Do People Live in Antarctica? (FAQ)

Do people live in Antarctica? It depends on how we define "living." For more than a century people have gone to Antarctica to stay for a long time. Some people consider Antarctica home. However, only 11 people have ever been born there, and these births were parts of efforts to legitimize national territory claims on the continent. No one has ever grown up in Antarctica. Everyone who works in Antarctica holds citizenship from different countries.


Does Antarctica have indigenous people?

No. Unlike the Arctic where people have lived for tens of thousands of years, Antarctica has never had an indigenous population. Humans traveled overland to the Arctic a long time ago, but Antarctica has been separated from the rest of the world by the treacherous Southern Ocean and surrounding ice sheets. Mainland Antarctica was only discovered 200 years ago.


Does Antarctica have cities?

McMurdo Station, Antarctica

No. However, Antarctica has several research stations operated by various national governments. The largest of these, McMurdo, has a peak population of only 1,000 people. Most are much smaller. The research bases are also seasonal. Many close for winter, and those that don't usually reduce in size to a small percentage of the summer population.


How long can you stay in Antarctica?

It's hypothetically possible to live your entire life in Antarctica. It doesn't have all the resources necessary to sustain human life, but food, medicine, and other essentials can be shipped down. However, the length of stays in Antarctica are regulated by governments. For the sake of people's mental and physical health, most national Antarctic programs limit stays to a maximum of 1-2 years. It's not clear what the longest stay in Antarctica has been, but it's likely in the range of 4-6 years.


Who goes to Antarctica?

It's possible to go to Antarctica through commercial travel or with a national Antarctic program. Those that travel with national programs can be divided into two groups: researchers and support personnel. While researchers conduct science, support personnel oversee day-to-day operations and logistics. Commercial activity only takes place in the summer, but several national Antarctic programs operate over the winter months.


How do people get to Antarctica?


Interior of a C-17 plane transporting cargo and personnel to Antarctica

Ships or planes. Most people traveling to the continent will reach it on an ocean-going vessel departing from an Antarctic gateway city like Ushuaia, Cape Town, or Hobart. Locations further inland in Antarctica have runways or skiways where planes can land.


What language do people speak in Antarctica?

There is no Antarctic language. The language spoken at a given station usually corresponds to the predominant language of the country operating the base. Some stations like Concordia, which is jointly operated by the French and Italian Antarctic programs, use more than one language for standard operations.


What does it mean to be an "Antarctican?"

Because no one is from Antarctica, "Antarctican" can be defined in the broadest possible terms. People who feel connected to the continent, even those who have never been there, can be considered a part of the Antarctic community. No matter your nationality or location, if you care about Antarctica we welcome you as a fellow Antarctican.


Antarcticans looking out over the Ross Ice Shelf

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