Group travels to Salton Sea to debunk flat earth theory to believers

0610 flat earth

SALTON SEA, Calif. - A crowd gathered at the Salton Sea for a rather unusual reason Sunday morning. It's where demonstrations were being done to debunk the flat earth theory.

Waves rippled through at the sea with a crowd of people gathered around. They aren't so much sightseeing but demonstrating science by proving the earth is round.

"There's been an increase in the belief in the flat earth and we've decided to sort of address this in person,” James Underdown, executive director for the Center for Inquiry Los Angeles, said.

It sounds like something straight out of a history textbook, but around 30 flat earth believers were out at the sea, like Mark Sargent, a prominent member of the community who was convinced after reading about it online.

"Nine months later, I'm banging my head on the computer, i said, you know what, I'm going to go the other way with this. I'm not going to prove the globe anymore, I'm going to see if i can prove flat earth,” he said.

Underdown is out to debunk the theory with the Independent Investigations Group, a non-profit focused using scientific means to investigate extraordinary claims. One demonstration involved a boat based target with horizontal stripes.

"We sent the boat out into the water and the farther it goes, the more the stripes disappear."

That's meant to prove the curvature of the earth, however he flat earthers disagreed sparking some debate.

"Anyone convinced from your group that the earth is round,” News Channel 3’s & CBS Local 2’s Jeremy Chen asked Sargent. “Not a's flat,” he said.

While the experiments at the Salton Sea were to establish one particular scientific fact, with the rise of fake news and the rise in pseudoscience this group is trying to make sure that they're able to do their part to stamp it out.

"So to deny science, disregard and disrespect science I think is a very unhealthy thing that goes on in our society,” Underdown said.

He said groups like the flat earth are gaining numbers with through of social media. It's not a surprise to him, no minds were changed from flat earthers.

"That's a self selecting group, they're obviously not convinced by all the other evidence that is out there that proves and reinforced the idea of a globe earth,” he said.

Underdown hopes he can do his part to inform the public with scientific facts and analysis, but for now the debates continue with no real wave of convincing for either side.


National Geographic Explorer will profile the Salton Sea demonstrations in their show later this year.

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