How many people live in Antarctica?

The coast of Antarctica
Photo by Matt Palmer

Hi! This is Ivan – I’m a developer here at Datawrapper. This week we’ll try to determine how many people reside on the continent of Antarctica.

Antarctica has always fascinated me due to its remoteness, vastness, and harsh environment. In fact, it seems like I’m not the only one at Datawrapper with an interest – my colleague Anna previously published a Weekly Chart about it.

Despite extreme conditions, humans have managed to set up bases and dwell on this continent, mostly conducting scientific research. Let’s see how many people reside in Antarctica and where they are located:

It turns out that it’s difficult to state how many people reside in Antarctica. This is because the number of people on the continent varies depending on the season[1]. In summer season, when conditions are favorable, the population reaches about 5,000 people. But when winter comes, many stations shut down, and permanent stations that stay open all year retain much smaller crews that keep things running. In winter season, the total number of people present in Antarctica goes down to about 1,000.

For my map, I decided to visualize population capacity, which roughly corresponds to number of people that reside at each station in the summer season.

Getting the data

As is often the case, getting the data was the trickiest part of making the visualization. I used a Wikipedia article to get the list of stations and spent a while filtering out stations that are no longer active. I extracted geographic coordinates from the list. To get population capacity, I went through Wikipedia articles on each station.

Some stations had no data available on Wikipedia, so I googled around and discovered a resource called “Antarctic Treaty Electronic Information Exchange System”. Although this website seems to lack a centralized list of all stations, it’s possible to get detailed information by nation and year. For example, here is information on Argentina in 2019. Using this resource, I filled in the gaps I had in my data.

Map choices

For map symbols, I mapped population capacity to symbol size and color coded them to distinguish between permanent and summer stations.

I used tooltips to include additional information about each station, such as the managing country and exact population capacity.

Finally, I added text annotations to highlight interesting facts about certain stations and name some geographical features.

Here are some links to Academy articles that cover features I used in my map:

👉 How to create a symbol map
👉 Customizing your symbol map
👉 How to create text annotations

If you feel like exploring Antarctic stations some more, you can have a look at a (non-Datawrapper) interactive map I created a few months ago. In this map I focus on how stations developed over the years instead of looking at their populations. There is also a great documentary about life in Antarctica which my colleague Lisa recommended to me. You can reach me on Twitter or at if you have any questions. We’ll see you next week!

  1. Since it is located in the Southern Hemisphere, Antarctica’s summer season is from October to February, and winter season is from March to September. ↩︎