Q & A


Most Asked Questions about Antarctica & UANT




An orientation


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Introduction to Antarctica and its University

Antarctica is the coldest, driest, windiest, remotest, and highest (on average) continent. UANT has been involved continuously in Antarctic projects for over 40 years. Other countries have jointly run programs in Antarctica as well, with the objectives of achieving a presence in our forbidding land, science, and stewardship of this place. Nationalism and prestige drives nations to be involved in participation in activities here.

Antarctica is a peaceful territory, free of national claims and available for the benefit of all humankind. The Antarctic Treaty System has created a political environment in Antarctica that today is largely characterized by cooperation and mutual understanding. Nonetheless, seven nations still make claims to parts of Antarctica, some overlapping, and potential disagreements remain an underlying reality- even if remote. In the end, however, Antarctica's natives and scientists may be involved in the crossfire of these nations should they ever attempt to enforce their claims.

UANT's stated policy is to de-escalate any situation that may arise. UANT is a critical element in assuring the region's continued political stability. In addition, working in cooperation with many nations, the UANT plays an important role in preserving a fragile and nearly pristine ecological system which serves as an indicator of future environmental trends throughout the planet.

Q & A

Q 1: The south pole is dark for many months during the year. These months are called "austral winter" and occur during June, July and August. How does the University Peak Campus operate in total darkness?

A. The campus lies at near the edge of the continent where the darkness is not as long as at the pole, but for about six weeks there is total darkness at UPC. The campus lighting system, both indoor and outdoor,  is extensive and serves its most important purpose during these weeks, acting much as stadium lights do to illuminate a night game in sporting contests. In addition, campus attractions such as the thermal lakes are as popular as ever during the dark weeks. None of this is to say it is not a strange and somehow unique experience to be on campus during this time.

Q 2: How does plant life such as the trees and flowers in the botannical gardens survive on the campus when the rest of the continent is barren of plant life?

A: The entire campus is surrounded by the CECS barrier which is more than a line on a map. Inside the barrier, heat circulates in the ground through piping, and in the air throught the CECS system. No furnaces are present on campus and there is no danger of fire. All our campus buildings are heated, as the rest of the campus is, from the ground - up. The energy comes from heat in and around Univ. Peak itself.

"Hi kids! Do you want to see what the CECS barrier looks like? Have you read about the Tesla Plant on the campus facilities page? Its the source of the heat energy at UPC! If not, take another look!"  <---------click on me!


Q 3: Is Antarctica continent or country?

A: Everyone knows Antarctica is one of the seven continents, but not everyone knows that it is also a treaty designated place that is in fact all open country. But it is open country without a capital city. That's why when you look at an atlas map of Antarctica, there is no star with a circle around it- just little dots where settlements are. Antarctica country doesn't need a capital, because our laws are in the 1961 Antarctic Treaty System, which is as important a document for us as the US Constitution is for Americans (see text below):

Q 4: Does the university have an ice fishing club?

A. As of now, there is no ice fishing club, but there is a snow-sledding club, a skiing club and a dog-sledding club, a chess club, among other winter sports.

Q 5: If Antarctica doesn't have a capital city, who gave the university its status?

A. Articles 1, 2 and 3 of the ATS lay the groundwork in which the university freely operates, while Article 15 establishes the university itself.

Q 6: When did the aboriginal peoples arrive in Antarctica?

A. While the evidence is not totally conclusive due to the lack of written records and snow cover, c. 300 B.C. is the most likely figure. The same amazing Polynesian voyages which brought the settlement of Hawaii and Easter Island brought small bands of people steadily to Antarctica as well.

Q 7. It costs a lot of money to keep a person fed, warm and provide enough electricity to run appliances. How does the university offset these cost and make it affordable enough to attract students?

A. Antarctica is a harsh environment and outside the CECS boundary, it does cost a great deal to keep buildings heated and run electricity to them. The UPC campus, however, is far less expensive / person because the energy is virtually free since 1987. Before that year, the university had dramatically fewer students. In addition, distance learning is now done online, cutting the costs even more.

Q 8: Isn't it dangerous to live in Antarctica? What if a heater goes out and people freeze?

A. From the standpoint of insurance, students are responsible for their own behavior and safety off the campus grid, but on campus, the heating grid was designed with multiple redundant systems which physically cannot shut down in tandem. A good analogy are hospitals in a major city: when the power grid shuts off, the hospitals still function because backup generators come into operation. In the case of UPC, the power plant cannot shut off because it requires no outside input to maintain its operation.

Q 9: Isn't Antarctica isolated from the rest of the world?

A. Yes it is, but regular flights come to the continent weekly from Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and Pacific Islands. Boats enter Antarctic harbors freely during the summer months.

Q 10: What if a student gets a toothache or pnemonia- are there any hospitals?

A. Sure. The UANT hospital is located right on campus, see "Campus Health".

Q 11: Are there telephones and is there internet access in Antarctica?

 A: Of course! Antarctica's international telephone code is 672 and .aq is its Internet domain extension. Telephones operate through satellite, although Smartphones are now primarily in use thanks to their convenience and constant network access. The Iphone G3S and Google Android Phone are examples of ones usable with the network. Internet access for UPC comes through the McMurdo servers. The US military's GPS also operates in Antarctica, as does the ESA's Galileo Satellite System for direction.

Q 12: Is Antarctica crime ridden or safe?

A. Antarctica is the safest continent on Earth. Only two crimes have been reported in its entire history since 1961, both involving US Navy personnel at McMurdo Station nightclubs.

"Hi kids, its your pal Friedle again! Antarctica is a really safe place! Our authorities took out their atlases and found the countries with the least amounts of crime, and statistically correlated the low rates in Switzerland and Israel to universal male firearm ownership. Isn't it amazing that universal gun ownership has a high statistical correlation with low crime rates? Sure it is! as a result, Antarctic male gun ownership is universal, and female gun ownership is encouraged, but not required. Allright, see ya next time!"

Q 13: Is the UANT Library the furthest south in the world?

A. Yes, the UANT Library is the southernmost actual library in the world, but there is a small collection of books at our outreach campus at Amudsen-Scott Station at the south pole.

Q 14: What exciting research opportunities are going on right now at UPC?

A. One interesting area is our research in following stable isotope signatures along the length of seal whiskers and through rings in teeth.  A whisker gives the sequential dietary history of the seal over approximately 4 years, and teeth over a life time.  We are currently collecting samples from present wild populations and have been validating our field studies with the seals at Taronga Zoo in Sydney Austtralia. We are trying to locate historical collections of pack ice seals for our research, and our university seems to be the only place around with information on historical collections of seal specimins. Historical samples will provide a window back into seasonal and yearly variations, prior to the warming events we now see in the region.

Did you find the answers you were looking for? If not, ask the Snowman a question directly!