The First Antarctican


Ryan Silverman, Technical Advisor

On January 7, 1978 Argentinan Emilio Marcos Palma became the first person to be born in Antarctica.  The story of why he was born on this desolate continent is fascinating and, maybe to some, comical.

Antarctica was a continent that many different countries were competing for. This competition mostly ended when multiple countries (45 to be exact) signed the Antarctic Treaty of 1959, barring any one nation from taking over the icy continent. However, disputes still remained between Argentina and Chile. Both countries claimed the Antarctic Peninsula was a continuation of the Andes Mountains and therefore part of their own country. It is important to note the Antarctic Peninsula is basically a useless strip of land; it might have some coal, oil, and other minerals but mining or extracting of these resources would be illegal and the exact amount in the peninsula is unknown.

Chile, Argentina, and the Antarctic Peninsula
This picture shows the location of Chile, Argentina and the Antarctic Peninsula.

This is where Emilio Palma’s parents come into the story. His father was Captain Jorge Emilio Palma, leader of the Argentine army at Esperanza Base in Antarctica. His wife, Sílvia Morella de Palma was pregnant. The idea was if Argentina could birth the first baby in Antarctica, it would have a legitimate claim to the peninsula. She was sent to Esperanza Base in late 1977 and gave birth to Emilio Palma in early 1978.  After his birth, the Argentine government banned the making of maps of Argentina that did not include Antarctica.

Chile was not about to admit defeat. After the birth of Emilio Palma, Chile sent a recently married couple to their own base to make the first baby conceived and born in Antarctica. In total, eleven children have been born in Antarctica, eight from Argentinian Esperanza Base and the other three from Chile’s Base Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva. Ultimately, this “baby boom” ended due to the risk being too high for something with little reward.