Two US bases on Antarctica - one of which is on New Zealand territory - are facing alcohol restrictions after a recent report revealed excessive drinking has led to fights, people turning up to work drunk and even incidents of indecent exposure.

The Telegraph reported a new audit of health and safety at McMurdo Station, on the south tip of Ross Island in the New Zealand-claimed Ross Dependency, and the South Pole, had linked excessive drinking to the "unpredictable behaviour".

The numbers of those at McMurdo range from 250 in winter to 1000 in summer months, whereas the base at the South Pole houses 50 people in winter and around 150 people in summer.

In the past Kiwi scientists who've gone to New Zealand's permanent site on the continent, Scott Base, have also spent time at McMurdo. However, a spokeswoman at the New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute did not want to comment on the issue of alcohol abuse amongst Kiwis in Antarctica as "it wasn't one".


Nevertheless, she says the institute does carefully monitor alcohol use among its people in Antarctica and is confident in their ability to drink responsibly. But officials from the United States' National Science Foundation (NSF) are taking a tougher line and have recommended breathalysers be used at the two US Antarctic bases following the health and safety audit. It did take care to note that drinking was not out of control but it did want to prevent alcohol-related problems.

"Alcohol-related misconduct is not disproportionately represented at the Antarctic stations," an NSF official told The Telegraph.

However breathalyser tests could pose legal and administrative problems as Antarctica is not US territory and it is unclear who would conduct tests and what rights of appeal would be available. At high altitudes these tests are also said to be unreliable.

Several other countries have research bases in Antarctica, including Britain, France, New Zealand and Russia. Each has its own rules about consumption of alcohol.

In The Guardian Phil Broughton, who worked as a bartender at the South Pole station described the icy continent's drinking culture that was linked to a sense of isolation and depression during the long winter months. "I was on duty most nights, mixing drinks into the small hours. There was no chaplain at the base; I think I was the nearest thing to one."