Letter: Tourists stumble into Antarctica

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The Independent Online
Sir: Michael Streeter's article on pollution posing a threat to tourism in Antarctica (25th Sept) suggests that all nations mounting scientific programmes are not behaving responsibly. While there are some irresponsible nations, the major players (the British, Australians, Americans and New Zealanders) have operated strict protocols on the handling of waste and pollution for some time.

Tourism is increasing, and does pose problems. Large numbers of tourists invading scientific stations (often uninvited) disrupt scientific programmes during the short Antarctic summer. Hordes trooping across penguin rookeries can reduce the reproductive success of the birds. Unlike scientific personnel, tourists do not undergo rigorous medical tests. If there is a medical emergency on a tourist vessel, it is very likely that a scientific station would be called upon to help.

I have seen inappropriately dressed tourists being ferried around in inflatable boats, often some distance from their tour ship. I wonder who would be expected to undertake search and rescue if (when) an accident occurs.

The scientific community has put its house in order - I think the tour operators need to do some serious thinking.

The revenue from tourism does not benefit Antarctica - none of it is used to support scientific research or to assist in cleaning up the rubbish left by less responsible nations in the past.

Professor JOHANNA LAYBOURN-PARRY

Department of Physiology and Environmental Science

University of Nottingham

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