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Life is good for workers in Chilean Antarctica

VILLA LAS ESTRELLAS, Antarctica -- There is no crime or traffic and in this Antarctic hamlet paychecks can be much higher than on the Chilean mainland. Plus, the penguins are very cute.

But residents of Villa Las Estrellas also have to endure winters with howling blizzards and temperatures that plunge to -40 Celsius in winter, making it painful to even breathe outdoors.

And they don't get many visitors.

“Living here is entertaining compared with the continent,” said Jose Carrillan Rosales, principal of the tiny Las Estrellas school.

“The hard part is spending many days indoors. For example, last winter we spent eight days without leaving home because of the wind and snow,” he told AFP.

Villa Las Estrellas is located at Fildes Bay on King George Island, located on the northernmost tip of the Antarctic peninsula.

The 30-year-old hamlet, population 64, has a post office, a bank, 10 houses, a miniature mall, a gym and a school for the six children who live there. It is part of the Presidente Eduardo Frei Chilean Air Base.

Most of the residents are relatives of the military personnel on the air base.

One attraction of living so far south is the exotic fauna, especially the long tailed Gentoo Penguins, which have bright orange bills and white stripes between their eyes across the top of their heads.

To survive in this remote town one must be highly organized: the local market opens just twice a week and stock is limited. Locals stockpile their own soap, toothpaste and shampoo.

Rosales, originally from a mainland town south of Santiago, has been in Las Estrellas for two years along with his wife — also a teacher at the school — and his two children.

He's happy living in the remote outpost.

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Chilean schoolteacher Maria Hernandez Castillo, 41, teaches her students at the school of the Frei base in Antartica on March 11. Hernandez Castillo has lived with her husband and their two children in Antartica for two years. (AFP)

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