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With the world average temperature rising, and polar ice decreasing, it has been speculated that in the 2100s people may start to colonize Antarctica.

Where in Antarctica would people likely colonize first, and why?

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  • $\begingroup$ This must be somewhere in the Antarctic peninsula, which already has a number of research bases. Which one of those bases will grow into a permanent settlement first would be a very speculative question, though. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Nov 9, 2021 at 22:42
  • $\begingroup$ Scramble for A̴f̴r̴i̴c̴a̴ Antarctica? Realistically speaking, even the relatively thin ice sheet covering the Antarctic peninsula is about 500 meters thick. No, it won't melt in 80 years. Hard to plant a colony when the ground is bare rock, and that rock is under half a kilometer of ice. Plus of course there is that inconvenient Antarctic Treaty... $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Nov 9, 2021 at 23:28
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP It is not 500 meters thick everywhere, and in some places the ground is even already exposed. It also seems that there is at least a little soil on Antarctica: nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/… $\endgroup$
    – cowlinator
    Nov 9, 2021 at 23:51
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP note that Antarctic peninsula today is only 80% ice covered. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Nov 10, 2021 at 0:44

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I'll preface this by saying that I personally don't believe Antartica can be a suitable living environment within 80 years unless something truly cataclysmic and natural-occurring changed our entire planet's weather and eco structure. But...saying it did...

Logically the peninsula would be the popular starting point for settlers, since it's the warmest, averaging 36 degrees F (2 degrees C) in January. (https://seasonsyear.com/Antarctic%20Peninsula) I think it would be safe to speculate the first colonists would begin staging their colony first at the tip of South America, which is only about 620 miles away. With S America being as close as it is, colonists have access to the "rest of the world" in case of emergency, satisfy shipping needs and trade, etc. Not to mention, Antartica is mostly rock under the ice, and you would have trouble growing anything that could survive, especially with almost zero precipitation per year, which I'll mentioned further down. For this reason, you'd want your shipping and trade to be easy to access. (Here's a resource that describes current travel to the peninsula: https://www.adventuresmithexplorations.com/cruises/antarctica/travel-guide/how-to-get-there/).

Colonists would settle along the coasts first to be near natural harbors for the above-mentioned sea travel, and would probably settle around the peninsula counter-clockwise due to the wind paths (see first image below). If you do a Google Maps search of Palmer Station, you'll see that the peninsula is relatively rocky and mountainous, which would be a good protection against the 100mph+ winds (200mph being the highest recorded windspeed on the continent). To put it in perspective, 100mph is a strong Category 2 hurricane, with 200mph winds being equal to a devastating Category 5, such as Dorian in 2019).

enter image description here

Your colonists' best hope for survival would be to populate in the Bellingshausen Sea where most of our research stations are. As they expanded, I would consider moving further around to the Amundsen Sea and the gulf there. This keeps the winds to their backs with land to protect them. Expanding colonists would follow the same logic, finding pockets and gulfs to hide in. Because, as much as we talk about Antartica melting, it's really the winds, lack of precipitation, and desert climate that you need to factor in as well (more on weather: https://www.hurtigruten.com/destinations/antarctica/inspiration/weather-and-seasons-in-antarctica/)

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Another option would be to build your colony in the cliff-faces of mountain ranges and ledges, again with your backs to the wind. Not only would cave dwellings protect you from the weather, it would be easier to generate heat and stay warm (because it would still be insanely cold even if it warmed up). Depending on how long your colonists lived there and what kind of equipment they could bring over from S America, you could even tunnel through these rocks and connect colonies subterraneanly, though it would be extremely expensive and require a ton of resources. (Though, while researching this answer, I came across a NASA article about a Manhattan-sized subterranean cave that would be good story fodder for whatever story you're creating: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/huge-cavity-in-antarctic-glacier-signals-rapid-decay)

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A domed colony could be built near the ocean using a similar technology as it could be used to create a domed city on the Moon. On the Moon it would be called paraterraforming.

In Antarctica the dome would protect the inhabitants and the settlement from the extreme cold and the strong winds and it would also be transparent in order to make people inside see the sky and be aware of day and night.

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