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|Who are the natives of Antarctica?|
|Who lives in Antarctica today?|
McMurdo Base - the closest Antarctica gets to having a town
The figures for the 2012-13 season show that there were 34,354 visitors. Significantly down on the peak figure of 47,225 in the peak season so far in 2007-08. The drop being due to the fact that large ships are no longer allowed to visit Antarctica due to fuel spillage dangers
In terms of numbers, tourists greatly outnumber national programme personnel, though the personnel on scientific bases clock up far more man-days.
While tourists may only only spend a relatively small time ashore on landings (for the most part staying on their cruise ships), it is by its nature relatively "high-impact" time - compared to a scientist or scientific support staff who spend most of their time on a permanent or semi-permanent base.
|So can I go and live in Antarctica then?|
You can go and get a job in Antarctica as a scientist or in scientific support. If you really want to and you have the required skills and you've tried more than once (many people don't get accepted first time and have to try more than once) then you can go and spend some time in Antarctica having an experience of your life. I recommend it, I did it for two winters and three summers and have been telling people about it ever since.
Access to Antarctica is restricted by the Antarctic Treaty. If you want to organize your own trip or expedition there, you will have to request permission from the government of your own country. You will have to show that you will be completely self sufficient and have a very good reason for wanting to go which will have little or no environmental impact, again you will have to show how you will do this. If you can't do this, you will be denied permission and will be breaking the law if you just go anyway, you will also be breaking the law if you stay longer than you said you would.
|"Sort of" Towns|
There are two places on King George Island off the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula that are sometimes regarded as civilian "towns". These are the Chilean Villa Las Estrellas (just over 100 residents in the summer, around 80 in the winter) and the Argentinian Esperanza. They have facilities such as a school, medical facilities, gym etc. though are more accurately regarded as extensions of the nearby military and scientific operations.
Another view is that they are both attempts by the respective country's governments to make claims of settlement of Antarctica as an insurance for the future should the terms of the Antarctic Treaty come up for significant renegotiation.
Pregnant women were sent to such places in the 1980's for instance to give birth to "native Antarcticans" to support such claims.
In recent years, the Chilean Villa Las Estrellas has become the site of tourist activity for "fly/sail" trips to Antarctica. Only a few years ago, the only way for tourists to reach Antarctica by ship, now it is possible to fly to Antarctica across the Drake Passage so saving a couple of days in each direction and potentially a lot of sea-sick time to join a cruise ship for the rest of the journey at King George Island. Though to my mind this avoids the traditional approach by ship which is one of the most magical aspects of going to Antarctica. There are snowmobile and ski trips available from the "town" and of course the local wildlife as an attraction, these are served by a small 20 place hostel.
Esperanza Base - Argentina in 2004 - picture courtesy Jack Child
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