Covid-19 Reaches Antarctica, the Last Continent to Succumb to the Virus

Perhaps it was just too good to be true, the remote, pristine and icy white continent, holding out to the end, as the last place on earth with no Corona Virus.

Three Glaciers Retreat. Perhaps the most remote, luxurious and pristine private camp in Antarctica. Thankfully, closed for the season. Photo: Robert Anderson

But no, it now seems nowhere is safe, not even Antarctica.

The Chilean Army now says that 36 cases at the Bernardo O’Higgins Research Base on the Antarctic Peninsula have been reported. The infected have been evacuated back to Chile. For details direct from Chile, (and if your Spanish is working well today) their article and video are here.

Interaction between Antarctic Bases, personal, and their guests, all enjoying and experiencing the camaraderie of the ice is never far away – David Beckham enjoying a game of football with ALE staff at Union Glacier, Antarctica.

For many of us, who would have now been there for the season: skiing, climbing, guiding and enjoying the wonderful opportunity of life in Antarctica, the decision of the Antarctic companies to close for the season, seems especially prescient. Nowhere is safe from this virus it seems.

Both ALE, which takes climbers to Mt. Vinson, to visit the Emperor Penguins and to the South Pole, as well as White Desert, which serves the continent by private jet from Cape Town to Antarctica and on to the South Pole, shut down their operations for this years 2020/21 season many months ago.

The ultimate isolation – atop Vinson after the first solo ascent of a new route via the Rolex Ridge to the top of Antarctica. Mask good for the ice, not so good for keeping out the Corona. Photo: Robert Anderson

Anywhere it seems where there are more than a few people, there will now be the Corona in the mix, no matter what precautions might have been taken. With Chile currently having 585,00 cases as reported by the BBC, and ships servicing their base on the Peninsula, it was only a matter of time before the virus reached the last continent it seems.

While Antarctic bases are very isolated, there is often air traffic passing through, cruise ships and even the occasional overland adventurer or skier who may stop by. As reported by the New York Times, this isolation at American Bases should hopefully keep them safe this year.

“Personnel at U.S. Antarctic Program stations have had no interactions with the Chilean stations in question or the personnel who reside there,” a spokeswoman said, adding that the foundation “remains committed to not exchanging personnel or accepting tourists” at American stations.

Vinson, Antarctica,
Chris Heintz, Intesar Haider and Peggy Foster topping out on the SW Face of Vinson on the first ascent of their new route.
Photo: Robert Anderson

With these first cases reported, lets hope that this is the beginning and the end of Corona in Antarctica. But right now, that may only be wishful thinking, and the hope we can return next year?

Jim Morrison, Hillaree Nelson, Wendy Searle, Jimmy Chin at Union Glacier Cafe Antarctica. Photo: Robert Mads Anderson for Explore7Summits
Hmm, who hasn’t been to Antarctica? Last year with Jim Morrison, Hillaree Nelson, both headed for the heights, Wendy Searle (just back from a solo South Pole ski), and Jimmy Chin (he left his Oscar at home) at Union Glacier Cafe Antarctica. Photo: Robert Mads Anderson for Explore7Summits