Two years ago, Patrick Geryl, then 51, quit his job as a laboratory worker for a French oil company. He'd saved up just enough money to last him until December 2012. After that, he thought, he wouldn't need it anyway.
Instead, Geryl, a soft-spoken man who had studied chemistry in his younger years, started preparing for the apocalypse. He founded a "survival group" for likeminded men and women, aimed at living through the catastrophe he knew was coming.
He started gathering materials necessary to survive — water purifiers, wheelbarrows (with spare tires), dust masks and vegetable seeds. His list of survival goods runs 11 pages long.
"You have to understand, there will be nothing, nothing left," Geryl told ABC News from his home in Antwerp, Belgium. "We will have to start an entire civilization from scratch."
That's because Geryl believes the world as we know it will end in 2012. He points to the ancient Maya cyclical calendars, the longest of which last renewed itself approximately 5,125 years ago and is set to end again, supposedly with catastrophic consequences, in 2012. He speaks of the ancient Egyptians, who, he claims, saw 2012 as a year of great change too. And he points to science: NASA predicts a sharp increase in the number of sunspots and sun flares for 2012, he said, sure to cause electrical failures and satellite disruptions.
All this adds up, Geryl said, to unprecedented catastrophe. First, a polar reversal will cause the north to become the south and the sun to rise in the west. Shattering earthquakes, massive tidal waves and simultaneous volcanic eruptions will follow. Nuclear reactors will melt, buildings will crumble, and a cloud of volcanic dust will block out the sun for 40 years. Only the prepared will survive, Geryl said, and not even all of them.
These may sound like the ravings of a madman, or perhaps the head of a small apocalyptic sect. But Geryl is not the only one who believes in the apocalypse. Thousands of people worldwide seem to be preparing, in one way or another, for the end of days in 2012. Survival groups exist in Europe, Canada and the United States. A simple Google search for "2012" and "the end of the world" brings up nearly 300,000 hits. And the video-sharing Web site YouTube hosts more than 65,000 clips informing and warning viewers about their fate in 2012.
"It's bigger than Y2K," said Mark van Stone, a specialist of Maya hieroglyphic writings and author of a forthcoming book on 2012. "The year is like a pop song or a popular movie. You type in 2012, and you get hundreds of thousands of hits."
Dennis McClung, 28, a project manager for Home Depot from Phoenix, Ariz., runs one of the Web sites dedicated to 2012, an online survival supply store, which sells gas masks, knife kits, bullet-proof vests and more.
"I'm not a firm believer in one specific prophecy," said McClung, who runs his site with his wife, Danielle. "But I think we ought to be prepared for anything."
Even with December 2012 still 4½ years away, McClung said business is booming. His Web site, which features an "official 2012 countdown" clock and exhorts customers to "be smart, be ready," averages several thousand visitors a week. McClung's best-sellers, he said, are emergency medical supplies and water purifiers.
"I get a lot of hits from India. I get a lot of hits from the Netherlands," McClung said. "But my No. 1 customer is the U.S."