While most people visit Antarctica as very temporary guests, some intrepid souls call this continent home for extended periods of time. There are many bases on the Antarctic continent, staffed by nations of the Antarctic Treaty System. Most of these are scientific research bases staffed by a mixture of military and civilian workers. The summer months are when many journey south to the pole to conduct their work, but the bases must be staffed year-round even if only by a minimal staff.
During my time cruising around Antarctica, the ship stopped one afternoon at a particularly remote base, the Chilean O’Higgins Station. Even in the middle of the Austral Summer, the ice made our approach nearly impossible, and I wondered what life was like during the winter months. We were the first offshore visitors in months, and the men of the station all gathered to catch a glimpse of us, even if we couldn’t communicate with most of them. The base was spartan but comfortable, providing simple luxuries to help pass the time when residents aren’t allowed to go outside. Assignment to the base is for one year, and within the Chilean military system it is a tremendous honor. Looking around the complex, though, I suddenly got claustrophobic and wondered how they manage to call this small space home for so very long.