Despite the hardships of life on the bottom of the earth, many Argentines come back year after year.

Air force officers volunteer for successive one-year assignments and the contract civilians take continuing month-to-month tours.

I'd rather spend three or four months in Antarctica and go home for a month when I feel like it than commute for hours a day back and forth to Buenos Aires,' said solderer Oscar Tucceri of La Plata, 60 miles south of the Argentine capital.

Tucceri earns the equivalent of $100 amonth basic pay plus another $300 a month special Antartica pay - a high rate by Argentine norms. He has expenses at Marambio, where everything is provided.

"The really beautiful thing is the storms," said plumber Abel Carlos Coronel. "The contrast of the clear days when you can see the horizon all around and the storms when you can't see your own feet - that makes life exciting."

Other men spoke of the constant feeling of discovery, of being part of a pioneering effort. The silence moves them."It gives peace to my soul," one said. Waldo Garcia of Mendoza, one of 11 who pioneered the base in 1969, won general agreement when he said the place "is like an ugly lover - you can't live without her, but you don't know why."

As with most places where men work alone, women are often in the conversations. Only three have ever visited Marambio: former President Isabel Peron, her friend Norma Lastiri and now me.Magazine centerfolds and pictures of wives and sweethearts abound on the barrack walls.

Officials are not eager to replace them with real people. "If you have 100 men, you can't have just 99 women," said Lt. Victor Soler, second in command. "Eventually, I suppose, along with families and even schools someday, but not-for awhile yet."