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My question is such: in a modern town or city in antartica, what would people produce/sell in order to import the other things they do not have yet?

In this hypothetical city, people can get water and food easily enough, but shelter and materials would be harder to find or forage.

The main point being: Is there enough wealth and work to have an average quality of life?

To narrow it down, let's talk about basic resource production. Unless you can see advanced production being plausible or easier than any other climate, stick to the basics, raw resources, if you please.

And no, enslaving penguins is not a natural resource. :)

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  • $\begingroup$ What tech level is this city? How many people live there? $\endgroup$ – sphennings Jan 23 '18 at 22:15
  • $\begingroup$ Are you asking for a geologic survey? $\endgroup$ – user25818 Jan 23 '18 at 22:17
  • $\begingroup$ Good question. What part of Antarctica? I imagine the Peninsular, but the answer may vary by location. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Jan 23 '18 at 22:21
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    $\begingroup$ Mining is the only commercially viable option. Other options (research, military) would provide only a limited and very custom source of supply. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Jan 23 '18 at 22:23
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings Modern era, (atomic era if you play civ), think Donald Trump makes things great again type era. $\endgroup$ – Superusernoobster Jan 23 '18 at 22:29
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Bitcoin mining

Some regions in Antarctica, like McMurdo Dry Valleys are subjected to very strong catabatic winds, reaching speeds of 320 kilometres per hour (200 mph). These winds can be harnessed as a power source which can power up the city and provide energy for a power-intensive industry.

Criptocurrency mining is known for its high energy demand, and remote Antarctic location is ideally suited for large scale mining operations. These operations can provide a source of revenue in the amount of hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars, which would translate to a very high standards of living for as many as 100,000 inhabitants.

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    $\begingroup$ This assumes Cryptocurrencies continue to function that way (by no means a certainty) and continue to hold their massive valuations (highly unlikely). However, your answer works for any sort of power intensive computation, which will always be something we need. I know lots of data centers are based in northern Norway where there's cheap power. $\endgroup$ – Bert Haddad Jan 23 '18 at 22:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Alexander Thanks for solving the power issue, this could be helpful for the Antarticans $\endgroup$ – Superusernoobster Jan 23 '18 at 23:07
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting side effect: You also save some power, namely for cooling of your hardware. $\endgroup$ – Burki Jan 24 '18 at 10:50
  • $\begingroup$ Yep, cooling your hardware is a big thing. Don't limit this answer to bitcoins. You can perform all sorts of high performance computing here. This is already sort of a trend with big companies like Facebook putting data centers in far northern areas like Norway $\endgroup$ – bendl Jan 24 '18 at 12:35
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As I see it, your question is about industry; what goods or services can an Antarctic town produce in order to trade with other communities?

Realistically agriculture can't happen there, certainly not on a competitive scale and most production would be designed to feed the locals, not produce an export market. That really leaves you with 3 options.

1) Mining
As I understand it, there are a lot of mineral resources in Antarctica, although I don't have specifics to hand. This is however more problematic than you may think. Antarctica is protected by international treaties that prevent exploitation. The minute one country violates that agreement, the others swoop in, and start digging up this pristine environment. That could be a problem for the ice for one, and that also means that there could be environmental impacts.

2) Research
At present, most settlements in Antarctica are there for research purposes. Let's say (for instance) that one of these settlements declares independence and sells research time in their settlement. This research would be an industry; sure. BUT, the problem is that scientists are a frugal lot (research grants don't spread as far as you may think) and if another area of Antarctica is still controlled by its owning territory and is prepared to support scientists more or less for free, they'll all go there instead.

3) Tourism
This to me seems like the most viable solution. There are a lot of people who'd like to visit Antarctica, take tours of the place, see the old research outposts, etc. Extreme tourism (dangerous because of the cold), eco-tourism (last pristine environment), even historical tourism (the Mawson, Scott, etc. expeditions) could all be accommodated. This type of industry is even the basis for Kim Stanley Robinson's novel Antarctica.

So there are options, tourism being the most practical and viable, but as to how viable, it would depend on the size of the town, how many resources (as a percentage) they can dedicate to this industry and how much external 'stuff' they really need to keep their home environment in good repair.

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  • $\begingroup$ On the National agreements, if an independent society claimed it as their own, ignoring the agreements/treaties that are in place, what would keep them from doing so? $\endgroup$ – Superusernoobster Jan 24 '18 at 23:24
  • $\begingroup$ Probably nothing, but then if they wanted to keep it against all comers, that would just add military hardware to their list of things they need to trade for. Not an efficient start to their outposted nation. $\endgroup$ – Tim B II Jan 24 '18 at 23:25
  • $\begingroup$ Could they start by claiming to do research? Take some resources, start a small town, and work away anyways (hopefully in secret). $\endgroup$ – Superusernoobster Jan 24 '18 at 23:40
  • $\begingroup$ They could certainly try, but the trouble with this kind of secret is it has a nasty way of getting out; too many people know the true intent. That said, if they're operating purely as a research station, unless they're sitting on top of a pile of oil or something most people won't want the space so they could be largely ignored by the broader global community $\endgroup$ – Tim B II Jan 25 '18 at 1:06
  • $\begingroup$ So my "Oil research" uses the remaining oil to "fund" our research? sounds like a plan to me :D $\endgroup$ – Superusernoobster Jan 27 '18 at 7:26

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