Imagine that a group of Inuits from Greenland settled in Antarctica; let's say on the Antarctic peninsula, if there is no better place in Antarctica.

Could they survive there with their traditional lifestyle, i.e. hunting and fishing without access to any modern technology ? If no, what necessary resources they would lack ?

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    $\begingroup$ Without having looked, the climate of Greenland is probably a fair bit most hospitable than is that of Antarctica. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Aug 23, 2016 at 8:32
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    $\begingroup$ You might want to use the term "Inuit" instead. $\endgroup$
    – Guran
    Aug 23, 2016 at 9:50

5 Answers 5


Yes, they could probably survive.

The most important things to the Inuit's survival would be the local animal species. People often misunderstand the completely different lifestyle lived by the people of the extreme north.

What do they burn if there is no wood? They burn seal and whale fats, but mostly they stay well insulated in layered animal hides and eat a high fat diet for energy/warmth.

What do they build their dwellings out of with no wood? The igloo is made of ice and other structures are made with stone or animal hides reinforced with bone or wood.

Wood was very important to the people, but it was still not common. They did not harvest trees, none grow in the far North, mostly they obtained wood from the ocean as driftwood, and it was kept and preserved as a structural tool not wasted on a fire.

Most all of the same resources would be available in Antarctica. Along the coasts seals and whales are plentiful providing most needed resources. Some resources would be different, no polar bears or caribou, but I bet they would find some uses for all the penguins.


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As shown the average winter temperatures on the Antarctic Peninsula are ~ -10 to -20 C. compared to the Arctic winter temperatures around Northern Greenland of -30 C, this is fairly warm.

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For a historical comparison, many of the more successful explorations of the interior of Antarctica (much colder and inhospitable than the coasts) in the 19th and early 20th century adopted techniques used by the various Eskimo peoples; dog sleds, layered fur clothing, high fat diets, etc.

Life on the edge of habitability requires adaptation or you die. The Inuit knew how to survive, most of their methods would still work with locally available resources, and they would adapt to the changes in available resources.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you! Actually, what I'm most worrying about, is: how would they make clothes and footwear in Antarctica? $\endgroup$
    – Milchar
    Aug 23, 2016 at 16:42
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    $\begingroup$ @user20793 Seal hides and furs made most of their clothing. There are many seal, whale and walrus species indigenous to the Antarctic. $\endgroup$
    – Josh King
    Aug 23, 2016 at 16:45
  • $\begingroup$ @ Josh King, what about furs? $\endgroup$
    – Milchar
    Aug 23, 2016 at 17:06
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    $\begingroup$ @user20793 seals are mammals they have hair and fur. We actually named a group of seals after their prized fur... en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fur_seal $\endgroup$
    – Josh King
    Aug 23, 2016 at 17:11
  • $\begingroup$ Is there even driftwood in Antarctica? There are no trees anywhere in Antarctica and the continent is surrounded by strong currents. Any driftwood would have to come from Australia, South America, New Zealand, or Africa, which is...far. $\endgroup$ Mar 14, 2020 at 4:15

There are only 2 species of flowering plant in the Antarctic. I read somewhere that the traditional Inuit diet contains more insects than plant material, but nevertheless they did use plants. None of the useful ones which produce berries are available in the Antarctic. So that's one vital resource gone...

Insects... there are no flying insects in the Antarctic. In fact the arthropods which are there are tiny like springtails. Another source of food gone.

Plus any animal that eats flying insects or berries (e.g. various birds) is absent.

There are no herbivores in the Antarctic. No hares, caribou, musk ox, lemmings. Your colonists therefore can't eat these.

There are no land-based predators in the Antarctic. (Polar bears are Arctic animals). The seals, penguins and seabirds which live there will be really easy to kill, because they are entirely without defence strategies against a big land-based predator. So your Inuit colonists would annihilate their way through the breeding colonies much like sailors annihilated their way through the dodos on Mauritius! Great to start with, then they starve.


