Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Villa las Estrellas, an hamlet in Antarctica

King George Island, Antarctica
Population ~1200

Villa las Estrellas

At 62°12′ S, 58°53′ W, this is the only town in Antarctica's South Shetland Islands. It is integrated in Chilean Eduardo Frei Base, a scientific (meteorology) - military (air base) station on King George Island, Filde Peninsula.

It is one of only two civilian permanent settlements on Antarctica (the other being Argentina's Esperanza Base). It has a summer population of 150 and 50-80 in winter - the most populated town of Antarctica ! The average temperature is - 5ºC. Winter (June , July and August) is mostly dark antarctic night, with only 4-5 h of sun light, but in summer there is no real night - just twilight. The longest day is the 25th December, when the sun rises at 3:00 and sets at 22:51.

Villa Las Estrellas was founded in 1984 The hamlet has 20 prefabricated modules, 14 are family residences. It´s an incredible place, where you can find everything in well equiped small warm spaces.

Bank, post, hospital, school, kindergarten, hostel, gym, store/market, local shop, church:

The catholic church of Las Estrellas: a large metallic container.

The local gym, the red-and-white hangar at right, where locals practise cycling, games, athletics...

There is an aerodrome providing the settlement and other Antarctica bases with several connections, with some 200 flights each season.

A chilean Hercules approaching the base, passed over the Trinity Church of neighbour Bellinghausen station.

Vila Las Estrellas and Eduardo Frei Base, showing the hospital, school, church and hostel (clic for a better view).

The local 15 children youth study at F-50 School, a primary school staffed by two teachers.

There is a Hospital staffed with one doctor and a nurse:
The Post Office is also an attraction for tourists and philately enthusiasts that travel to the town to send postcards and letters with an Antarctic postmark.

Not always easy to reach, though...

For visitors, the small hostel "Polestar", a dormitory for up to 90 people:
The settlement is just some 200 m away from the russian Bellinghausen station I recently posted about.

Here you can see the territory, with the orthodox Trinity Church dominating in the far, over a hill: (clic for a better view)

Villa las Estrellas is one of the main ports of call of Antarctica cruises.


DHBoggs said...

Huh, I don't think I ever heard of this place before. Certainly never saw pictures. What is the main economy?

Mário said...

The resident families are payed by the chilean government, as they have some member of the scientific or military personnel working at the base; there is just a small economy based on tourism (hostel, heli tours, snowmobile...) and some local craft sold at a small tourist shop.

Tours of Antarctica said...

It is hard to chose Antarctica is native place. I had spent 68 days there and i know that how to manage with our meal. It is really tough to live more there due to low temperature. When i was in Antarctica. I have noted -72.58 Celsius temperature.

Leona said...

We'll be on a Princess Cruise and have an excursion to Villa Las Estrellas reserved. What currency is used in Villa Las Estrellas? I'd like to buy postcards, souvenirs, etc.

Mário Gonçalves said...

Probably Chilean pesos, Leona.

Have a nice journey.

Leona said...

Thanks, Mario. We were at Villa Las Estrellas on March 10, 2014 and what an experience! People interested in going there should know, however, that tourists are not catered to. The people are very serious about what they're doing regarding their research. The post office was being refurbished so no postcards were available and the only "souvenirs" available were at the Chilean Armada (security station). It was an experience of a lifetime!

Mário Gonçalves said...

I'm glad you enjoyed being there, Leona. No one can expect five star reception and accomodation, of course, not at "the end of the world"...

Melody Prince said...

Is it possible fort an American citizens to move/live there and, in your opinion, how would the locals feel about an "outsider" especially an American being there?