A Chilly Reception
Environmentalists Concerned About Increase in Antarctic Tourism
Not that long ago, the remote, inhospitable Antarctic would have seemed like an unlikely tourist destination. Now, though, with global tourism on the rise and far-flung places all the rage, tourism to the South Pole is growing rapidly — and possibly at the expense of the region’s environment. In the past decade, the number of visitors to Antarctica has doubled to 13,500 per year and is expected to double again in the not-so-distant future. Environmentalists and scientists fear that the increasing number of ships and tourists in the area could bring unwanted visitors with them — nonnative species that can harm the environment. They also worry about the potential for fuel spills from ships and the impact of more traffic on the ecosystem. And, of course, there are concerns about human safety in the chilly, iceberg-filled water: “This year we will probably have four to five large ships with a thousand people on board and several of those ships are not ice strengthened,” warned John Shears, environmental officer of the British Antarctic Survey.