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.