The answer is yes, they probably could, but it would not be the same lifestyle due to one key part that your question gets wrong. Greenland isn't really home to much for Inuit populations...it's controlled by Denmark and is more like Nordic populations than Inuit. Try Canada and the province of Nunavut.

The Inuit peoples make their living in a very similar fashion as the polar bear does...although the land means a lot, much of their survival is based on the sea ice instead, especially when it comes to food gathering. Seals in particular are significantly easier to hunt while on the ice flows. The arctic still ices over (mostly) during the winter and this connects the land. For what it's worth, it's usually hard to tell if they are on land or on sea ice.

This will be the major difference between arctic and antarctic living...shelter, transport, and warmth will be basically the same as their lives in the far arctic goes...however they will have to adapt heavily to different forms of hunting and gathering as they are now on a land locked continent and not on ice connected islands. I'd imagine they'd live more like far north nordic populations than the Inuit populations do.


After a little research, turns out I'm wrong myself...Greenland is host to a population of Inuit. http://www.inuitartsociety.org/sheila-romalis-greenland-canadian-inuit-culture a few differences between them...I was unaware Native Greenlanders also use the term Inuit for themselves. In any case, it's the same change to overcome...Antarctic is a continent locked under the ice and as such is a much different hunting environment.


Food is fish, krill, seals, penguins and their eggs — commercially bred. Heat would come from burning fish oil Water is everywhere — Ice. Then you trade for raw materials for clothing and other basic needs. Then the last thing is the Antarctic economy would have to circle around the service industry.



No way for them to survive totally alone. If they import their own tools, they will last until they break. Otherwise, they won't be able to even build their houses.

Well, there are already a lot of people living there, even if they do not live an entire year or so. They are mainly there for scientific purposes like Keri Nelson, so sustaining there as humans is widely possible.

Considering eskimoes ... I guess they could. Igloos are excellent at keeping warm air inside, and fishing should not be a problem, as they already fish in sub-zero conditions. Hunting penguins and predators should also be in their skill range, but I keep asking myself ...

Where would they find flammable materials ? Or more importantly ...

Where would they find wood ?

I guess this would be the top lacking resource. They could melt ice to get water, sleep in a warm place, wash themselves (rough tho), but they would need some beginning materials to do so. Maybe from crashed ships or something, but to start a fire (and heat up), they need flammable materials. I don't know a lot about Antarctica, but I think it would not be wood-proficient, considering temperatures, climate and environment.

In the same way, to hunt, build and fish, they would need tools. Tools that you could craft with wood, or iron. To build igloos, you need to cut hard snow into block, and I do not think they could to it bare-handed.

According to CoolAntacrtica.com:

Antarctica has no trees or bushes at all, vegetation is limited to about 350 species of mostly lichens, mosses, and algae.

So no, without any help and all alone, they won't be able to live, nor survive a few days. They could take their own tools, but they'll eventually break some day.

NB: some people have already discussed the manner, so you can check how does real eskimoes survive without wood or fire.

  • $\begingroup$ Nice you tried to think about, but looks like pure guess, man and where the answer could they or could they not? $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Aug 23, 2016 at 10:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Aric Fowler improved it, I'll improve it even more, you're right about the final question tho. $\endgroup$ Aug 23, 2016 at 11:46
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    $\begingroup$ I believe a lot of Inuit tools are made of bone and horn. They are readily available through the year...as long as they have a food source. $\endgroup$ Aug 23, 2016 at 12:25
  • $\begingroup$ The problem is, finding the food source. In order to make tools from bones and horns, they need to actually kill animals. In order to have horns, you need animals that have horns in the first place. $\endgroup$ Aug 23, 2016 at 12:31
  • $\begingroup$ @YassineBadache they would've brought the tools from where they come from, obviously. This is no different from Artic colonization. $\endgroup$
    – Xwtek
    Dec 31, 2019 at 5:29

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