Modern Day Antarctic Adventurers,
Heroes or Holidaymakers?
There has been an ever increasing tendency in
recent years for people to use Antarctica
as an adventurous playground for their extreme exploits.
This is really just an extension of the drives that take people
up mountains and down rapids, engage in long overland journeys from
one place to another for some historical precedence - following
in the wake of some famous figure who has gone before, or because
they want to be the first.
But when these exploits
happen in Antarctica, they seem to frequently become imbued with
some kind of heroism that I feel doesn't always really apply.
Take the South
Pole for instance, all sorts of people go there today, and many
are trying to be the "First" something, first to get there
wearing an orange hat, first to get there and have clean
underwear on everyday. They, or maybe the press (their press
officers) try to convince us that they are "Walking in the
footsteps of Scott".
Ahem! - Scott and
his team really did walk there - all the way from the coast - and
despite great logistical support of their own organization died
in the process. By 1950, there had still only been ten men who
had stood at the South Pole (five from Scott's party and
five from Amundsen's) and half of them had died on the way back.
Today's climate of technologically advanced clothing, tents,
communications and support is very different. Not to mention the
fact there are lots of National Stations dotted around the continent
for emergencies - more of those later.
is cited as the reason for all this effort. While there are
those who do raise great amounts of money for charity through their
efforts, there are those for whom this seems to be a great way of
getting to go to a place they could never otherwise manage and to
have a great adventure in the process. I met someone a few years
ago whose expedition was looking like it was going to fail through
a lack of sponsorship, fortunately it was rescued at the last minute
when his father came in and supplied many thousands of pounds to
pay for it all. When I asked if he could come to the state school
where I teach and give one of his heavily promoted talks, he regretted
that he couldn't as we couldn't afford to pay the (very
expensive) asking price - so much for charity.
while ago there was some guy whose expedition was to be the "First"
to ski down Mount Erebus. He was sort-of in that he was the first
to mount an expedition with this as an aim (and indeed I think he
succeeded) but personnel from the nearby New Zealand and US Antarctic
stations had been using Mount Erebus as a ski slope for years. They
just weren't claiming that it was particularly heroic to do
Now I'm not of the ilk
that says we should all stay away from Antarctica and not touch
it or not go there at all, far from it. It's a fantastic
place and if you ever get the remotest chance of going I suggest
you grab it with both hands.
Having spent two of
the best years of my life in Antarctica, I feel that I know it more
than most who go there briefly or just write about it. Antarctica
is not so different to the Arctic and plenty of people live there
all the time and have done for centuries. What is different about
the Antarctic is that it is even more remote than the Arctic and
has a greater mystique as so few people have been. To survive there
is not a great feat, it is the result of careful planning, familiarity
with the risks and having the ability to deal with any unhoped for
but at least half expected trouble that may come your way. It also
relies on the fact that you aren't going to do anything extreme
unless you're well practiced. Would you haul a sledge or trolley
for a few hundred miles from your home, plant a flag and go back
again? .....thought not.
Maybe it's just
a part of my progress to becoming a grumpy old man, but I find it
less than impressive or convincing, when starting around the end
of November and running through to about March, I read about some
new great heroic expedition (why are they always expeditions?)
in the papers every month.
By all means
go to Antarctica
means walk hundreds of miles over great expanses of nothingness
while hauling great weights if that's what you want to do.
even fly over any isolated point that you've identified
no-one has done before in your string and cardboard plane you
made yourself in your shed.
If you like the idea that you're the first person of your
age from your street that has done it while whistling Dixie,
you have a great time and get what you want out of the experience,
allow others to think that what you're doing is in any way
heroic, or god-forbid - important.
and pay for it yourself unless you really are famous or hardworking
enough to get corporate sponsors to help you raise plenty of
money for worthy charities.
there's one more thing that I've saved until last, that
is possibly the most important this is in regard to support
been several instances particularly in recent years, where adventurers
have got themselves into what could potentially have been a
fatal position. The reason that it wasn't is that there
were research bases nearby (often by design of the adventurers)
who came to the rescue (or answered the door when a knock was
received). The rescue may have been literal in the case of downed
aircraft or more benign in the case of adequate food, shelter
and transport for those who simply hadn't provided for themselves
when things went wrong.
Human nature will always ensure
that someone in an emergency will receive help and assistance
from those nearby who are able to give aid. However to put yourself
into a position where you know you are relying on others to
achieve your own goal, adventure - dare I say - holiday, is
of a rather different nature.
I think that Antarctica
is truly a beautiful place, and yes I think we should be
allowed to visit and learn about these places,-
like we are at the moment, not many people go there anyway
and those who do aren't really doing much, we should
be telling those people what they can do while they are
on Antarctica not that its best not to. What harm are people
doing if they just go to see the beauty?
- I'm against
for developing the Antarctica because its beautiful place
and has it own natural resources. The animals are safe
and wild within their habitat and people develop this the
is a possibility that we may destroy this. I think we should
just leave it because it is a beautiful place and if we
pollute it we will lose Antarctica.
Firstly let me say that this site certainly
offers a wealth of information. I have found it a very interesting
read. I intend to visit Antarctica, I will be putting together
a continental crossing that will be sponsored by a corporate,
have some scientific value and gain money for a Leukaemia
charity. I have 2 reasons for doing this;
1) I can raise money
and awareness for my wife's rare Leukaemia (My wife has
2) I personally want
to go to Antarctica.
I do not
intend on selling my experience purely for commercial gain,
what I hope to offer from the experience will be positive achievements
in the face of adversity. I believe that anyone who takes on
a challenge whether it is North Pole, South Pole, Everest or
any far away experience (dare I say Expedition) should be recognised
for the effort they put in. I am aware that people have different
reasons for going to the South Pole and that you may not approve
of them all, as you say, in your experience help is never too
far away and so, they cannot really be called explorers.
in many cases, if there is a weather change and parties are
a reasonable distance from assistance then there can still be
danger (please correct me if I am wrong). Just as some may sell
their Expedition rights and not offer free talks to schools
there are other individuals that are inspirational and do intend
to share their experiences so people can gain a better understanding
about one of the worlds most important continents. It seems
that you have had a bad personal experience with one or more
of the new adventurers, and perhaps are quite rightly upset,
however, please do not tar everyone with the same brush new
adventurers can still be Explorers.
- I think that
people should have more safety gear and more people around
when they go to Antarctica.
think that people shouldn't be going to Antarctica because
of all the waste they leave behind and what about the animals
they should be left alone. If you want to go there and
risk everything then go ahead but just think about things
you're saying Antarctica is such a beautiful place,
why would you want to just leave it there- what a waste
of pure beauty! Sure we need to take many, many precautions,
and make sure the impact on the environment is minimal,
but if it's there why not indulge in it- after all we
only live once! As for the animals- what about all the animals
in the Amazon who die because of deforestation, why not
worry about those animals, who we all know are disappearing
because of our inhumane acts, before we worry about something
which hasn't even happened yet.