Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The perils of penguin watching

Canada.com reports:

More than 100 penguin-loving tourists, including dozens from Britain, are trapped by ice off Antarctica aboard a Russian icebreaker cruise ship, officials and the tour operator said Monday.

The Kapitan Khlebnikov is in a bay near Snow Hill island, located off the northeastern end of the Antarctic Peninsula, and cannot leave as the bay is sealed off with ice, the Russian transportation ministry said.

"The wind has currently slowed down in the area and the massing of the ice has ended. Everything is calm aboard the icebreaker, nothing is threatening the passengers and crew," the ministry said in a statement.

"When the wind changes to a favourable direction, the icebreaker will head into clear water and on to the port of Ushuaia," at the extreme southern end of Argentina, the ministry predicted.

There were 105 passengers aboard the vessel and the total delay in the ship's scheduled trip could be around two days, it added.

The ship has been at its current location for four days, German Kuzin, an official with the Far Eastern Shipping Company, the ship's owner, said in televised remarks.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Penguin social custom ?

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Antarctica, land of penguins

"Antarctica" is now available for purchase.

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Sunday, July 5, 2009

How safe is it to visit Antarctica?

The Economist reports:

Help is usually not far away. Although cruise ships plan their itinerary so as to keep out of each other’s sight, there are generally 20 to 30 boats heading to or from the Antarctic peninsula on any one day, according to Steve Wellmeier of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators.


Even so, surviving an accident is something of a lottery. It depends partly on the weather. Not all the ships have the covered lifeboats recommended for polar conditions. Small boats, like the Explorer, have a better chance of being able to transfer their passengers if they get into difficulties. But some cruise ships visiting Antarctica now carry almost 3,000 passengers—more than ten times the limit that offers a reasonable chance of timely rescue, according to Chile’s navy.



The navy is chafing at the cost of patrols, rescue operations and cleaning up fuel spills. It wants legally binding rules, backed by penalties, for Antarctic cruise ships. But that is hard to achieve. Under the 1959 Antarctic Treaty no country can exercise sovereignty over any part of the continent and its waters are international. Some rules on tourism have been written under the treaty: cruise ships carrying over 500 passengers cannot make landings, for example. But these are not legally enforceable. Neither will be rules being debated by the United Nations’ International Maritime Organisation on safety requirements.


Some tour operators say they would welcome tighter regulation and higher safety standards. Others insist that safety is already adequate. The world recession may place a temporary brake on the trade. But Chilean officials reckon that the trend to big cruise ships, with their cheaper fares, will resume once recovery comes. If so, a tragedy may be only a matter of time.

It's quite clear that the big ships ought to be kept away.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Marine gas oil safer for Antarctica

Antarctic waters are largely uncharted, stormy, and there are more hazardous icebergs bobbing around than ever. A bad spill is inevitable sooner or later. But if proposed regulations go into effect, the first bad spill won't be as bad as it might otherwise have been.

Telegraph:

. . . . suggested changes to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (Marpol) will come into force in mid-2011.

The new rules will mean that cruise ships sailing in the Antarctic will only be able to carry and use marine gas oil, which could cost large-scale cruise operators several million extra pounds per season. Currently, cruise liners use marine gas oil when sailing south of 60 degrees latitude and heavy fuel oils when north of this point. The proposals would mean that cruise liners would be required to use marine gas oil for the whole voyage.


Steve Wellmeier, executive director of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (Iaato), said: ". . . . 'cruise only' type voyages – with no actual landings ashore in Antarctica – are not likely to be able to offer Antarctic cruises once the amendment comes into force."


Tourism to Antarctica began in the Fifties and soared in popularity during the Nineties. In 1991, 4,698 travellers visited the region, rising to 46,069 during the 2007/08 season....



The move has been welcomed by environmental groups.

Better to put these rules into force before there is a major accident that spoils the Antarctic environment. I don't see why people should always have to wait for a spill before doing the right thing.

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Penguin goes for a walk

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