A nice little thought experiment.
Originally Posted by flighter
- Would it be against any international treaty?
- Other potential issues
The relevant treaty would be the Antarctic Treaty, which about 60 nations have signed. The treaty is non-binding on nations which have not signed, but there would likely be political pressure on non-member nations or groups which wanted to establish bases in the Antarctic. However, it should be noted that in the 1980's Greenpeace established an Antarctic base for the purpose of monitoring national programs - in fact, it was primarily to monitor McMurdo Station, which is where I am now - and they found that the American program was not very environmentally friendly at that time, which forced a number of changes.
So, depending on the nature of the station, even an independent group might be able to establish a base in Antarctica with little political difficulty. However, if one does so it is policy of most programs (and certainly the U.S. one) not to assist non-government expeditions or programs in Antarctica.
- Housing suitable for extreme weather conditions
- Energy supply, constant and redundant and at hte same time not increasing pollution levels
- Other potential issues
A good deal depends on the location of such a base. Weather on the peninsula or along the coast does not get too bad, and does not require extraordinary measures. Those measures that would be required have largely been pretty well developed in the far north. At McMurdo Station, many of the buildings were built in the 1950s and 1960s, when the idea of insulating a building was somewhat farfetched. In fact, I believe many of the earlier expeditions did a better job of insulation. Perhaps because McMurdo was built by the U.S. Navy, the focus was on lots of heaters and boilers and other mechanical means to keep warm, and insulation was not much considered. In fact, new houses in the Carolinas (two southern U.S. states where I've spent most of my life, and where winter temperatures drop to 20F/-6C) are better insulated than many of the buildings here. My point is that despite some pretty poor legacy designs and implementations, this station still gets by all right. With a little attention to detail (and the new South Pole Station is much better in this regard) fuel needs could be much reduced and - again depending on location - could possibly even be replaced entirely by wind, geothermal, or tidal power sources. However, if I were designing such a station I would still keep at least some emergency fuel stores and tested power generation capability in the form of diesel generators or perhaps fuel cells. The fuel needs to be a type that won't freeze at -60C, such as AN-8, which has the liability that it doesn't have quite as much power as normal fuels.
Incidentally, the Kiwis at Scott Base are getting ready to experiment with wind turbines. Three turbines came in on the last ship, and they hope to get them set up this summer. They will still keep generators for emergency power, but figure wind power will be sufficient to keep their station running most of the time.
- What to do in case of minor problems
- Emergency rescue in case of major problems (surgery needed and such)
- Requirements for all staff
Most stations have at least one doctor, frequently two, as well as a lot of people trained in first-aid. Emergency care depends again on location. Coastal areas can have planes fly in to medevac patients year-round, but the possibility of storms and the necessity to get an airfield ready mean that it might take two weeks to complete. Stations on the polar plateau do not have this luxury due to colder temperatures that come with higher altitude. The cut-off point is -50C.
The U.S. program has stringent medical requirements for all participants, and even higher standards for winter overs, as medevacs are costly even when possible. Winter overs are also psychologically screened. They want to make sure we are just the right amount of crazy.
An emphasis on safety is also necessary, especially during winter. Cowboys are not wanted - they are a hazard to themselves and others. On the other hand, the sort of people who never want to leave the house . . . never come to Antarctica. We tend to get a lot of risk-takers, the program just tries to weed out the excessive risk-takers.
I'll try to remember to continue this later. I like your questions.
Incidentally, I have taken some photos and videos of some of the installations at McMurdo Station and South Pole Station, and might be able to send those to you in the future.