I've written extensively about research bases in Antarctica before, but this time is different. That's because the new base is in fact a replacement for McMurdo, the largest single community in Antarctica by population, at over 1,000 people during the Summer.
Feast your eyes on that. Beautiful, isn't it? Six structures like that one, interconnected by enclosed corridors and underground tunnels, will replace the 104 smaller structures that currently litter the grounds.
This is what McMurdo looks like today:
As it has grown organically, problems have cropped up. Moving stuff between the scattered warehouses requires going outside, which is a problem basically any time of the year but Summer. It also requires fuel guzzling trucks.
The new base will be possible to traverse entirely without ever setting foot outdoors. This includes access to a consolidated master warehouse.
It will also modernize McMurdo to the same standard as the US Antarctic base further inland of the continent, the Amundsen Scott South Pole Station, which replaced the outdated 1970s dome bases that were on the same spot before it:
McMurdo services a great many other inland Antarctic bases as well, and as such would be a more valuable upgrade than Amundsen Scott was, though frankly that was long overdue as well. Infrastructure does not age well in the harsh Antarctic environment.
The dome bases which came before the Amundsen Scott station looked impressive but were just insulating shells to deflect wind and conserve heat. Inside were just a bunch of trailers. It was very austere and far from an ideal environment in which to perform science:
The new McMurdo station will benefit not just the Amundsen Scott research base, but bases of many US allies which are growing more numerous with each passing year.
Besides facilitating Antarctic science, these bases serve as design exercises which generate data directly applicable to designing colonies for the Moon and Mars.
What's more, upon the expiration of the Antarctic treaty in 2048, expansive settlements like these may grow into cities to house the families of workers that come to the South Pole for mining jobs.
We may be witnessing a repeat of the earliest American colonies. Perhaps Antarctica will one day declare its independence, and become a super power in its own right?
If so, you'll hear about it first on my blog. :)