Hang the fees

Another one of my lingering questions, answered while I wasn’t looking: “Is there an automatic teller machine in Antarctica?” There is:

Despite the frigid temperatures, ornery elephant seals, and months of perpetual darkness, Antarctica is still a place where money matters. That’s where Wells Fargo comes in.

The banking conglomerate installed an automatic teller machine (ATM) back in 1998 at McMurdo Station, the largest science hub on the continent. Depending on the season, McMurdo’s population ranges from 250 to more than 1000. And like any small community, commerce is crucial. In order to patronize the coffee shops, general stores, bars, or post office, money is exchanged in what amounts to a closed economy. Some places only accept cash; others have a credit card minimum that’s hard to meet when you need just a couple of items.

And who fixes it when it’s broken?

According to Wells Fargo spokesperson Kristopher Dahl, the company trains McMurdo staff to make simple repairs; more importantly, there’s a second ATM that can be cannibalized for parts. “Every two years, both machines are serviced and brought up to speed on the latest technology,” he says. The vendors chosen for that job undergo a psychological exam and a physical to make sure they’re equipped to deal with the Antarctic climate in case they get held over.

“Latest technology” tells me that they’re not running Windows XP, anyway.


  1. fillyjonk »

    7 May 2015 · 1:17 pm

    It must suck to be the guy who has to go and refill it. (“Honey, I’ll be home late. Gotta go to Antarctica today to work on their ATM”)

    (Though maybe they don’t need refilling as often as your standard city ATM does)

  2. McGehee »

    7 May 2015 · 2:55 pm

    I’m thinking the machines essentially restock themselves, if the business owners deposit their receipts as cash; machines don’t require envelopes and must be able to sort incoming bills.

    A sufficiently advanced ATM should even be able to dispense 5s and 1s if they’re available.

  3. CGHill »

    7 May 2015 · 4:43 pm

    My bank is only just now discovering this difficult feat (dispensing smaller bills than twenties).

  4. McGehee »

    7 May 2015 · 5:41 pm

    My credit union has been handling tens since we’ve been members. I have no idea why it’s so difficult for Too Bank To Fail N.A. (not its real name).

  5. fillyjonk »

    8 May 2015 · 10:23 am

    Hm. Other than when I cash an odd-sized check (like a reimbursement), I always ask for 20s, so I have no idea if my credit union can handle smaller-bill requests.

    (I prefer to go to the credit union as infrequently as possible, so I get a bigger amount at any one time. It’s kind of a similar strategy to my buying two gallons of milk in one go.)

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