Antarctica is a place of extraordinary natural beauty that calls to many travelers. It is arguably the world’s last great wilderness, providing travelers with a unique opportunity to experience genuine pristine wildness.
However, the risks, inherent in any travel, of bringing guests to a remote and fickle environment are magnified in Antarctica, because there are more ways to get into danger and fewer rescue resources for vessels in trouble.
Over the last several years, safety has become an increasingly important component of any discussion on Antarctica, as the number of ships and visitors has increased dramatically. The number of incidents has also grown dramatically.
In 2007 the M/S Explorer, fondly known in the maritime world as “the little red ship,” foundered and sank in Antarctic waters. All the 100 passengers and 54 crew members were rescued, after a four-hour wait in open lifeboats and Zodiacs in biting 20º winds, by two ships that happened to be in proximity and responded immediately. In subsequent years additional ship mishaps involving currents and running aground on rocks were reported.
In April 2009, at a multi-nation conference on the Antarctic Treaty (originally signed in 1959), then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on all nations to adopt stricter limits on Antarctic tourism. Since then international agreements have limited the number of guests allowable ashore at once, and limiting ships carrying more than 500 passengers to cruise-bys with no landings.
Despite these factors, it is unequivocally possible to safely voyage to Antarctica, and to have an extraordinary experience there — intimate, personal, exhilarating, life-changing. We have created this guide to help you make the informed decisions that will lead to the adventure of a lifetime.