Tourism in polar regions

Tourism in polar regions


My name is Dagmara Bożek-Andryszczak, and I’m a specialist at EDU-arctic project. I spen over two years in Polish
research stations – in the Arctic, and in the Antarctic.
That’s why I’ll tell you a little bit about the tourism in those two regions:
in Svalbard archipelago, particularly on Spitsbergen Island, and King George
Island in South Shetlands archipelago in the Antarctic. We will start
with the short survey. The link to the survey was attached to the description
of the today’s lesson. I will share my screen. The first question in
that form was – from what countries are the most of tourists who visit the polar
region? We have already two responses. It is USA, German,y Japan. How about the other states? We have Korea. What else? We will go very
quickly through the chart prepared by the association that is responsible for
organizing tourist activities in the whole Antarctic region. You can
see that in 2016 and 2017 the most tourists were from the USA, China, and
Australia. That is the top three states that people coming from visited
very often that part of our earth. The second one is – what kind of people might decide to
spend holidays in Arctic or in the Antarctic? We have two
answers. First one is rich people with travel interests, the second one is the
same. What else? Definitely reach, that’s right,
because the routes to the Arctic and to the Antarctic are unfortunately very
expensive. You can reach those areas only on the vessels, yachts, maybe sometimes on planes but not so much. On last classes there was a response that also
the adventurous kind of people. I think that also some photographers, movie
makers, people who are globetrotters. Of course they are younger
that those elderly people who are the biggest part of the touristic groups, but,
anyway, there are many interesting people that we can meet in that kind of regions.
How many people approximately work at the polar station in the summer. I
emphasized in the summer, not in the winter. We have two responses – 20 and 400, so it’s a big difference. Other response is 10. During the
summer time we have the technical staff, scientists, that are working only for a
few weeks or months on the station, so it’s more than 10. In Spitsbergen at the Polish Polar Station Hornsund it was
about 50, and the same was true for Arctowski Station. Name a few places
often visited by tourists in the Arctic? We have Svalbard, Greenland, Canadian
archipelago. The last one is what is the Antarctic famous for? Every answer
counts like on every on my lessons. It’s ice sheet, penguins polar day and
night. Of course polar day and night is true for the Arctic as well. If you
have any other ideas just share it with us via chat. We go to the second slide
of the presentation. There is Hornsund fiord in the
southern part of the Spitsbergen island. I worked there for one year contract in Polish Polar Station Hornsund. We traveled from Gdynia
in Poland on a vessel and it took us about 8 days. The distance is less than
3,000 kilometers, and the whole territory is regulated by the Svalbard Treaty –
the main document that describes what kind of human activity might be allowed
in the Svalbard territory. That document came into force in 1925, and Poland
signed it in 1931. Now over 30 states like USA, Norway, Russia, Iceland and
Denmark signed the Svalbard Treaty. For example Poland as a member has an
opportunity to explore the archipelago on scientific purposes, so that’s why we
have the station in Hornsund that is operating all year round.
We have also a few summer bases located on Spitsbergen that work
in the summer period. The main
administrative force in the whole archipelago is of course the Governor.
