Villas Las Estrellas The Icy Settlement Where You Must Remove Your Appendix

Grace Higgins | November 24th, 2020

Far in the north, or the south, depending on your perspective there is a little settlement in Antarctica. This little icy village is called Villas Las Estrellas, it actually has a small school, a post office, and a huddle of housing. But it’s a hard place to live and anyone deciding to stay long term has to agree to tough rules. Perhaps the strangest law is that families must all have surgery to remove their appendix before moving in.

It’s one of the only settlements in Antarctica where people live for years, instead of just a couple of months a year. And the removal of your appendix is seen as a basic necessity for living there. Because the closest hospital is over 1,000 km away, past the tip of King George Island. And you would only be able to get there if the weather allowed it. Of course, there are some doctors on the settlement, but none of them are specialized surgeons. Which means any serious injury or sickness can quickly go terribly wrong.

In total there are only around 100 people in the village, mostly specialized scientists and personnel from Chile’s air force or navy. For personnel who get sent there for long stints, they often the choice to take their families with them. So there are basic facilities on site, but it’s a harsh terrain and living in the extreme cold. During the winter, it’s impossible to go outside as the temperatures are usually -47C (-52F).

Even getting pregnant is highly discouraged, given the risks it would bring. That being said, some of the children living there enjoy the settlement very much. For example, penguins walk around the village quite freely with no fear. Because penguins have never been hunted by humans they’re not usually afraid. As a result, many of the families see living in Villas Las Estrellas as if they were in the Pixar film Happy Feet. But really, living in Villas Las Estrellas is as close to living on another planet as you can ever get.

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