How can polar regions be managed sustainably on a small-scale?

Union Glacier, Antarctica

Related image Union Glacier is part of a large expanse of ice in the Ellsworth Range (part of the Transantarctic Mountains). It is used as a logistics hub operated by Adventure Network International (website). The camp is near to a natural blue-ice runway which can be used to land large cargo planes which bring equipment for expeditions and scientific research.

Each year, an advance crew arrive to set up the camp for the four month summer season. They put up tends and prepare other buildings and equipment.

They lay fuel depots for field teams and welcome a small humber of tourists who explore the local area and take place in a range of activities including:

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  • walking or trekking (low impact activity)
  • climbing, including a visit to Mt Vinson
  • visiting penguin colonies – visitors must stay at least 5m away from wildlife, be limited to groups of 20 and follow specific paths to the colony
  • walking in the footsteps of Amundsen up the Axel Heiberg glacier

To ensure that this tourism is sustainable…

  • Visiting Union Glacier is expensive (around £15,000 – £20,000) so not many tourists can afford to go.
  • Guidelines are given to tourists about how they should behave with respect to the environment; these are based on Antarctic Treaty guidlines.
  • The continent has been bio-secured to reduce the risk of contamination (i.e. no non-native species are introduced).
  • Some equipment is run on solar panels to reduce the use of diesel.
  • All water is carefully contained and removed at the end of the season.
  • The continent needs advocates to promote the protection of Antartica so by allowing people to experience this place each visitor will become an advocate.