Antarctica in the more modern era does not have an indigenous population (there are no native human Antarcticans). We do not know what populations in ancient times called Antarctica home. So, who lives in Antarctica?
The continent was once a part of a larger land mass called Gondwana that settled over the south pole and split from Australasia and South America long before humans evolved. There haven’t been any land bridges to Antarctica for around 35 million years, it has been an isolated island for all this time.
Humans are thought to have evolved in East Africa very recently in geological terms (no more than 5 million years at most). We then left the ancestral homeland and moved across all of the continents of the world.
Antarctica was already too isolated by distance, climate, and the storminess of its seas for primitive peoples to discover. It wasn’t until 1820 when human technology and navigation was sophisticated enough to allow anyone to sail far enough south to even see Antarctica for the first time. There are several poorly substantiated claims of setting foot upon the Antarctic mainland from 1820, though 1899 is the first date accepted by some historians. When the first people did set foot on Antarctica there wasn’t anyone already there from what we can tell.
Antarctica is therefore one of the few places in the world that can truly be described as having been discovered, rather than there being people already living there who had known about it for hundreds or thousands of years before its “discovery”. Who lives in Antarctica these days?
The people who travel to or live in Antarctica fall into two main groups, those who live and work on scientific research stations or bases, and tourists. No-one lives in Antarctica indefinitely in the way that they do in the rest of the world. It has no commercial industries, no towns or cities, no permanent residents.
The only “settlements” with longer term residents (who stay for some months or a year, maybe two) are scientific bases. These vary in size, but typically have 50 people there in the summer and 15-20 in the winter (Antarctica is never really talked about as having spring or autumn/fall), summer lasts from October/November to March/April, the rest of the year is winter.
There are around 66 scientific bases in Antarctica, of which about 37 are occupied year-round, the remainder are open during the summer and closed for winter. There are about 4,000 people through the summer months and about 1,000 overwinter each year. Most residents of scientific stations do a “summer only” this is anywhere from 3-6 months, with a smaller number staying over the Antarctic winter (when any chance of transport in or out is virtually impossible).
Access to Antarctica is restricted by the Antarctic Treaty. If you want to organize your own trip or expedition there, you will have to request permission from the government of your own country. You must have a very good reason for wanting to go there. Approval is not guaranteed.
If you like mysteries about Antarctica, you may like the book Arctic Ave by Daniel River. A mystery thriller that leads to Antarctica. Read about how Antarctica was without ice here as well. Lots of interesting content about the mysterious place Antarctica.