The whole Svalbard belongs to Norway. We have four groups of people that
have different duties, different statuses, and they want to organize a trip
somewhere they do it in a different way of course notifying the Governor of
Svalbard. We have the residents – the people who are living in mostly
Longyearbyen -the biggest town in Spitsbergen. It has from 2,000
to 3,000 citizens. We have tourists that visit every year in much
more numbers the Svalbard archipelago. We have the tour operators –
there companies that are organizing the trips for the tourists. And we have the
scientist. The Longyearbyen is the center, the capital city of
Svalbard. If you would like to organize a trip, excursion, expedition you have to apply for it in the office of
the Governor. It would be organized in different ways. We need a
long story short the permission to do it. Full information is on the website of
the Governor in three language versions: in English, Polish, and in Russian,
because on Spitsbergen we have Russians as well. They like the
Norwegians explore the coal on the archipelago. They have two towns like
Barentsburg and Pyramiden on Spitsbergen. When we are planning to come
somewhere we should know that there is something called Management Area number 10, which means that when we are going on that area, we don’t need to have any
permission from the Governor’s office. We can go for skiing, snowmobile,
walking, trekking, but when we are planning to go somewhere else and cross the borders of the territory marked in a
yellow color, it means that first we should notify the Governor about our
plans and get the permission, and have SAR-insurance. It’s of course good to be
in a bigger company not to go alone, and have a gun. But about the
guns we will discuss later on. There is a central part of the Spitsbergen, and
it means that the Hornsund on the southern part, the Polish
scientific base is located over the yellow area, and if
people from Longyearbyen for example are planning to go to visit the station, they
also should get the permission from the Governor. Snowmobiles are very important
means of transport in the Spitsbergen. We use it in scientific bases during the
winter time very often to transport cargo, for doing some field works or to
just go for a trip somewhere. But if you are in Longyearbyen, and in the area of
Longyearbyen there are special rules connected with the usage of snow mobiles. We should have for example the driving license for snow mobiles. We can
obtain it when we are 16 years old. We can also run a snowmobile when we have a
valid driving license category B. I had that driving license so that’s why
I was allowed to drive a snowmobile in a Longyearbyen where we were twice during
our stay on Spitsbergen. There is also a speed limit in the Longyearbyen and in
the area. It means that if we are in a city on the roads or off the roads it’s
30 kilometers per hour. We can also use the riverbed, the frozen river that is
crossing the city centre to run the snowmobile, and the speed limit is 50
kilometers. When we are in a field it’s 80. Of course wearing helmet is
mandatory. UAV for short called drones. Unmanned
aerial vehicles are very common and many tourists every year decided to buy
something like this especially when they are going in the unique places
like Svalbard. On the website of the Governor’s office
we can read that if we are going to use drons in the Arctic we have to be
obeyed some kind of rules like the drone should be visible to the operator at all
times, we can fly during daylight hours, so it means that if we have the polar
night it might be much more complicated. We need to know that we can fly above
ground or water surface only up to 120 meters. When we are
using drones in a town the distance to people, motor vehicles or buildings should be more than 150, and if we are operating near the airport that
is located close to the town it should be more than five kilometers. Of course
that is official information on the Governor’s website but there is
also a piece of advice that if you are a scientist or if you are a filmmaker or
somebody that would like to use the pictures taken from drones in a
different way that not only for the private purposes you have to organize it
in a different way, and the rules are different. On Svalbard archipelago
you need to have weapons only for protecting against the polar bears that might be aggressive and for sure are dangerous to people.
For example you can have a gun if you are at the age minimum of
18. If you are 21 you can have pistol or revolver. You should be registered in the
population register of Svalbard. It means that you should have the status
of resident, and it means that you should have weapon. If you are foreign citizen
you must provide a Certificate of Good Conduct signed in English and in
Norwegian versions. When I was employed at
Polish Polar Station in Spitsbergen I had such kind of a
document. It was prepared in Poland, and sent afterwards to the Longyearbyen
because it was necessary. That firearm permits is valid only on Svalbard, and
only against the polar bear, only in the purpose of protecting ourselves. It
means that if I did a special course in Poland and had the permit it was only
valid for my one-year contract and only on Svalbard, not in Poland. When people are given the weapon on Svalbard archipelago very
often there are rifles and shotguns. Others, like in our’s
case we were the members of the Polish Polar Expedition. We
were employed by the Polish employer but on Norwegian territory, so that’s why we
need to took up a ocurse to obtain a weapon on the Spitsbergen. It took us
three days and in the end we had a special exam and we had to pass that
exam. Only after that when everybody was clearly and formally fulfilled we
were allowed to go to Svalbard to work at the Polish Polar Station. Here is the
main view for the main building of the Polish Polar Station on Spitsbergen. It
is in the very beginning of the polar night. Here you have the photo from
the visit that was paid by the Norwegians during the polar night. They
flown to Hornsund by the helicopter. The summer season is that part of the
year when we have a lot of the tourists in the station. The station belongs
to the Institute of Geophysics Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, so if you
would like to visit that place as a tourist first you need to notify the
Institute and get the permit, and after that, if you are travelling on a yacht, on
a vessel, the tour operator need to have the permission from the Governor, because
there is a Norwegian territory. If you are planning to land somewhere you
need to have a permission. Remember that the scientific bases are
not the hotels where you can book one night or more. It’s a place where people
normally work, live so it’s up to they time if they agreed that you can visit the
station. That’s why the formal communication is before the visit.
