and Jim Lyons (aeronautical engineer).














The Remarkable Geometry
of Crop Circles

The design of crop circles encompasses the full spectrum of figures and ratios of geometry.  These are not just freehand doodles.  They incorporate such things as the golden mean, harmonic internals, the union of square and circle, fractals, prime numbers, and other sophisticated relationships.  

The ratio of increasing sizes of circles (above) is such that the the logarithm of the logarithm of sizes is a straight line. The 12 circles stand on a visible circle and touch an outer invisible circle. Then the outer design is reduced and converted into a mirror image that nicely balances the inside.  Designing this was a decidedly non-trivial maths problem

The more you look the more you see.

                                                      after Kollerstrom 2002

                                                     diagram by Lucy Pringle
This triple spiral expands with the square of the golden ratio Φ per 90░ of rotation.   Φ is unique in that its square is one more than itself and its reciprocal is one less. Its higher powers can likewise be expressed in terms of itself.  The Fibonacci series (1, 1, 2, 3, 5 , 8 etc.) in which each succeeding number is the sum of the previous two is expressed in many natural phenomena.  In it the ratio of each succeeding pair converges upon Φ. It is especially prominent in organic growth.

 For more on this one see: IMAGE COMMENTARY

Looks fairly simple doesn't it?  Like many crop circles the geometry is actually very complex.  Constructing this one involves laying out an array of 60 circles and 3 hexagrams, then keeping track of what parts of  the confusing mass of overlapping circles actually constitutes the design.  For a full step by step explanation see: Reconstruction of the West Overton 23-06-2002 formation

This 915 foot long figure appeared on a Sunday afternoon near Stonehenge  within plain view of a busy highway.  At 5:30 p.m. witnesses report it was not there then shortly after 6:00 p.m. it was first noticed. 

Close up of a circle element.

A Strange Message

In August, 2002, at Crabwood, near Chilbolton, Hampshire this appeared.

               Detail of data disk portion of above.
Encoded in ASCII, it read:  "Beware the bearers of FALSE gifts & their BROKEN PROMISES. Much PAIN but still time. BELIEvE. There is GOOD out there. We OPpose DECEPTION. Conduit CLOSING. Acknowledge."

Crop circles have been reported worldwide but they are most common and more sophisticated in southern England than anywhere else.  The photos in this feature are all from Wiltshire and Hampshire.


Crop Circles the Movie, website for an excellent two hour documentary video on the crop circle phenomenon. Also available in many video rental stores.  Well worth viewing, including the extra material on the DVD version.

Mighty Companions, Suzanne Taylor's personal gateway site to the circle phenomenon, including links to good selection of other sites

Swirled News, news, archives and links on crop circles.

Crop Circle News, new U.S. portal on crop circle information. Under development but already interesting. 

Crop Circle, informative site with focus on various independent research.

Zef Damen Crop Circle Reconstructions, the remarkable geometry of crop circles revealed.

Crop Circle Connector, various info, many links.

Lucy Pringle's Homepage, many excellent photos, interesting personal accounts and information from ongoing, long term personal research in the effects of crop circles on living systems.

Temporary Temples, more excellent photography.

Crop Circle Reconstructions, diagrams of circle formations revealing their very sophisticated geometry. Very impressive.

Bert Janssen Homepage, more interesting reconstructions, photos and other information.

Canadian Crop Circle Research Network, as per name.

Invisible Circle, information on continental European circles.

BLT Research Team Inc., U.S. based scientific research group devoted to crop circles.

Dutch Centre for Crop Circle Studies, Information on the work of Eltjo Hasselhoff and other European researchers

Population vs. Life Quality

U.N. Human Development Report, ranks 162 countries in terms of life expectancy, educational attainment and adjusted real income.

World Gazetteer, population density of nations per Km▓.

Finfacts Survey, ranks overall quality of life for major cities around the world.