Born Freezing: Meet Antarctica’s First Citizen


You say you’re from the Deep South? From Down Under, perhaps? Emilio Marcos Palma would like a word. Born in 1978 at Argentina’s Esperanza Base on the Antarctic Peninsula, Palma can be considered to be the first native Antarctican.

Snow Kidding

(image via: Fotolog)

He may not be the last man on Earth but Emilio Marcos Palma (above, aged 30) was the first man born on the continent of Antarctica. While this unique claim to fame may not overly impress members of the opposite sex, Palma’s place in history is assured thanks to the cold hard facts of his birth.

(images via: Dinosaurios de Argentina, Taringa! and Skyscraper City)

A little background: The 1959 Antarctic Treaty (to which Argentina is a signatory) “does not recognize, dispute, nor establish territorial sovereignty claims,” and Argentina has staked out a triangular wedge of the continent that encompasses most of the Antarctic Peninsula and narrows to a point at the South Pole.

So-called Argentine Antarctica (Antártida Argentina, in Spanish) is administered as a department of the province of Tierra del Fuego, Antarctica, and South Atlantic Islands with the governor residing in Ushuaia, Patagonia.

(images via: Filatelissimo and Taringa!)

Argentina has strongly supported its claim to Antártida Argentina with people power – the country has sent more humans to Antarctica than all other nations combined.

(image via: Skaboii)

Orcadas Base (above) in the South Orkney Islands was established in early 1904 and was the first permanently inhabited base in Antarctica. Over the succeeding century, Argentina set up 5 other permanently occupied bases including Esperanza Base, where Emilio Marcos Palma was born.

A Man, A Plan, Antarctica!

(images via: Fotolog, Andinia and Alfinal)

In the 1970s, Argentina was ruled by a military dictatorship with expansionist ambitions. The nation’s political hierarchy thought that announcing births in Antártida Argentina would help support Argentina’s claim to the territory. This was easier said than done: like Mars in Elton John’s “Rocket Man”, Esperanza Base ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids; in fact it’s cold as Hell.

(images via: Bill’s Movie Emporium and A Nerd Goes To The Movies)

Speaking of which… those who’ve watched the classic Clint Eastwood film High Plains Drifter (1973) will immediately note the resemblance between Esperanza Base and the film’s fictional Old West town of Lago, after the latter received an extreme makeover of sorts.

(images via: Search.com, Mezvan and Esacademic)

But back to the problem of population. The solution came courtesy of Captain Jorge Emilio Palma, leader of the Argentine army detachment at Esperanza Base, and his wife Sílvia Morella de Palma who at the time (late 1977) was 7 months pregnant. Once it was assured basic medical facilities and staff were on hand at Esperanza Base, Mrs. Palma was flown in to complete her pregnancy.

It was an ideal set of circumstances: Sílvia did not have to face nutrition issues in the sensitive early months of her pregnancy, and the child would be both an Argentine citizen (as were his parents) and the first child to be born in Antarctica.

(images via: Taringa! and La Casa de las Palomas)

Esperanza Base was one of the larger Argentine antarctic bases in 1978 and as of October 2010 had a population of 66. Once ensconced at the base, the remaining weeks of Sílvia Morella de Palma’s pregnancy passed without complications and on January 7, 1978, Emilio Marcos Palma entered the bottom of the world weighing 7½ pounds (3.4 kg). If it was any consolation to the family, Emilio’s birth occurred at the height of the Antarctic summer with the midnight sun shining bright and the average temperature hovering around 3°C (37°F).

He Comes From A Land Down Under

(images via: Welcome Argentina, Ecosolnorte and Nuestromar)

Sorry Aussies, you can’t get any more “under” than Antarctica but with that said, Esperanza Base lies north of more than 90 percent of the frozen continent. The base, founded by Argentina in 1952, is situated near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula – that long, narrowing tentacle of land that reaches up towards the southern cone of South America from Antarctica’s central massif.

(image via: Taringa!)

The rugged, mountainous peninsula is actually a continuation of the Andes, a geological fact that connects the two continents (and helps support nationalistic claims to Antártida Argentina).

(images via: Skaboii, Vibracobra23 and Britlink)

Territorial claims in Antarctica typically look like radial sections but unlike a pie, things are anything but cut & dried. The Argentine, Chilean and British claims (Antártida Argentina, Antártica and the British Antarctic Territory respectively) all significantly overlap and, on a lighter note, have their own unique flags.

On a further, even lighter note, Emilio Marcos Palma has a plausible claim to British nationality as Esperanza Base lies within the competing UK claim of the British Antarctic Territory.

Great Scott, it’s an Antarctic Baby Boom!

(image via: Far and Away Photographic Arts)

Antarctica: an ice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there… oh really? Emilio Marcos Palma may have been the first human born in Antarctica but subsequent blessed events proved he’s no fluke.

To date (2009), eleven children have been officially born in Antarctica or antarctic territories, which are defined as being south of the 60th parallel. Eight of these erstwhile Antarcticans were born at Esperanza Base.

(images via: YidnaMU and Ateneo Fotografico)

Three other Antarctican babies share a birthplace at Chile’s Base Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva, situated on King George Island at an approximate latitude of 62° south. Chile’s first official Antarctican is Juan Pablo Camacho Martino, born on November 21, 1984.

(images via: Historias Con Historia and @rt Outsiders)

Well, it WAS an Antarctic baby boom but it seems to have become somewhat of a bust… all indications are that the most recent child born in Antarctica was Ignacio Alfonso Miranda Lagunas, born on January 23, 1985, in the Chilean Commune of Antártica.

As of 2010, the number of people working on scientific research and other work in Antarctica and islands nearby ranges from a low of about 1,000 in winter to around 5,000 in summer – and surely they aren’t all the same sex. What happened?

(image via: AntartidaAbierta)

Maybe now that the ice has been broken, so to speak, governments who operate Antarctic bases realize there’s no longer any good reason to risk the lives of mothers and babies far from large, modern hospitals. Penguins may have evolved to cope with Antarctica’s frigid conditions; humans still have a ways to go.

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