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Antarctica is a large barren wasteland. Located at the bottom of the world, it appears far away and forgotten. The Earth's largest desert and yet the coldest landmass. The age of exploration has come and gone and the world has been colonized completely. No land is left unexplored, save a few jungles and remote areas. But all of the land has been claimed and conquered. Well, almost all of it.

There is still one land, one last continent that has yet to be fully explored. The bitter cold and harsh environment has kept many away. But what if this artic environment didn’t cover the entire continent? What if there were areas that were different from the general icy terrain and temperature? This landmass was once warmer in the past. But suppose there are still pockets of land that are not as cold as the rest.

My question: Is there any feasible way that parts of Antarctica or some of its islands may be heated enough to point that it could be explored or even colonized without the threat of extreme cold?

By heated I don’t mean tropical. Just low enough where the temperature isn’t extreme and/or viable colonization is possible.

I assume geothermal energy would play a role. Maybe being on the pole of the planet could have effects regarding climate and weather as well, besides reducing temperature?

(I am aware that there is a treaty preventing land claims. But suppose this treaty is not a concern as the faction in question doesn't care. Or perhaps it has gathered intelligence that an enemy is on the verge of discovering these hidden areas and exploiting them.)

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    $\begingroup$ Given that we seem to have been taking satellite photos of Antarctica for the last 58 years, the "hidden" part of the question could be a sticking point. $\endgroup$ May 14 at 3:34
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    $\begingroup$ Please clarify your specific problem or provide additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it's hard to tell exactly what you're asking. $\endgroup$
    – Community Bot
    May 14 at 3:34
  • $\begingroup$ The closest I think you could get is Iceland. An isolated building under ice might be concealed, an geothermally heated, but nothing big enough to "settle" $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    May 14 at 3:48
  • $\begingroup$ "hidden" not that it is concealed from ariel view but that certain areas have unique undiscovered properties such as temperature difference and other features that are undiscovered. $\endgroup$ May 14 at 4:11
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    $\begingroup$ I assume you mean a naturally forming oasis, and not an artificially created one like in X-men or perhaps Mountains of Madness. It's difficult to imagine to be honest. It's like having an undiscovered lake in the middle of the desert. If it somehow did come into existence, it's difficult to imagine how it would last long enough to matter. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    May 14 at 4:59

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Cave systems.

The Transantarctic mountain range goes from the Ross sea by the south of New Zealand across more than half the width of the continent for 2,000 or so km.

Postulate: A natural cave-system is present, fed by a river heated by sub-ice volcanic activity near the pole and all along the mountain range. As Fred pointed out in the comments, Mt Erebus is actively volcanic and lies within the same area. The expected caves might appear thus:

Massive cave with aeroplane

Credit on picture, National Geographic via Huffington Post, 2022, fair usage.

The Jumbo Jet gives an idea of scale. For a slide-view of the Miao room, as it's known, then the National Geographic has one.

The cave itself is impressive, but imagine it's part of a natural system extending hundreds of km or even longer beneath the mountain range. The system itself would have formed as a result of meltwater cutting channels in the rock over repeated ice-ages over millions of years.

More aptly, there would be systems of systems of caves. The Mammoth Cave system in Kentucky and the Flint ridge cave system were found in about 1972 to be connected forming a super-system of caves. There may even be more yet to be discovered.

There would be fresh-water, fishing near the sea-end, cave creatures (The Olm, Pseudoscorpions, Wolf Spiders, Huntsman, Snails, Pupfish etc. found here) fed by the bacteria chemo synthesizing in pools deep-within the cavern systems at the very base of the food-chain. Lunch is served. Candle-lit dinners, of course.

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    $\begingroup$ This is potentially plausible. Mount Erebus is an active Antarctic volcano whose longitude is between Australia & New Zealand. $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    May 14 at 8:02
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Low elevation.

The higher you get, the colder it gets. But the lower you get, the warmer it gets.

If it is 0C at sea level, it is 25C at -4000 meters

temp at -4K

http://www.easysurf.cc/tempbyalt.htm

There is no naturally occurring area currently that low on earth. The Dead Sea at -400 meters is the lowest place where the air meets the surface. There is a place 20x lower on Mars - maybe because weather does not provide the energy to fill it in? But Hellas is pretty old too.

https://geology.com/articles/highest-point-on-mars.shtml

The peak of Olympus Mons is 21,229 meters (69,649 feet) above the Mars areoid (a reference datum similar to Earth's sea level). The lowest point is within the Hellas Impact Crater (marked by a flag with the letter "L"). The lowest point in the Hellas Impact Crater is 8,200 meters (26,902 feet) below the Mars areoid. Detail maps of Olympus Mons Volcano and the Hellas Impact Crater are shown below.

In any case: Antartica. There is a crater and it is substantially below sea level and so substantially warmer than the area around it.

The Hellas crater on Mars is big - 2300 km across. I have to think a landform that big would have been recognized in Antarctica. But maybe your crater is not that big - or maybe it used to be that big and is filling in around the edges. Or maybe your story is set in 1930 and people don't know. That is for your story to sort out.


It occurs to me that maybe you are going to write fiction set in Antarctica and you have not read At the Mountains of Madness. I really enjoy Mountains of Madness. It is a great story in a new way every time I read it. It is Lovecraft's best story, I think. The world, the description, and the change i the protagonists attitude over the course of the story. I feel like writing a fanfiction set in this story. Ok enough - here you go. https://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/mm.aspx

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enter image description here

Map by Ohawhewhe on Deviantart.

You do not specify Sheet Earth or Ball Earth. This problem is easier to solve for the Sheet Earth.

There are no oases in Antarctica. But there is stuff beyond Antarctica where the weather is warmer and there is liquid water and trees. You explorers have in fact gone beyond Antarctica into one of these places.

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