By Hugues Goosse
I do not want to make general statements as the feeling must be very different in some American bases where more than 1000 persons lives in summer and the Princess Elisabeth Station that can host maximum 50 people.
I can still say safely that we meet much less people than in other places and if you take your snowmobile in the morning to go to the field, even in rush hours, you do not see many other ones.
Whatever their job or occupation, one of the clearest thing is that nearly all the people present in Antarctica are very enthusiastic. Motivations and goals vary but they see the unique opportunity to be in such an extraordinary place.
Tourists mainly visit coastal zones, in particular South of Chili and Argentina from cruise boats. This is also there that you find an easy access to areas with rich fauna.
We thus see very few tourists or travelers on the continent itself. There are still some who wants to do some challenging treks or simply enjoy the place and the landscape in a less adventurous way.
Logistics is very important in Antarctica. At the Princess Elisabeth station, maintenance work has to be undertaken every year and new buildings are often necessary. Several mechanics, carpenters, electricians or engineers thus work to finish the various tasks before the end of the summer season in March and the closing of the station for eight months.
The traverses to the base camps where observations are made and field missions require drivers and mountain guides. The first step is to ensure that the terrain is safe and then drive the equipment and people to their destination.
As rotation occurs regularly, everyone is not continuously present all the season long. On average, the staff at Princess Elisabeth station was about twenty people during our mission, meaning that it is often the majority of the occupants.
Finally, you can meet scientists, which seem logical on a continent officially dedicated to science. The team participating in your project shares your everyday activities. You can also meet other scientists at the airport or at the basis itself. Looking at the size of the continent, it is unlikely that you see someone by chance !