Recreational travel is growing in Antarctica, and is raising concern over the safety of the place. According to Clarin newspaper, the number of cruise ships that are navigating this area has gone from 35 in the early '90s to 258 last summer, and in the same period five accidents have been registered.
Some might say that tourism can create awareness over subjects such as climate change, but it's hard to believe that pushing large cruise ships in areas so delicate as Antarctica is going to have a positive effect.
Climate Tourism and How It's Affecting Antarctica
We've spoken about the so-called 'climate tourism': as global warming threatens to make some areas disappear, people are eager to see them before they're gone. One of this areas is Antarctica, the southern pole of the earth.
A special report on Clarin newspaper informs that the tourism wave to this area began in the early '90s, and that the number of cruise ships navigating its waters grew seven times in the past 16 years. About 44605 people have visited the area in that period. And, of course, there have been accidents: five in the past two years.
The size of the ships has grown too: they used to be for 50 to 350 passengers, but this summer large ships for up to 3100 passengers have been granted access to the area. Without allowing travelers to descend the boats though.
Even though most of the ships that cross these waters are gathered in the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), which verifies that ships have the necessary security measures, over the past years independent ships have entered the area messing around. According to the mentioned article, some ships --especially those doing 'adventure' travel-- have painted gratifies in historical places and introduced species not native to the area (dogs).
Some of the biggest risks, however, are not the ones related to descending in the region, but the ones linked to navigating. Some icebergs are strong enough to break a ship and sink it or produce spills. Just remember the Explorer incident in December 2007.
Another concern are of course the awful spills of sewage and laundry water usually thrown by ships.
Argentina announced in 2007 that it might limit tourism to Antarctica, but real measures do not appear to have taken place. Clarin says the country has pushed before the IAATO to increase regulations to visit the area, but tourism continues to increase.
Most people who care for the environment and like to know different cultures enjoy traveling, but just how far is it OK to go in exploring areas in danger? What do you think?
More on Climate Change and Tourism:
Climate Tourism: Does Travel Create Environmental Awareness?
Argentina Might Limit Tourism to Antarctica
Ecuador Announces Measures to Protect Galapagos Islands