- Every man, woman, and child in Villas Las Estrellas removes their appendix before arriving in town.
- The surgeon is over 600 miles away, making any case of appendicitis potentially fatal.
I’ve never lived somewhere with an HOA, but I’ve watched enough situational comedy TV to know you want to be on their good side. Interviews with co-op boards in New York can be fraught encounters. You need to come across as boring, quiet, and filthy with money. If you’re lucky enough to find a place you like and can afford, how far would you go to move in? Agree to host the next board meeting in your home? Provide gluten-free, sugar-free, nut-free snacks for the co-op board? How about removing an organ?
The Town at the Edge of the World
The Villas Las Estrellas in Antarctica requires new residents to remove their appendix before they arrive. Then, as a village, the feast on the newly harvested organ tissue. Just kidding. There’s an excellent reason for the requirement.
The town’s nearest hospital is over 600 miles away. They’re not an easy 600 miles down a well-maintained interstate, either. Boat and airplane are the only ways to get to Villas Las Estrellas, right at the southern tip of King George Island. While there are doctors among the 100 year-round residents, none are specialized surgeons who could, for instance, take out an inflamed appendix in a hurry.
Is appendicitis so prevalent that it’s worth putting every man, woman, and child through an elective surgery? About 1 in 20 people will get it in their lifetime, which could be as many as five people in Villas Las Estrellas at risk of dying from a pretty common ailment. I’ve never had appendicitis. But I have had indigestion–I wouldn’t want to travel 600 miles by boat even in a slight state of discomfort.
Adventure, Plus Peace and Quiet
The residents have to be tough as nails to survive in Antarctica year-round. Even on the northernmost coastal island. The average yearly temperature is just 27 degrees Fahrenheit. It can plummet to 50 below for weeks at a time during the winter. The people of Villas Las Estrellas have to be rolling their eyes at the world’s histrionics over coronavirus quarantine. They’re always socially distanced down there.
The unspoken requirement for living in such a place is a sense of adventure. The residents acknowledge there are hardships. Besides the cold and snow, just a few hours of daylight eke over the horizon for months out of the year. Even in the “warm” months, the landscape is barren–gray rocks, gray sky, gray ocean. What it does have, is solitude and quiet, which all of us are learning to appreciate more these days.