best place to avoid getting killed in a nuclear war

Tierra del Fuego is not godforsaken! Having been there myself, I can say that Tierra del Fuego is a cool place to wait for your almost certain demise: there’s natural gas, forests, sea, rivers, mountains, lots of beavers (and beaver’s meat, of course), medical infrastructure, roads, snow, and an ozone layer hole. You can eat seafood and drink a Malbec while you watch the nuclear winter come!

ETA: Link to column: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/211/whats-the-best-place-to-avoid-getting-killed-in-a-nuclear-war

There’s the persistent urban legend (the questioner seems to allude to) about the guy in the early 80’s who was woried about impending nuclear war between the USA and CCCP. The story goes that he tried to find an isolated, safe backwater place just in case, about as far as he could get from anything dangerous; so he moved to the Falkland islands. However, I doubt the Falklands come close to self-sufficiency. It strikes me they have the Easter Island /Greenland syndrome - not enough woods to build seafaring craft.

The point is if most of the fallout is in the northern hemisphere, it would take an extra few weeks of atmospheric circulation maybe before the levels were lethal in Tierra del Fuego. Pass the Malbec.

At Tierre del Fuego, you don’t need to wait for nuclear winter, you can have a god-awful winter every year. (I was there in January, middle of their summer, and it was chilly.)

Is surviving a nuclear war that bleak? I don’t mean if the politicians decide to bomb everywhere for no good reason. Just a directed attack where Russia takes out Europe and USA and we in turn take out Russia and China. I understand that places nearby like India and Mexico would suffer horribly. But if no nukes were launched at South America, Africa and Australia, would the fallout alone be enough to wipe out humans? All advanced life? Dolphins, Whales and large sea fish?

Eventually, on a geologic or evolutionary scale, life would be reborn, what about short term?

No. Fallout won’t cross the equator in significant quantities, and indeed, the ejecta from the initial blasts will fall back to ground in relatively short order (a few weeks). Lighter ash and gases released by the resulting firestorms will be more persistent, but the concept of a decade or more long nuclear winter is hyperbole, even in the case of an all-out global exchange.

Most targets are in the Northern Hemisphere; however, so is most industry and agriculture. The remaining countries would certainly suffer economically, and we could expect widespread famine in Africa and the subcontinent. Personally, in the case of a nuclear war (and I have my own private airship that can reach anywhere in the world) I’d probably head for New Zealand, which is remote enough not to be easily accessible but quite capable of self-sustainance at a post-WWII level. Chile and Argentina would be contenders as well.

Stranger

Silvermink said:

Was there ever a plan of limited nuclear engagement? I’m pretty sure every situation since MAD consisted of shooting everything you have at every place the other guys might have something. I don’t know that South America and Africa would have been big targets, but I’m pretty sure Australia would have been on Russia and China’s list.

In other words, what is a “directed attack”, and how would that occur?

You would attack the places that would be a threat for counter attack. If we are looking at the cold war scenario of USSR v USA then count on the naval bases on the West and East coasts being primary targets: Hawaii, San Diego, Seattle, Virginia, etc. Also, the “brains” would be a target so Pentagon, D.C., NORAD.

I’m no war expert but I doubt Australia is considered a threat to anyone. Now those Canadians on the other hand…

In all out war, as demonstrated in WWII, any industrial installation can be a target. Oil refineries, oil fields, metal smelting and refining and manufacturing… Shipping points; hydroelectric production, food production (troops and arms manufacturers gotta eat), communication centers, etc. Basically, civilization is a target.

You have about 18,000 or so nukes. Once you’ve targetted every missle silo and military base a couple of times, what do you do with the leftovers? Australia, for example, has been a participant in most recent big wars: WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam. Their sympathies lie with the USA and they can probably supply spare parts to them. Ditto for Israel and South Africa(then). You only have one chance to launch before the other side dumps everything they have on your launch sites. What do you do?

It was called Mutual Assured Destruction for a reason.

I’d love to see an honest assessment of the fall-out risks. From what I read years ago, from 30,000 nukes from 2 sides, sufficient radioactive dust would exist in the upper atmosphere for long enough that it would certainly kill all life except the microbes in the sea, and eventually make it’s way across the equator to the south. After all, that freon-induced ozone hole in the antarctic didn’t come exclusively from Aussies spraying themselves with deoderant. At least, not the men.

I’ve read estimates that 18 perfectly-placed cobalt-salted hydrogen bombs would generate enough windborne fallout to exterminate human life in the Northern Hemisphere. Presumably fewer would be required for the smaller land area in the Southern Hemisphere. Whether anyone is targeting the Southern Hemisphere is another matter.

Also, perfect placement won’t happen, and only a minority of weapons were cobalt-salted, and may not be in use any longer, etc. But a large-scale exchange would be inconceivably bad, especially in a world that regards the housing bubble as a crisis.