CLARIN

Sex In Antarctica: When Things Heat Up For Iced-In Researchers

Argentina's Antarctic bases are staffed by isolated and often young scientists confined in close quarters.

Adelie penguins touching flippers on Paulet Island, Antarctica
Adelie penguins touching flippers on Paulet Island, Antarctica
Héctor Gambini

MARAMBIO BASE The Hercules plane expected to arrive at this Argentine-run base in the Antarctic will bring clothes, food, medicines, vehicle parts and ... condoms.

Sex in the Antarctic is like the wind: nobody sees it but everyone talks about it.

The volunteers who apply to spend a year at any Antarctic base (except for the Esperanza base, which allows married couples and children) are perfectly aware that the privations they can expect will probably include sexual abstinence for that time. Probably — not certainly, and likely not for the entire time.

The first time this became known to the outside world was in 2006, when the crew coordinator sent back to the mainland a young, female non-commissioned officer said to be "too noisy" in her relations with a young companion spending the long winter months with her. The then defense minister, Nilda Garré, deemed that this was a case of gender discrimination and also reassigned the crew coordinator. The woman returned to the Antarctic, to another base, and her boss returned to Argentina.

Currently sex is not forbidden between military personnel, though Argentine bases also have many scientists under the age of 35. Conditions however are not exactly propitious to intimacy. Sleeping quarters are gender-segregated and rooms are shared. Gay or straight, it will be difficult to find that intimate corner, and needless to say, there is no going outside. And still, many find the treasured spot to make it happen.

Argentina's Antarctic base Almirante Brown at Paradise Bay — Photo: Adriana Tamayo/VW Pics/ZUMA

Two of the six women who were in Marambio last year returned to the continent pregnant, and in another base, a cook was removed from the crew because he was harassing a young male NCO. "The separation wasn't over the homosexuality," the individual telling me the story said, but "because of aggressive attitudes that were becoming threatening to everyone living there."

What happens in the Antarctic doesn't always stay there.

In Marambio, there was a girl in charge of the control tower (and I should point out it is not the female NCO currently there), and an assistant who paid her lengthy visits in the afternoons. The tower is at a distance from the main base building, and its 90-meter height is an inviting venue for intimacy: far from the gaze of others and strategically placed to spot anyone approaching on the long gangway to the tower.

Their relation was known to all, and finally reached the ears of their respective partners on the mainland. The pair ended up getting married, and are still together.

What happens in the Antarctic doesn't always stay there. The Marambio crew's young female doctor, Maitén Hernández, says the infirmary has enough condoms for all those who might need them. They also offer pregnancy tests. If a woman becomes pregnant, she returns to the continent, as the base has no facilities for safely monitoring a developing fetus.

Marambio's Crew 50 will be historic for setting another precedent. Toilets are to be equipped with condom machines, so people don't have to ask the health officer. There are reasons for this decision. Antarctic veterans will tell you "in the military family" men of a certain age are still embarrassed to ask for condoms from a younger girl (the doctor is 29 years old). It also "gives you away" in this closed environment, for evidently, "you're up to something."

Within three months, all men become Brad Pitt and all women Angelina Jolie.

For women, using condoms is a basic precaution as they will not be sent "into the cold" with an IUD (Intrauterine device), since any complication due to its placement could become a health problem.

A young NCO from Córdoba adds, "you can hold out a couple of months. Then it becomes difficult and you have to strengthen your resolve. There are as many temptations here as in Buenos Aires, Córdoba or elsewhere. Those of us coming here get the Antarctic Hollywood tick. What is it? Well if you like men, within three months you'll see them all as Brad Pitt, and if you like women, they all become Angelina Jolie ..."

Keeping temptation at bay is not easy. "The empathy generated between two people finding themselves in this hostile climate, and the solidarity of listening to each other means sex becomes a much bigger need than in ordinary situations," says an Air Force NCO with experience in the Antarctic.

Another veteran crew member explains it more clearly: "This is like Big Brother but without the television. With disagreements, you take tolerance as far as you possibly can and make an effort every day to overcome your bad temper when it arises. It's normal. We're humans in somewhat extreme conditions, and the same goes for the space for sex and pleasure. These are normal human needs, which intensify in these conditions. Still, most people stay faithful to their partners on the continent, no matter what the temptations may be."

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Spencer Tunick Nude Installation in Israel

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Salam!*

Welcome to Monday, where the UK pays homage to slain MP David Amess, Myanmar frees thousands of prisoners, and Facebook gets ready to build its "metaverse." Please fasten your seatbelts: Worldcrunch also takes stock of the long-lasting effects — good and bad — the pandemic has had on the air travel industry.

