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The Historian's Corner

Organized Crime
in Antarctica

Even though Antarctica is the only continent without a permanently-settled human population, it does bear the stain of organized crime. After the International Geophysical Year got underway, one Mafia family turned its eyes southward for illicit profits at the southern pole.

Guido "The Krill" Spicolli was getting squeezed out of the action in New York City and northern New Jersey. Unwilling to locate in other areas where existing crime families already controlled the action, Spicolli began to search for as yet untouched areas where he could run prostitution, gambling, dope peddling, and protection rackets without competition. He paid close attention to newspaper reports of Antarctic science expeditions. While other smaller families were taking over towns in America's rural heartlands, Spicolli got his people ready to put a parka over their double-breasted suits and head for the land of the penguins.

What attracted him to Antarctica? Luigi "Plankton" Spicolli, a cousin of Guido's who later turned mob informant, explains: "Guido always liked science in school and hated hot weather. It was 90 something in Brooklyn one day and Guido yells, 'That's it! We're moving to Antarctica!' and so we packs up and moves down there. All the way, he talked about how he was gonna control the weather observation stations and the core sampling suppliers. He figured we could make hundreds of dollars a year off of them rackets. I told him, 'Guido, how we gonna live on hundreds of dollars a year?' and he points out the cost of living down there is very low, once you get settled in. It was a compelling argument and I gotta admit I really went for his sense of adventure. This was a mobster who wasn't content to sit around and fall into a rat race."

After setting up a base camp on the Ross Ice Shelf, the Spicolli family fanned out across the continent, barging into stations belonging to all nations and setting up collection rackets. A typical tactic would be to hold the doors of the stations open until the scientists inside paid them the protection money. In the deep Antarctic winters, this tactic was a goldmine.

Once he had control of the manned outposts, Guido took over the unmanned weather stations. Although they never put up any fight, they never had much money, either. Guido worked his way around that by leaving notes attached to the barometers that stated "It would be a pity were you not able to collect data here next time due to an equipment failure." An envelope would also be there. It was empty when first attached, but always contained cool cash after a researcher stopped by to gather data.

Guido's downfall came when he tried to take over the penguin roosts and add them to his frigid empire. Luigi Spicolli recalls: "So one day Guido walks in, looking crazier than a guy what voted for Stevenson, and says, 'OK boys, we're gonna lean on the penguins now'. I tells him all penguins got is eggs and fish and he says they're holding out on him. We all then realize this guy is totally crazy and decide to take the next boat outta there."

Deserted by his crime family, Guido tried to corral the penguins on his own. He failed miserably. Most historians attribute his failure to the fact that the penguins weren't really holding out at all, but in fact only had eggs and fish to offer a would-be racketeer.

Although Guido Spicolli failed as a mobster, he did eventually gain acceptance from the hordes of penguins on the continent and became a first-class researcher of Antarctic waterfowl. Yet, his shady past always haunted him, and he could never leave the stateless continent for fear he would be extradited back to America to face charges from the scientists he once shook down in his bid to be the crime king of the South Pole.

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