Antarctica, the southernmost continent in the world, is the second-largest landmass in the world. While it’s almost always covered in ice, it’s actually a desert that receives little, if no rain at all.
Although Antarctica holds the notoriety of being the windiest, coldest, and driest area in the world, many people live in it. You can find these smart, adventurous, and brave people at Antarctica’s bases – considered the ‘cities’ of the continent.
List of Cities in Antarctica
1. McMurdo Station
Located at the southern tip of Ross Island – on the shores of McMurdo sound – is the aptly-named McMurdo Station. The area is named after Lt. Archibald McMurdo, who manned the HMS Terror, the first ship to explore the region. This US-operated base is the largest city in Antarctica, as it can provide shelter to as much as 1,258 residents.
One of McMurdo’s earliest installations is the Discovery Hut, which was constructed in 1902. It can be found at Hut Point, near the edge of the shore.
McMurdo first opened its doors on February 16, 1956, as part of the US Mission “Operation Deep Freeze.” While it was initially designed to be a naval facility, it is currently a large-scale science station, complete with a heliport, a harbor, and three airfields.
Although McMurdo is technically a base, it can be likened to a city with its 100 buildings, complete with two Wells-Fargo ATMs.
2. Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station
Located at a plateau, the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station stands tall and high at 9,301 feet above sea level. This city in Antarctica was named after Roald Amundsen and Robert F. Scott – idealistic individuals who led teams that aimed to reach the South Pole.
The Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station was built in November 1956 by the Navy Seebees to help study the geophysics of the Polar regions. True to its’ purpose, it is currently being administered by the National Science Foundation – Division of Polar Programs.
As the southernmost habitation in the earth, it is the location of the Atmospheric Research Observatory and the Martin A. Pomerantz Observatory for Astrophysics. It also contains a small biomedical research facility, several accommodations, and the Jack F. Paulus skiway airport.
Due to its polar location, its 50 to 200-strong residents often experience “long days and nights.” To wit, for six months, the sun incessantly shines over the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. And for the next six months, the base is enveloped in constant darkness – with temperatures dropping to as much as –99 Fahrenheit.
3. Mirny Station
Mirny Station is the first Soviet (Russian) station in Antarctica. It is named after Mirny, a vessel that was used during the First Russian Antarctic Expedition.
Mirny Station is located at Queen Mary Land, near the David Sea Coast. It was first opened on February 13, 1956, to serve as a base for the Vostok research station. Today, it is a center of scientific research, with studies being done in the fields of meteorology, seismology, glaciology, cosmic radiation, and marine biology.
Mirny Station has 30 buildings that serve home to as much as 200 scientists during the summertime. The population is gradually reduced to about 40 to 50 people during the wintertime when temperatures dip to as low as 5 degrees Fahrenheit.
4. Marambio Base
Located in the namesake Marambio Island (of Graham Land) is the Marambio Base. Administered by Argentinians, the station is named after Gustavo Argentino Marambio, a popular figure in Antarctic aviation.
It is known to many as Antarctica’s Entrance Door, given its capacity to accommodate wheeled landings. Despite the availability of nearby airports, Marambio Base – which is Antarctica’s first airfield – remains to be a popular landing spot amongst many pilots.
As one of the 14 Argentine Bases in Antarctica, Marambio occupies an area of 2 hectares – enough space to accommodate its 27 buildings. It functions somewhat like a city, with its’ library, mail office, gym, chapel, hospital, and many other establishments.
During the summertime, as much as 200 researchers and support staff members can be found working in Marambio’s many research labs. But when the bitter wintertime comes, about 55 personnel are left to look after its many facilities in this city in Antarctica.
5. Base Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalvo
Otherwise known as Frei, this Chilean Antarctic base can be found at the ice-free Fildes Peninsula. It was constructed in 1969 as a Meteorologic Center. As more edifices were installed, the area was renamed to the moniker it is known for today.
It is widely popular for its 1300-meter long airstrip, known to many as the Teniente Rodolfo Marsh airstrip. It is a transport hub for many surrounding bases, hosting as much as 100 inter and intra-continental flights every season.
Located near the base is the Villa Las Estrellas, a residential commune that serves as a refuge to as much as 150 people in the summer – and about 80 souls during the winter. The research station is reminiscent of a small Chilean town with its many establishments, including a supermarket, bank, school, and hospital.
6. Rothera Research Station
We end our list of cities in Antarctica with Rothera Research Station. Located at Antarctica’s ice-covered Adelaide Island is Rothera Research Station. It is nestled on its namesake Rothera Point, which is considered the capital of the British Antarctic Territory. It was constructed in 1975 to replace the crumbling Adelaide Station, which operated from 1961 to 1977.
Its main hub continues to be the Old Bransfield House, which is home to several communication rooms, meteorological facilities, and computer areas. It is also the location of the base’s reverse osmosis plant, which provides the needed freshwater in the base.
The Bonner Lab, which has been rebuilt twice, is Rothera’s research facility for terrestrial and marine biology.
Rothera is a large complex that can house as much as 100 scientists during the summertime. Scientists and support staff are often found in any of the 44 residential rooms of the Admiral House. Like a dorm or frat house, it is complete with showering and toilet facilities. Staff recreational areas, which include a TV room, library, and a bar, can be found in the New Bransfield House.
Antarctica is the home of many bases that serve as cities to its scientific residents. While they may not be as bustling as non-Antarctic cities, they provide the residents with the basic comforts that they need.
I hope that this article on cities in Antarctica was helpful. If you are interested, visit the City Facts Page!