The tough features of Antarctica, such as ice, snow, isolation, high winds and raging seas are still not enough for many tourists, especially the hardcore adventurers will be coming in aboard cruise liners this coming tourist season, except around 130 of these visitors. Despite the fact that this year saw only 400 times more people as compared to the tourists season last year, the fact remains that this is still 70 percent higher than the tourist seasons before it, specifically 6,585 of them. Some of the watchers of the white continent state that there could be thousand more annual Antarctic voyagers and this could be a concern for its environment.
On average, an Antarctic cruise can go up to twenty thousand dollars for each individual, while the average 14-day cruise costs a heavy six to seven thousand dollars and this does not include round trip air fare to Ushuaia, Argentina, specifically in Tierra del Fuego which has become the most known common departing point, used 90 percent of the time. Underneath the idea that Antarctica appears to be indefatigable despite the growing number of tourists, with the cost of going there even the harsh climate and geography, people still pose threats to the ecosystem, as stated by many environmental experts. While the director of the Antarctic Project believes that Antarctica must be seen by the world for its great beauty, limits on the number of yearly visitors as well as the exploration of new sites must be imposed. This Washington founded project works as the secretariat for over 200 environmental groups throughout forty different countries.
There is truth to the fact that most who come to Antarctica come back committed to this continent's conservation, but then the down part is that this is a fragile land and there are too many people simply loving it exceedingly. A sensible and fair limit of only 6,000 guests every year is pushed by this director, due to the damage caused by the many voyagers frequenting the same few places on the 800 mile long Antarctic Peninsula, the home of the most penguins, seals and birds in this region. But then tour groups reaching land does not exceed a hundred visitors per time. Between visits, animals do not get to rest and neither do they have the chance to gather food for their babies.
But when it comes to a long term effect, not even science can answer that, she notes. Concerns include visitors touching plants and not being able to abide by garbage disposal promulgations. This is why large and experienced staffs are there to insure when visitors go ashore, they have minimal impact and on top of that, this explains why tour operators adhere to such guidelines as stated by the system espoused by the Antarctic Treaty. That series of agreements includes the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, since signed by 43 nations, plus environmental protocol that since Jan 14, 1998, has banned mining and oil drilling and provided other environmental safeguards, including fishing limits and occasional Antarctic cruises.
Members that are part of the New York based association of tour operators have openly adopted the limit for shore visits which only accommodate a hundred people at a time and entail the use of motorized rubber boats known as zodiacs. Out of 15 air crafts this season, nine shall fly with the flags of Russia. With the Soviet Union's break up, a motley of smaller ships became accessible for tour operators. An average of 40 to 80 people are welcome aboard these ships, several vessels along one that is know to be an ice breaker, all of them being able to plow through ice with hardened hulls.
But for the meantime, there is persisting and growing concern toward the white continent's state of environment. We can wish that as we look back in the future, we heave a sigh of relief, as all those worries did not really come to something. Until the day science sheds light on these questions, we will have to limit our travels to Antarctica for this continent's sake.