The Iron Pipes of the Qaidam Basin

February 27, 2009 Updated: September 14, 2012

An Oopart (Out Of Place ARTifact) is a term applied to dozens of prehistoric objects found in various places around the world that, given their level of technology, are completely at odds with their determined age based on physical, chemical, and/or geological evidence. Ooparts often are frustrating to conventional scientists and a delight to adventurous investigators and individuals interested in alternative scientific theories.

In 2002, a team of scientists ventured to China’s Qinghai Province to investigate mysterious metal ducts found in the Qaidam Basin. Investigators have discovered that these pipes must have been manufactured in the remote past, at a time when mankind is thought to have possessed only the most primitive technology. Locals, however, believe that these relics are the product of an extraterrestrial culture.

While many sections and pieces of pipe can be found strewn throughout the area, a number of these pieces are located at the foot of Mount Baigong, in a pyramidal structure that is nearly 200 feet high. The pyramid has three triangular-shape caves. While two of the caves have collapsed, the third features a metal pipe about 16 inches in diameter with a visible outlet. A second pipe of equal diameter runs outside along the mountain and into the earth.

At the entrance to the cave are nearly a dozen pipes from 4 inches to 15.7 inches in diameter. Investigators say these pieces provide some evidence as to how the pipes were assembled.

More iron pipe pieces can be found on the shore of Lake Toson, about 260 feet from the caves, scattered among the sand and rocks. These pipes are oriented in an east-west direction, and have diameters between .08 and 1.8 inches.

The pipes from the lake feature several different openings, with the smallest being as narrow as a toothpick. Some of these have outlets that open right at the water’s surface and some are found below. However, they are not obstructed despite having spent an untold number of years in water and sand.  So who would build such an elaborate system of pipes and what function did it serve?

Qin Jianwen, head of the publicity department of the Delingha government, told China’s People’s Daily that the high altitude and harsh climate make the area virtually inhospitable. Yet he observed that these very conditions also make the site the perfect place for conducting astronomical research, as evidenced by the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ large radio telescope found nearby.

A few scraps of the strange metal pipes were taken to a local smeltery in hopes that they would give investigators a better understanding of the alloy used in manufacturing the pipes. Chemical analysis revealed that the pipes are composed of 30 percent ferric oxide and a large percentage of silicon dioxide and calcium oxide. Eight percent of the metal from the pipes could not be identified.

According to experts, the large amount of silicon dioxide and calcium oxide found on the pipes is the result of a long interaction between iron and sandstone. This is something that could have occurred only if the pipes were made long ago, during a time when man is not believed to have had the technological sophistication to have created such things.

The Mount Baigong area is fairly remote. It has no industrial and urban development; the only residents are the nomadic herdsmen who live to the north of the mountain. It leaves us to wonder whether this elaborate system of pipes was created by aliens, an advanced human civilization of the remote past, or is it the product of a less mysterious origin? While locals have their own theories on the matter, scientists have yet to make a conclusion.