Some people cruise to Vancouver to watch whales; some people cruise to the Bahamas to get tan; some people, equipped with $20,000 and a complete disregard for scientific opinion, will cruise to 84.4 N, 141 E abord a chartered Russian icebreaker in search of the entrance to the hollow earth (link via Les Orchard). The idea of mysterious underground civilizations reached via a hole at the North Pole dates to John Cleve Symmes 1818 declaration that "the earth is hollow and habitable within, containing a number of solid, concentric spheres, one within the other, and that it is open at the poles twelve or sixteen degrees"; it wouldn’t be much fun to just take a cruise to a hole, however, so passengers and crew of Voyage Hollow Earth are probably hoping to discover something more exciting — perhaps a "lush green hole", a hidden piece of jungle within the earth in the Arctic Circle. With any luck, this savage land will not contain bare-chested Tarzan clones. But the idea of a lost world filled with prehistoric creatures wasn’t original to Stan Lee; he cribbed it quite neatly from Arthur Conan Doyle’s well-titled book about a mysterious plateau in South America. Part of a series of scientific romances by Doyle, the book was a reasonable depiction of state-of-the-art Victorian paleontology. If the Yanomami people of the Amazon could live isolated, without the wheel, steel tools, or a counting system that went beyond "more than two", why couldn’t the lost valley of Shangri-La exist? (It did, almost; it was part mountain kingdom of Tibet, not opened to the outside world until the Great Game of struggle for Central Asia ran straight into it, part Hunza, that secluded valley of green-eyed Pakistanis in the Hindu Kush.) If Australia could be home to oddities like the Tasmanian tiger — which some insist did not die out sixy years ago — why should it be so odd for the coelacanth to turn up off the coast of Africa in 1938, calmly swimming as though it were 400 million years ago? In 1933 and 1934, the quiet tens along the Great Glen Fault were overrun by newspapermen looking for a dinosaur-like creature in Loch Ness. The creature might have existed, once, but the surgeon’s photo that fascinated cryptozoologists for decades was, alas, a fake. It would be a clever wee creature to survive thousands of years in a populous area without anyone knowing, but the idea sold newspapers and when reporters squinted just right, it seemed possible. And so when Arthur Conan Doyle showed what seemed to be newsreel footage of dinosaurs at play, the New York Times admitted that it had no idea what to think. Revolutionary discovery? Spiritualist message from beyond? Clever hoax? It was none of them; it was the work of a genius named Willis O’Brien, and they called it The Lost World.