News this month that Cape Town’s Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis was aiming to drive the city’s position as the Gateway to Antarctica is great – but the fact that it is being promoted as a “day trip” from the Mother City just does not fly with me.
In just five hours tourists can touch down in Queen Maud Land having joined a flight in Cape Town. Is it just me – or does this kind of defeat the object of travelling to one of the poles? It’s not supposed to be this easy. It’s not supposed to be accessible to the “instant gratification” types who will simply haul out a wallet to notch this up as an experience on their idealised bucket list.
They will not fully appreciate the distantness of this remote setting. They will not experience the icy seas and oceans that prevent many from reaching this destination. They will not be holed up on a small speck in the ocean in a daring effort to reach the ice.
While I appreciate that flights are shared between visitors and the scientific community, reducing environmental impact and supplying logistical support for scientists at research bases operated by several countries, including South Africa – it still seems at loggerheads to what getting to a remote destination should be about.
The mayor’s quote from press releases acknowledges that witnessing the “Antarctic’s pristine wilderness first-hand” is a privilege. Perhaps it’s just me, but I believe that it should be a privilege for those who are willing to set sail and earn their right to claim a footprint via an ocean expedition.
“Visiting the world’s remote seventh continent is the closest anyone will come to experiencing life on another planet,” notes the mayor without acknowledging that this is like taking the space out of space travel.
Sadly I do see this as the way that tourism and exploration is heading – and am slightly jealous that I was not whisked down to the ice. Yes, I realise the hypocrisy in this, but fortunately I have not been tempted to test my lofty convictions.