Extreme environments are susceptible to environmental damage from the development of tourism.

Extreme environments are places where few people live, dure to difficult physical conditions. Tourists are becoming more adventurous when on holiday. One way in which this is sown is the tpes of activities tourists now engage in e.g. white water rafting, cross-country skiing. Also tourists are becoming more adventurous in their choice of destination. Remote destinations such as the Galapagos Islands, Easter Island and the Maldives are now included on a tourist map of the world. Places like this would have once between inaccessible however, with the improvements in air travel and other forms of transport this is no longer a problem.

Adventure tourism is one of the fastest-growing types of tourism in the world. Adventure tourists look for physical challenge and risks. They are often around 30 years old, unmarried and without children, have high-powered jobs and a good income – these trips are expensive. Groups are small and distances great. However, there are enough wealthy individuals with a taste for adventure to allow this sector to grow. It will never be a large sector but in some areas it is increasing in significance. Most companies advertise on the internet rather than by brochure.


Small-scale tourism began in Antarctica in the 1950s when commerical shipping began to take a few passengers. The first specially designed cruise ship made its first voyage in 1969.

Antarctica is classed as extreme because:

  • Antarctica is centered around the South Pole and is surrounded by the Southern Ocean
  • Antarctica is a continent and has an area of 5 million square miles (one and a half times the USA)
  • No-one lived in Antarctica until 1897 and hardly anyone live there now except scientists. There are about 50 research stations dotted about Antarctica.
  • The temperature is generally below freezing. Incredibly cold temperatures have been recorded inland, such as -60C! On the coast, temperatures can sink to -30C but it can also warm up in summer – sometimes as high as freezing point!
  • There are hardly any people and hardly any buildings (outside the research stations). The natural, largely white, landscape is home to wildlife like penguins, especially along the icy coastline.

Some 9,000 tourists in 1992-93 have now grown to over 37,000 in 2006-07 and to 46,000 in 2007-08. This is thousands more than the scientific workers and their support staff who are there temporarily for research purposes. Over 100 tourist companies are involved. In 2006, 38.9% of visitors were American, 15.4% British, 10.3% German and 8.4% Australian.

Tourists from the northern hemisphere usually fly to New Zealand or Argentina, taking their cruise ships onwards for one to two weeks. Smaller boats take them ashore at key locations for short visits, mainly to the peninsula or nearby islands.

Impacts of tourism

At the moment, tourism’s impact on Antarctica is limited. This is because tourism there is internationally controlled and carefully monitored (plus very expensive; a 7 day trip to Antarctica costs about £25,000). Tourists spend most of their time on board their cruise ships and don’t venture far inland.

With the number of visitors set to double in the next ten years, possible impacts include sea and coastal pollution, littering, damage to flora and fauna. and distruption of breeding patterns – since the peak tourist and the peak breeding seasons coincide. The possibility of bigger ships, helicopters and commercial air strips also threaten the environment. Already large cruise ships with up to 1000 passengers sail to Antarctic. Although their passengers do not visit the continent it would be an enormous environmental disaster should one of the cruise ships hit ice and sink. Unlike the smaller ships they are not ice-strengthened and they use heavy fuel oil, which disperses more slowly than marine fuel oil.

Managing tourism in Antarctica

  • All tour operators are members of IAATO (International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators) which directs tourism to be safe and environmentally friendly.
  • Guidelines on things liek the number of people allowed onshore, activities and wildlife watching.
  • Tour operators are not allowed to leave anything behind – no rubbish of any sort.
  • Cruise ships carry their used (grey) water back to port.
  • In 2010, the British Government suggested to other Antarctic Treaty members that they limit the number of tourists visiting Antarctica and where they should go, plus also ban any hotel building.
  • Since 2011, ships aren’t allowed to use heavy fuel oil.
  • From 2013, the new Polar Code will limit the number and size of shops visiting Antarctica. Ships carrying more than 500 passengers won’t be allowed to land anyone, and only 100 tourists will be allowed ashore at any one time.

All these strategies have been put in place to allow some visitors to enjoy Antarctica without spoiling it for the future – in other words to manage tourism sustainably.

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