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Halley Research Station is a research facility in Antarctica. This image is of a Halley VI building consisting of eight modules mounted on hydraulic legs to keep snow from rising.

Or Antarctica does not really have permanent inhabitants, there can be several thousand people on the continent at any time, up to 5,000 people during the summer season. In summer, the number of tourists significantly exceeds the number of “residents”. Of course, people do not really “live” in Antarctica, as in other places, they usually come and work for a few months or a year or two.

There are two places in Antarctica that can (perhaps) be considered “settlements”. The first is the Chilean Villa Las Estrellas base (a little over 100 in summer, over 80 in winter), and the second is the Argentine Esperanza base (55 winter residents). Both have facilities such as schools, doctors, gyms, etc. However, they are not the largest settlements.

However, the vast majority of people in Antarctica, at any given time, are found on research. These bases are closer to research stations, military bases or oil installations than real cities (although, as we will see, there is a city pool). They can accommodate several dozen people, or in some cases (especially in summer) several hundred. Let’s look at some of these basics.

The basis of the orcade

Orcas Station on Laurel Island, South Orkney Islands.

After the discovery of Antarctica in 1820, it took researchers about 100 years to reach the pole. Founded in 1903 by Dr. William S. Bruce Scotland National Antarctic Expedition Omond House, a meteorological station on the island of Laurie, off the coast of Antarctica.

During the expedition, the crew was stuck in the ice, unable to navigate, so they stayed at the station during the winter. Bruce left the station in December of that year for Buenos Aires for assistance. He became ambitious during the trip. Not only did he want to get his staff out, but he also wanted to continue scientific research in the area. Thus, for 5,000 pesos, he managed to commit the Argentine government to a scientific mission. In 1906, Argentina handed over to the international community the creation of a permanent base, thus establishing the Orcadas base. It has remained the only stronghold of Antarctica for 40 years and has been conducting meteorological observations since 1903.

Founded by Orcadas in 1927

Nowadays, the base has 11 buildings, in addition to meteorological research, it focuses on three other topics: continental glaciology, seismology, and icy sea ice. The base can accommodate 45 people in summer and about 14 in winter. Orcadas Base is also the Destacamento Lighthouse Lighthouse, a navigation light mounted on a communication tower guarded by the Argentine Navy.

McMurdo Station:

The US McMurdo Sound base has a staff of up to 1,000 at peak hours, the closest you can find to Antarctica cities.

McMurdo (called “Mac-Town” by its inhabitants) is a strange beast. It has a post office, Burger King, McDonald’s, three bars, several restaurants and coffee shops. If you look at the map app, you will probably get the mood of a small town. But McMurdo is nothing more than average.

McMurdo Station: Image: US Antarctic Project.

It was established in 1956. It can accommodate up to 1258 people in summer and about 250 people in winter.

At first it was assumed that the McMurdo plant would operate from the nuclear power plant, but this did not happen for several years. The plant was built in 1962 with a generator that produced 1.8 MW of electricity (equivalent to 1,500 gallons (or 5,700 liters) of oil per day). However, the plant was decommissioned in 1972 and replaced with conventional diesel generators. The desalination plant also uses electricity to supply fresh water to the plant.

2009 Currently, McMurdo is also trying to reduce its impact on the environment. Three wind turbines were installed to power the base, which reduced diesel fuel consumption by 11%.

McMurdo Station in November 2003. The image is in the public domain.

The main purpose of McMurdo Station is scientific research. With more than 100 buildings, including a state-of-the-art science station, a port, three airports and even two ATMs, most of its staff, however, are unscientific and ensure the station’s logistics work properly. McMurdo even has a greenhouse, whether you believe it or not, it is far from the only Antarctic. There are a total of nine greenhouses on the frozen continent. In addition to McMurdo, there are greenhouses Casey, Davis, Mawson (Australia), Great Wall (China), Syowa (Japan aponia), King Sejong, Jang Bogo (South Korea) and Scott Base (New Zealand).

McMurdo is the only Antarctic stronghold where protests have taken place. During the rally, about 50 scientists and employees of the station gathered to protest against the US invasion of Iraq.

Bellinghausen station

The foundation of Bellingshausen in winter.

Bellingshausen was one of the first research stations founded by the Soviet Antarctic Expedition in 1968. It also contains something that is very rare in Antarctica. Church – the only orthodox Orthodox church on the continent.

The station also has all the mildest weather in Antarctica from all the stations, but isolation can still be quite harmful to human health.

The interior of the Trinity Church at the station.