[*Azeri - Azerbaijan]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

Myanmar to free political prisoners: Myanmar's junta chief Min Aung Hlaing has announced the release of 5,636 prisoners who had been jailed for protesting the coup that ousted the civilian government in February 2021.

• Powerful Haiti gang behind the kidnapping of U.S. missionaries: The notorious 400 Mawozo gang is believed to be behind the kidnapping in Haiti of a group of Christian missionaries, including 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian. The brazen kidnapping on Saturday comes as crime is spiking since the killing of President Jovenel Moise in July.

• UK to pay tribute to David Amess: British lawmakers will pay homage in parliament to colleague David Amess, who was stabbed to death Friday in what was described by the police as a "terrorist incident." Officers arrested a 25-year-old suspect whose father, Harbi Ali Kullane, worked as a media adviser to a former prime minister of Somalia.

• COVID update: Russia has registered more than 34,000 cases of new infections in the past 24 hours, a new record since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, police in the northeast Italian city of Trieste used water cannons to clear striking dockworkers protesting Italy's new requirements that all employees be vaccinated.

• At least 26 killed in floods in India: Torrential rain has triggered floods and landslides in India's southern coastal state of Kerala, killing at least 26 people.

• Facebook to hire 10,000 in EU to develop "metaverse": The U.S. social media giant plans to hire 10,000 workers in the European Union over the next five years to build a "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet that the company touts as the future.

Punishing parents for children's bad behavior: After limiting gaming hours for minors, China is now considering legislation to reprimand parents if their children exhibit "very bad behavior" or commit crimes.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Colombian daily El Espectador dedicates its front page to Alex Saab, "owner of the secrets" of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The Colombian businessman, wanted by U.S. authorities for allegedly laundering money on behalf of Venezuela's government, has been extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. where he is scheduled to appear in court today.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

4.9%

China's economy registered its slowest pace in a year as the country faces a looming energy crisis with power shortages and increasing pressure on its property sector. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the period between July-September rose 4.9%, the weakest numbers since the third quarter of 2020 and significantly lower than forecasts. The world's second-largest economy faces a debt crisis linked to the China Evergrande Group debt crisis, while energy shortfalls have dropped factory output to its weakest since early 2020, when heavy COVID-19 curbs were in place.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

7 ways the pandemic may change the airline industry for good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

⛽ Cleaner aviation fuel: With air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel. In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials

.🛃 Smoother check-in: The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

✈️ The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less? At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel, in particular, is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.


➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"The crimes committed that night are unforgivable for the Republic."

— Emmanuel Macron became the first French president to commemorate the killing of as many as 200 Algerian independence protesters by Parisian police in 1961. For 40 years, French officials ignored the massacre, which took place a year before Algeria gained its independence from France after an eight-year war. In 2012, French President François Hollande acknowledged the killings for the first time on a visit to Algeria, and Macron took it further by attending Sunday's commemoration at the site where the events happened in the French capital. Still, many had hoped the French President would go further and take responsibility for a "state massacre," for a crime many historians consider the most violent repression of a peaceful demonstration in post-War Europe.

📈💥  IN OTHER NEWS

​Low trust, high risk: The global rise of violence targeting politicians

The deadly stabbing of British Parliament Member David Amess confirms an ongoing study on trust and governance in democracies around the world: It's bad. In The Conversation, James Weinberg — the study's author and a lecturer in Political Behavior at the University of Sheffield — writes:

⏪ The assassination of Amess, who was stabbed to death in his constituency on Friday, is a tragic moment for democracy. What makes it even more devastating is that such a catastrophic failure is not without precedent or predictability. Labour MP Jo Cox was shot at her constituency surgery in 2016. Before her, another Labour MP, Stephen Timms, survived a stabbing in 2010. And Andrew Pennington, a Gloucestershire county councilor, died in a frenzied attack in 2001 while trying to protect local Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones.

☝️ Beyond these critical junctures in the public debate about politicians' safety, elected representatives must live with an increasingly insidious level of popular cynicism that threatens violence on an almost daily basis.

🇬🇧🇳🇿🇿🇦 Not only are these experiences of abuse or threats of physical violence felt across both sides of the political aisle in the UK — they also appear to be growing more common in other democratic contexts where the climate of politics has been presumed to be both calmer and more volatile, from New Zealand to South Africa.


Read the full piece from The Conversation, now on Worldcrunch.com

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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