Antarctica: The Final Frontier

Adventure Travel, Antarctica, Cruise, Wildlife & Animals — By on March 30, 2008 at 2:02 pm

The South Pole was on the top of my travel wish list, and I finally made it to the bottom of the world. There’s been some debate about whether the tourism boom is good or bad for The Ice (just 6,750 people traveled to the South Pole in ’92/’93, compared to about 40,000 this year, according to an article in the March issue of National Geographic Adventure). What if a cruise ship carrying tourists crashes and spills fuel into the ocean? What if tourists landing on The Ice accidentally step on the precious moss that takes decades to grow?

Still, some experts think tourism helps a lot more than harms-especially if done right. “So far Antarctica has been a good example of managed tourism, and I hope it becomes the model for doing the right thing,” says Geoff Green, the founder of Students on Ice Expeditions, who has been leading educational adventures to the Poles for over fifteen years. “To minimize impact, more rules need to be established-such as not allowing ships with more than 200 passengers to disembark.”

Moreover, a trip to The Ice creates a new generation of ambassadors for the Poles. “It’s hard to protect a place until you understand it, and bringing people to Antarctica is a way to raise awareness-people fall in love with its pristine beauty,”says Green.

But you don’t have to take a trip to the bottom of the world to impact Antarctica: Just look at last week’s collapse of the Manhattan-sized ice shelf that scientists are linking with global warming. “Climate change and over-fishing are much bigger threats to Antarctica than the impact of tourism,” says Green. “Even if a ship sank, it wouldn’t have a huge impact on the continent, but if all the ice melts due to global warming, it most definitely will.”

My personal journey to The Ice showed me that what we do as individuals does matter: The small choices wake in our everyday lives ultimately impacts the entire planet. Seeing the penguin rookeries, cerulean glaciers, and leopard seals napping on icebergs up close reminded me that I am not separate from nature, but part of it.

So when I returned home to the concrete jungle, one of the first changes I made wasn’t an huge feat: I simply gathered the dozens of plastic grocery bags collecting in a growing ball under my kitchen sink, and carried ’em down to my local supermarket for recycling. When the store manager told me they didn’t recycle plastic bags, I hopped on the L train and deposited them at the environmentally friendly Whole Foods supermarket in Union Square.

It’s not much, I know. But if each of us starts making some tiny adjustments-whether it’s buying only locally-grown produce to reduce your carbon imprint or just turning off the lights when they’re not in use-we’ll be doing our part to keep the earth healthy-and the glaciers from disappearing so fast.

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  • frankmoessa says:

    Thanks so much for opening people’s eyes about our planet. I have a planned trip to stay at the Maquengue resort in Costa Rica and I will be experiencing other natural wonders but nevertheless, people like you are inspirational for all of us that appreciate mother earth.

    Frank Moessa.

  • Eamon says:

    How amazing it must be in the South Pole…
    It must seem odd being in such a vast, empty place with such few people about.

  • Alex says:

    Thanks for this post,I’m glad that the tourism is increasing,because the south also exists.

    My Airfare Secrets

  • mira says:

    Hey chicas,
    I just found your blog and loved it! I am also a female travel blogger and love to hear about girls going on great adventures, especially in such out of the way places!
    I was wondering if you want to exchange links with me? I am trying to create a page of helpful links, tips, and suggestions to fellow wandering girls. Check me out!
    Lady The

  • laradunston says:

    Great post! Like you I strongly believe that the little things we do count.

  • R. Duckie says:

    I missed a trip to Antarctica a while back – I have found another way of traveling around the world, and that’s by working on a cruise ship. If I stay on the ship for Christmas I will get to see it at last.

  • Aprille says:

    I featured some amazing pictures some friends took on a recent trip to the Antarctic a couple days ago. Fabulous. How many people will see Antarctica? The best part about their trip? Their two kids picked the location! What interesting kids!

  • Nomadic Matt says:

    I dream of Antartica as much as I dream of Africa. I loved the piece on it. When people go anywhere, there is always a danger something bad will happen but I think maybe if people go there, they might come home like you do and change their habits.

    If you get a chance, come over and check out my little corner of this travel online world:

    I like this page and am gonna link to it.

  • YA76OO says:

    ‼ lovely…

  • Diego says:

    Wow, amazing travel and post here. I will be flying to Australia this Xmas and will check that box, and will be missing just the Antarctica then. Just a quick question since I’ve heard it’s an expensive trip, how much should you set aside?
    Thanks and keep going…

  • Earlie Vix says:

    This is true for most people. Most people want to be eco-friendly but for the most part at least currently sometimes going green is not financially a good idea.

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