Holger Leue/Lonely Planet Images/Getty
So this past week I was sitting on a plane headed to a wedding in Wisconsin. I was sitting next to a guy about my age and after about the first hour or knitting and reading we ended up starting to chat. I found out that he was a project coordinator for some kind of vacation site in Antarctica. At first he mentioned that he spends a lot of time in Antarctica which I immediately thought, ‘cool, what do you study?’ but was disappointed and further confused to find out he didn’t study anything, nor did he help coordinate research at all. People just travel to Antarctica for vacation now……
So I was thinking, hmmm, well if people are going to travel to Antarctica for the all so reasonable price of $25,000 for one week to sit around ice (down from the original price of $45,000) (US funds…..) and the money went towards research and maintaining other camps in Antarctica like the penguin research station (https://www.bas.ac.uk/polar-operations/sites-and-facilities/facility/signy/) that would be great!
At Jerry Kooyman and Paul Ponganis’ field camp at Cape Washington, Antarctica, curious emperor penguins approach.
Credit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography/UC San Diego
So I went online and tried to figure this out. Who is making the profit from these trips? If these organizations are giving back at all and how much? After a little digging and chatting with the staff at a research facility I am visiting currently, we found this:
Some places are better left alone. Cruise ships reaching Antarctica and even now crossing the Northwest Passage with increasing frequency will have huge impacts on Inuit communities, noise pollution for wildlife like migrating whales, not to mention the carbon footprint.
Check out this noise pollution TED talk about whales:
I have yet to find anything indicating the exact contributions of these companies to research other than the vague statements that a percentage of profits are contributed to research expeditions or that they help with logistics for other research camps….what does that even mean and what percentage are we talking about here?
For the ripe price of $73,000.00 USD for 9 days to see penguins, what do you get? Click the box above the image to enlarge.
You don’t even really need to be in that good a shape to get around with all the catering you get in these conditions……did you know that a huge plane goes into each of these camps every 3 days so the vacationers can have fresh lettuce and homemade fresh baked bread???? But hey, those will be some pretty incredible photos right? So if you MUST MUST travel to Antarctica as a tourist, shop around to the right company with the least negative affects on the environment and the greatest contribution of profits to research. Just like doing research and purchasing products that are better for the environment like coffee and free-range chicken eggs, think twice about who you book your trip with. Or better yet, some places are better left alone and just purchase BBC Planet Earth and BBC Frozen Planet.
Other good reads: