It occurs to us that, despite it being discovered nearly 200 years ago, most people don’t know much about Antarctica. And by “much,” we mean “anything at all.” So when Fall Out Boy announced last week that they’d be attempting to set a world record by playing a research facility on the continent — and that MTV News would be going along with them — we figured we’d better start learning a thing or two about the southernmost place on Earth.
Luckily, FOB’s Pete Wentz and Joe Trohman were in the same boat, so we asked them to send us a bunch of their questions, and for everyone’s benefit, we’ve answered them below. Hopefully, they’ll read these “frozen facts” before setting foot on the continent Tuesday for their record-setting show (which will be witnessed by a team of international scientists, a representative from the “Guinness Book of World Records,” and, uh, us).
(Late Monday, James landed in Chile en route to Antarctica — check out his blog post right here!)
Pete Wentz: There’s plenty I don’t know about Antarctica — like, do they have a Starbucks or a McDonald’s there? Or any kind of restaurant? Is there a local Antarctic beer? So, hopefully you can help. The more I think about it, the more I don’t know, so here’s a list of things.
» How many people live on Antarctica?
A whole lot less than Fall Out Boy play for on any given night. According to data acquired by Antarctic Treaty (that’s the document signed by 48 nations which established a sort of government on the continent), the population of the continent varies depending on the season. In the summer, nearly 4,000 scientists call various research facilities home. In the winter, that number shrinks to somewhere around 1,000. Antarctica has no indigenous inhabitants (aside from the penguins).
» How is Antarctica divided up? I’ve heard we’re not going through passport control, which is crazy considering we’ll be 20 hours away from the U.S.
Antarctica has no government and belongs to no country. Seven nations have claimed territories on Antarctica (the U.K., New Zealand, France, Norway, Australia, Chile and Argentina), with two others (the U.S. and Russia) having reserved the right to make claims. Of course, not all nations recognize these claims, as some of them overlap (particularly those made by Britain, Argentina and Chile). All of which would seem to make travel a nightmare (or something out of “The Bourne Identity”). To solve all that, we turn again to the Antarctic Treaty, which states that “treaty observers have free access … to any area and may inspect all stations, installations and equipment … advance notice of all expeditions must be given.” So as long as you’re a citizen of one of the 48 nations that signed the treaty — and you give fair warning to the nation (or nations) whose territories you’ll be visiting — you’re more than welcome. If, like Wentz, you’re a U.S. citizen, you’re also required to notify the Office of Oceans (which operates under the Department of State), which will report your visit to other Treaty nations.
» Where can I eat in Antarctica? Or get a cup of coffee? What is there to do there?
Well, there are no restaurants or Starbucks on Antarctica, but most of the larger research stations do have their own full-time chefs (and they’ll make you a mean half-caf soy latte if you ask real nice). And if you’re not interested in checking out Weddell seals or Adelie penguins, there’s still plenty to do on Antarctica (relatively speaking). At the Frei Montalva research base (where Fall Out Boy will perform Tuesday), there’s Villa Las Estrellas, a tiny hamlet that’s home to Chilean army officers, a school, a bank, a post office and a supermarket. The United States’ McMurdo Station — the largest on Antarctica — is home to a bowling alley (complete with an antique Brunswick manual pinset machine!) and a nine-hole disc-golf course. Britian’s Port Lockroy is home to a museum, and at their Halley Station, the passing of seasons is marked by the time-honored tradition of streaking around the facility (gloves and boots are allowed). Oh, and if you want to update your blog, Argentina’s Marambio base has the world’s southernmost Wi-Fi network.
Joe Trohman: I know very little about Antarctica, or as I like to call it, the place where warm things go to die. I am constantly wondering what all the scientists are sticking around for. And I’m pretty sure that Russia is trying to stake claim to the entire continent in order to procure some free land.
» OK, so I know it’s going to be cold there. But how cold are we talking here?
Try colder than any other place on the planet (even the Internet). On July 21, 1983, scientists at the Vostok Station recorded the world’s lowest-ever temperature: 129 degrees below zero, which is 11 degrees colder than the core temperature of dry ice. In Antarctica’s inner regions, temperatures routinely get as low as minus 112. It’s also the driest and windiest place on Earth. Then again, we’re going there at the end of “summer,” and the forecast for the nearby Base Arturo Prat says Tuesday’s high will be 30 degrees.
» Like I said, why are there so many scientists there? Are they all waiting around to discover something that might just randomly pop up one day?
Maybe, or perhaps they’re all there to conduct experiments that are not reproducible anywhere else in the world. Thanks to the extreme conditions — and the protection of 1998′s Madrid Protocol, which designated the continent as a “natural reserve devoted to peace and science” — Antarctica is the last unspoiled environment on Earth. Biologists study the effects of harsh temperatures on native organisms. Geologists study plate tectonics. Astrophysicists study cosmic microwave background radiation. And, perhaps most important, since the 1970s, scientists and NASA have studied the atmosphere above Antarctica, which led to the discovery of a hole in the ozone layer and the subsequent ban of products that emit harmful chlorofluorocarbons. Experiments to measure the effects of global warming on the continent’s massive ice sheets are also ongoing.
» I think I heard that they have two South Poles there (and I literally mean poles). One is real, the other is a fake that people can take pictures in front of. Not sure if that’s true.
It is. The actual South Pole sits atop nearly 9,000 feet of ice, on a plateau located near the U.S.-run Amundsen-Scott South Pole Research Station. The Pole is marked by a small sign and a single stake, which are repositioned each New Year’s Day to account for the fact that the point sits atop a sheet of polar ice that shifts roughly 10 meters over the course of a year. The ceremonial South Pole is also located near Amundsen-Scott and is used for photo opportunities. It is marked by a metallic sphere and surrounded by the flags of every nation that signed the Antarctic Treaty. The ceremonial marker is not moved each year, so its position relative to the actual Pole is slowly changing with each passing year.
Check out our continuing coverage of Fall Out Boy’s Antarctic expedition at the MTV Newsroom blog.