Narratives of History, Environment and Global Change: Expeditioner-Tourists in Antarctica –
Introduction Tourist numbers in Antarctica have risen dramatically over the last decade, from 9,604 in 1997-98 to an estimated 34,000 in the 2008-09 Austral summer tourist season (see chapter 1). The majority of these visitors do not make shore landings and their experience of Antarctica is usually only a glimpse of the continent or a few sub-Antarctic islands as part of a South American/South Atlantic cruise (the total fi gure for tourist visits also includes people who fl y over Antarctica on fl ightseeing tours). With the exception of the few ships sailing to the Ross Sea area, most tourists who do make landings from marine vessels are concentrated at specifi c accessible and historic sites, including visits to Antarctic research stations, in ice-free coastal areas of the Antarctic Peninsula region. Many of them make the trip to these far southerly latitudes aboard ‘expedition-style’ cruise ships, sailing from Punta Arenas in Chile or from Ushuaia in Argentina, taking 2 or 3 days to reach the Antarctic Peninsula across the Drake Passage, compared with a 10-day voyage across the Southern Ocean from New Zealand or Australia to reach the Ross Sea region. Some of these are small to medium-size chartered vessels, often ice-strengthened Russian research craft, and carry anywhere from 30 to 200 passengers, while others are much larger cruise ships with several hundred people on board.