The colonization of Antarctica

On the “very active” (ironically) blog Free Antarctic Republic [this site is functionally dead!] I  attempted to post the following comment a few weeks ago:

A few points in favour of colonising Antarctica:

1. Anarctica is the windiest continent on Earth, so windpower might be a suitable power supply for a (small) colony.
2. An Antarctic colony can be fund though crowdfunding and can consist of at least a few dozen inhabitants.
3. 3D printers can produce guns, so Antarctic citizens can easily arm themselves and form a citizen’s militia to protect their republic.
4. Marie Byrdland is a large piece of unclaimed land, seizing it for a free republic would not conflict with other territorial claims.

FAR has only one post (posted on April 14, 2013) and one page, and no approved comments. Another “very active” blog dedicated to establishment of an Antarctic colony is Colonize Antarctica. It’s last post is from January 27, 2008! More than five years ago.

It seems that proposals to colonize Antarctica is a recurrent theme, although there is not much enthusiasm for it. Plans for establishing colonies on the southern continent are dating back to at least the 1950s. Until now no serious attempt has been made to create a permanent settlement there. Only 70 scientific outposts have been established, but they do not have any permanent population and they are nearly all scientists.

Although man can survive on Antarctica, no major nation has ever pursued to create a permanent settlement on Antarctica, whilst many countries has pursued colonial empires through the ages. The main reason why Antarctica has not yet been colonized, is the challenges placed by the geographical conditions over there. Not only the low temperature by itself is a challenge, but this is the cause of a lot of other challenges. A large part of the continent is covered by ice (approximately 2% of all fresh water on Earth lies on Antarctica) and soil is frozen, which hinders digging and so constructing in general.

The climate of Antarctica does not allow for “traditional” agricultural, and the frozen underground also prevent mining activities. Therefore there is a substantial lack of economic incentives to colonize Antarctica, which implies low interest from potential investors. However, FAR argues that tourism is a prime motivation for establishing an Antarctic colony. Unlike space tourism, this idea makes some sense. First of all, a trip to Antarctica takes a few days to a few weeks while a trip to Mars will take at least two years. Further a trip to Antarctica is much cheaper, a few thousands of dollar instead of 200,000 USD for a flight with Virgin Galactic (and then you get only up to 100 km above the Earth for a few minutes), this means there would be a much larger market for Antarctic tourism than for space tourism.

Tourism as the backbone of the economy of an Antarctic colony will also lead to the emerging of other activities. Comparative advantages will prevent the export of agricultural products, but technologies such as grow light might enable local production of food. By choosing the right frequencies we can optimizing the efficiency of the cultivation of crops. Of course this leads us to the question how Antarctic settlements are provided with power. Due to the location of the continent solar power is almost of the table, and nuclear power is too expensive. As pointed out by “Colonize Antarctica” Antarctica is the windiest continent on Earth, therefore wind power is the logical choice. In particular they advocate the use of Horizontal Axis Turbines. Although this kind of wind turbine is less efficient than Vertical Axis Turbines, they are easier to construct.

There is one reason why Antarctica might be an interesting place for a settlement. Because the continent has virtually no population, makes it an ideal place for launching rockets. Though it’s possible to launch rockets from sea, such maritime launch platforms are small which limits the seize of your rockets. Further such platforms are less stable. The vastness of Antarctica will eliminate all these issues.

One of the methods that can be used to settle Antarctica is by creating domed cities, this article describes how such structure could look like. In these structures people would live in an isolated and heated environment.

See also:

Several arguments against seasteading

Solar Islands and Seasteading

Fascinating Future (stories about colonizing Antarctica)

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12 thoughts on “The colonization of Antarctica”

  1. Is it possible for food viability that they could create greenhouses that are powered with the wind power to ensure the soil does not freeze and develop plant life that would survive in such conditions?

    1. If we can’t survive on Antarctica, we will not in space. Everything considered, I believe that colonizing Antarctica is actually much more useful than seasteading.

  2. I don’t recall who all in the past has reached the same conclusion, perhaps including some people at NASA, but I know I’m certainly not the first or only one to make the comparison of Antarctica to Mars. If we are to go to Mars with intent to live there, then Antarctica is probably one of the best places on Earth to practice, to train potential colonists, and experiment with materials to be exposed to such a cold environment. Also to consider is the big hole in the ozone there.[ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ozone_depletion ]. Rather than practicing for Mars on an Antarctic ice field, the best option is the Antarctic tundra [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tundra#Antarctic ]. Consider map [ http://mapcarta.com/15437806 ] for Péninsule Rallier du Baty [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P%C3%A9ninsule_Rallier_du_Baty ] and look at this image [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kerguelen_RallierDuBatty.JPG ] which looks similar to some Mars images. When we do find Martians in the future, they will be us. Meantime, if global warming is what is happening, continues, accelerates, then perhaps more land will be exposed by the melting ice at Antarctica. Wouldn’t it be amazing, if under all hat ice, once melted, we find evidence of an ancient civilization back when the climate there was warm enough to support human life. What would really be interesting, from my viewpoint as a science fiction author, would be if we were to find a discarded empty can of coke buried under millions of years of ice to indicate time travelers from the future visiting there millions of years ago!

    1. Thanks for your insightful comment!

      Wouldn’t it be amazing, if under all hat ice, once melted, we find evidence of an ancient civilization back when the climate there was warm enough to support human life. What would really be interesting, from my viewpoint as a science fiction author, would be if we were to find a discarded empty can of coke buried under millions of years of ice to indicate time travelers from the future visiting there millions of years ago!

      That would indeed be amazing.

  3. I was just looking over the list of volcanoes in the antarctic, mayhaps geothermal resources are buried there as well? Iceland does quite well with their geothermal resources I hear.

    1. This is actually not a strange idea. Even a well of a few hundreds degree centigrade would be nice, given the low temperatures there. However climatological conditions would make drilling for such geothermal well a great challenge, not only because the soil is frozen, but also the wells might be covered by miles of ice.

  4. Its nice to see that you are adding new articles to your site. The only drawback that I see to Antarctic colonization is that fishing will reduce the food supply for pelicans and other Antarctic species. Best wishes. Uldis

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