Adventure cruises to Antarctica have increased by 500 per cent in the last 15 years – presumably because we want to see the icy wildernesses before they disappear as a result of global warming.
But it’s time for the growth to be halted, or reversed, according to delegates at the 32nd meeting of the Antarctic Treaty organization, meeting in Baltimore this week.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, no less, has urged tighter control over cruise ships visiting both Polar regions, north and south.
“We have submitted a resolution that would place limits on landings from ships carrying large number of tourists. We have also proposed new requirements for lifeboats on tour ships to make sure they can keep passengers alive until rescue comes,” she said, according to a Reuters report
There have been concerns over shipwrecks, oil spills and aggravation of stresses on animals and plants that may already be suffering from global warming.
In the past four months, there have been two rescue efforts for cruise ships stranded in icy Antarctic waters. Over a year ago, more than 150 crew and passengers escaped in a dramatic rescue after their ship hit ice off Antarctica and sank.
Mrs Clinton said the urgency of the issue was reflected by the collapse last weekend of an ice bridge holding together the Wilkins ice shelf.
It’s likely that nations at the convention will reach agreement on cruise ship restrictions, though it may take some time to take effect. So speaking purely selfishly, and totally irresponsibly, if you want to see penguins in their natural habitat, maybe there’s no time to lose.