Posted by: cgratton | April 7, 2009

Cross Antarctica Off the List…Tourism May Undergo Limits Due to Environmental Debate

Sorry adventure-seekers, but you may have to scrap any dreams of visiting the majestic glacial frontiers of Antarctica.

According to reports from yesterday’s Arctic Council and the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in Baltimore, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton revealed the US’s early plans to put limitations on travel and tourism in the southern polar region.  She cited environmental concerns shared by her and the rest of the Obama administration at the basis of her argument—that growing human interaction in Antarctica threatens to destroy its fragile landscape.

Her solution: putting international limits on the number of tourist vessels able to land, and redraw and expand the marine pollution rules and boundaries enacted in the Antarctic Treaty of 1959.  The tourism restraints ensure that potentially hazardous discharges from cruise ships will be limited; the remapping of pollution rules will more accurately reflect the concerns of the 21st century, she explained.

A home to scientists and researchers studying the causes and effects of global warming, Antarctic tourism is becoming more and more commercially popular.  According to CNN.com, the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators reported that over 46,000 tourists visited the icy region in the 2007-2008 tour season—nearly four times as many than in the 2000-2001 season.

Its draw?  Dubbed the “last undiscovered land” on earth, Antarctica has stunning scenery, an untouched landscape with up-close wildlife interaction and a rich history of polar exploration that entices adventure-seekers and environmental enthusiasts.

Definitely worth braving the cold

Definitely worth braving the cold

But all this human interaction from cruises, camping tours and snow-trekking expeditions definitely has an effect.  In the region that lies at the very epicenter of the global warming debate, one that hangs in a delicate state of flux (i.e- a massive ice bridge is likely to shatter very soon), adding excess human influence in Antarctica could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

This argument has been swelling in recent years, as scientists and preservationists continue to protest the travel industry’s growing efforts to capitalize on the area in response to the high demand of adventure and wildlife tourism.

And thus a fundamental travel dilemma comes into play. We travel to see and experience the beauty of our planet, uncover its mysteries and witness its wonders.  But in doing so, we threaten to destroy nature’s purity, spoil the thing we hold so dearly through our curiosity.

Worth the sightseeing to pollute the water?

Worth the sightseeing to pollute the water?

Perhaps preserving one of earth’s natural wonders outweighs seeing its icebergs and penguin colonies.  For me, the Planet Earth series will suffice just fine.

What do you think?  Leave comments below!

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Responses

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  2. […] All about Cruises placed an observative post today on Cross Antarctica Off the List…Tourism May Undergo Limits Due toHere’s a quick excerpt…in the Antarctic Treaty of 1959.  The tourism restraints ensure that potentially hazardous discharges from cruise ships will be limited; […]


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