The development of tourism in Antarctica worries scientists

The case of the Russian ship stranded for several days in Antarctica sparked criticism in the scientific community and made ​​evident risks of tourism in the white continent , accessible mainly to the wealthy, experts say.

Recently, Yves Frenot , director of the French Polar Institute Paul- Emile Victor, was furious about the inconvenience suffered by the French, Chinese and Australian scientists because of the rescue of the Russian ship ” Akademik Chokalskiy ”.

“It’s not about putting Antarctica under a bell jar and keep it only for scientists, but it is necessary that tourism is controlled to organize help in case of problems”, said Frenot.

Antarctica is one of the few places that offers tourists a wealth of well-heeled snow, ice floes and populated by penguins, seals and whales.

But, as passengers discovered ” Akademik Chokalskiy ” snowfall , icebergs and extreme weather conditions can disrupt the tour.

The case of Russian ship should ” remind us that this is an extreme means , both for scientific expeditions to the cruise ships ,” said Daniela Liggett , specialist tourism in Antarctica University of Canterbury in New Zealand.

In 24 years , the number of tourists in Antarctica increased sevenfold , from 5,000 in 1990 to 35,000 in 2013 , according to figures from tour operators.

Most tourists visit Antarctica by boat and pay up to $ 11,000 per luxury cabin in high season, between November and March.

Other tourists admire the landscape from the air, on special flights.

The first cruise ship in Antarctica took place in 1958 and gathered a hundred passengers in the Argentine ship “Les Eclaireurs”.

classicBoats in difficulty

The development of tourism in this pristine and fragile alarms many specialists , highlighting the risks and problems involved the assistance to vessels in the continent.

“Isolation is something specific in Antarctica and if a large vessel is almost impossible to think of something to help quickly all passengers”, says Daniela Ligget.

Traditional relief teams are thousands of miles and often helps to scientific expeditions vessels whose carefully prepared programs due to the short austral summer significantly disturbed.

The ” Akademik Chokalskiy ” was stranded on Christmas Eve to a hundred kilometers from the French base Dumont d’ Urville.

The Chinese icebreaker that helped was in turn locked in ice. Both ships were able to leave the area recently.

The “Astrolabe”, a French vessel that replenishes the base Dumont d’ Urville during the austral summer , was requisitioned several days, as an Australian scientist boat.

The Russian ship had tourists and scientists reproducing a century after the experience of Australian explorer Douglas Mawson. Was “a pseudo-scientific expedition”, said Yves Frenot.

The cruise ships that have the backing of the International Organization Tourism Organizations in Antarctica (IAATO ) , sailing often two to help in case of difficulty , says Liggett , and ensures that monitor the environment”.

They sell to their customers landscapes , wildlife and an intact environment. Preserve that interest them ,” said the specialist.

Tourist boats apply decontamination measures  to passengers for not to leave in the Antarctica alien species or microbes , says Amanda Lynnes from IAATO.

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