In 2018, Russian scientific engineer Sergei Savitsky stabbed welder Oleg Beloguzov several times. Reason? Savitsky was tired of spoiling the endings of Beloguzov’s book.

They both became avid readers for spending time in the turbulent environment of Antarctica, but Beloguzov was one step ahead. Every time Savitsky took a book from the library, his end was spoiled. One night after a heavy drink և emotional breakdown, the two got into a fight, which ended in a severe stabbing. The victim barely made it, but during the next trial he forgave his attacker և the case was dismissed.

This is not the only horrific attack in Antarctica. In 1959, at the Russian station (Vostok), the scientist simply lost it after defeating chess and killed his opponent with an ax. Following further investigation, chess was banned at Russian Antarctic stations.

Neumayer-Station III:

The German Neumayer-Station III is much more peaceful, but it has its problems. It is located 200 meters (660 feet) thick on the Ekström glacier and moves to the high seas at a speed of about 200 meters per year.

In addition to the station itself, several small remote sensing platforms were set up 900 to 1500 m (3,000 to 4,900 feet) from the main station to eliminate any potential noise that might come from the station itself. Magnetic, seismic, acoustic-chemical measurements are performed at these stations.

The greenhouse of the station. Image: DLR.

The station can accommodate only about 50 people in summer (and only 9 people in winter). In 2018, a separate hydroponics research module was installed to grow crops to use hydroponics on Mars.

Esperanza database

The Esperanza base (meaning “Hope”) is just one of two civilian strongholds in Antarctica. The Argentine base has 43 buildings and in winter can accommodate 55 residents, including 10 families և 2 school teachers. The base also has tourist facilities, which are visited by about 1100 tourists every year.

The base of Esperanza, visible from Hope Bay.

It is noteworthy that 8 people were born in Esperanza, it is not a coincidence. Argentina used it as a means to strengthen its claims on Antarctic soil. In 1977, Argentina sent a pregnant woman to Antarctica to give birth in Esperanza, which she repeated several times until 1983. Unfortunately for Argentina, the move did not receive the international recognition that Argentina had hoped for. The 1959 Treaty of Antarctica views the continent as an open laboratory for all;

The bases of Antarctica are, in fact, research stations, but they also serve a geopolitical role. Currently, seven states have territorial claims on the continent, which makes it quite fun to make the continent look like a pie chart.

Villa Las Estrellas:

The other civic settlement on the continent is the Chilean Villa Las Estrellas, with 150 summer cottages and a winter population of 80. The Chilean government considers it to be located in the commune of Antarctica, և Chile և Argentina Antarctica is considered a continuation of the Andes Mountains.

This makes some sense. Some geologists consider Antarctica, a mountain range in northern Antarctica, to be a continuation of the Andes. Politically, however, things are not going as well as Latin American countries would like.

Chile decided to take a page from the book of Argentina, but it made it more heated. They recently sent a married couple to Antarctica to conceive and give birth to their first child in Antarctica.

Like Esperanza, Villa Las Estrellas also has an elementary school that educates about 15 children in the community. It is distinguished by the Chilean Air Force Hospital, which is staffed with one doctor, a nurse, and equipped with dignity. However, as of 2018, all visitors to the database will need to uninstall the application due to limited medical equipment.

Villa Las Estrellas. View to the bay from.

The base has a post office, which is open in summer and has become a tourist attraction. There is also a dormitory and a small souvenir shop run by the women of the town.

Among the sights of the base is the gym. The main unit of the community – the gym – contains tennis, basketball, volleyball, as well as ping-pong tables, exercise machines and even a sauna. The gymnasium is also used for cultural and scientific activities.


These are just a few of the 70 permanent research stations in Antarctica. Dozens of people are closed, there are some that are open only in summer.

Life in Antarctica is rough. That is why, despite some experiments, the continent is still practically uninhabited, mainly used for scientific research. However, Antarctica is still under great environmental pressure, not so much from local bases (although they can also have an impact), but because of global greenhouse gas emissions that push Antarctic ice to the brink.

Earlier in the 19th century, the hunting of whale seals also brought Antarctic ecosystems to the brink of collapse, showing how quickly an unclean environment can be unbalanced. Growing tourism now threatens the local environment as well.

Not so much an established continent, but an inaccessible landscape, Antarctica remains an unusual topic in our history. Some seek to soften և to assert it, others seek to study it for its own resources or to study it. Hopefully, we will learn to nurture and protect it.

Rusty digesters on the Nuggets on McQuar Island, used to extract oil from penguins in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (Photo by Richard Woody).

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