Imagine you are an entrepreneur who runs a cruise ship company offering tours of Antarctica. You ferry people down to one of the world’s last remote continents, running your vessel and its passengers through some of the roughest waters on earth.
Now imagine that your Antarctica-bound cruise ship encounters a freakishly out of place iceberg (icebergs near the South Pole? No way!) and suddenly runs aground, stranding the vessel and 89 of its passengers in the middle of the ocean.
This exact scenario came to pass on the Argentine cruise ship Ushuaia this past Thursday just off the Antarctic peninsula of Wilhelmina Bay, according to the BBC. Though no passengers were hurt by the collision, the ship was said to be leaking fuel into the surrounding ocean. Passengers were eventually rescued by a ship from the Chilean Navy.
According to the piece, tourism to Antarctica has risen five-fold in the last 15 years, as travelers look to get that increasingly exotic “notch in their belt” and visit one of the world’s last unspoiled destinations. However, the sort of iceberg collision that plagued the Ushuaia is a “chilling” reminder that a visit to Antarctica is not without its hazards, both for tourists and for the environment of Antarctica itself. Ships and passengers are confronted with rough seas, chilling temperatures and a shifting obstacle course of icebergs. Not to mention the fragile environment and wildlife that calls Antarctica home which is threatened by the increasing tourism to the continent.
As more and more visitors head south to check out Antarctica, these sorts of environmental concerns are increasingly aggravated. Make sure if you’re considering a visit you investigate your vessel/tour company thoroughly before booking, and that they are taking care to ensure a safe and environmentally responsible visit.