The tour operators need to ask the people working in the station if they
have enough time to spend it with the tourists. There are fixed landing areas which means
that there are some places where tourists were allowed to land and that’s
it. It’s not up to the tour operator that we have a very interesting glacier
cliff and we just want to land nearby. It’s not like this. Small groups – if the tourists are
travelling in a small groups it means that they have more opportunities to
land somewhere, because when on the board there are many tourists, many
passengers like over a few thousands it means that the cruises, that the trips
are cruise only, and you spend whole time of your travel on the board. You are not
allowed to land. The permission – you of course obtain from the Governor’s
office. We are going to the South. I spent more than one year in a Polish
Antarctic Station Arctowski. We were traveling from Gdynia in Poland
to Mar del Plata in Argentina where we had a one-day stop. After
that we were heading King George Island and island in the South Shetland Islands
in the Antarctic. The distance is more than forty thousand kilometers so
it’s quite huge. Here we have the organization that is responsible for
regulating the whole touristic activities in the whole area of
Antarctic. I used the term Antarctic because the Antarctica it’s only the
continent and we are now thinking and talking about the Antarctic which means
the continent plus the sub-antarctic islands that are around the the
continent. In our case the most interesting place is the Antarctic
Peninsula which is the most accessible place for the tourists. Around the
peninsula we have a lot of small islands like the King George Island where
there is a Polish Antarctic Station called “Arctowski”. As you can see
that International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators has now more
than 100 members. It operates from the early 90s but the
first tourist routes to the Antarctic were organized in late 60s. Now we have
approximately 42 operators that are working in the Antarctic, and some of
them have different statuses – some of them are the operators, some of
them their associate’s and provisional operators that are only cooperating with
the Association, and are not forced to be obeyed to all the rules. But
the main document like in a Svalbard archipelago that regulates every human
activity in that area is Antarctic Treaty signed in 1959 in Poland as well. Now many countries that has like Poland the scientific bases operating in
the Antarctic has as well the impact, and they can vote during some important meetings with the rest of the participants that signed the
document. UAV flights – again the topic is back,
because as we all know taking pictures from using drones is very attractive and
we can have a lot of beautiful pictures, but the situation here is more strict
that the Arctic. The Antarctic Treaty tells that the territory of
Antarctic belongs to nobody, any states, and it might be used only for
scientific purposes. It means that the Antarctic ecosystem is the most
important and we need to protect it. Still we don’t know what
kind of impact have the UAV flights to the animals living in the sub-antarctic
islands like the penguins or the pinnipeds, seals, Antarctic fur seals. That’s why for example in the Arctowski Station we had a very
interesting project run by Polish and Norwegian scientists. It was called MONICA, the acronym for a “Novel approach to monitoring the impact of climate change
on Antarctic ecosystems”, and the scientists were taking a lot of pictures
from the unmanned aerial vehicles like this one on the left side. The pictures
were taken of the bird colonies and used in the ecological monitoring carried out
by Arctowski Station, because we need to have data how many pairs are in the
birds colonies for example. That kind of high quality photos helped us to
count the penguins, skuas or other bird species and taking that pictures where there were also some observations
made what was the reaction of the animals that were in the colonies when
they heard the strange sound from the engines. Still the scientists are
investigating that topic, so that’s why the permissions for using drones in the
Antarctic is not an easy case. We need to organize it with our tour operator, and
only after that we are allowed to take drones to the Antarctic for our
touristic trip. For example in Arctowski Station when we were
organizing those flights we were forced to give a special communicate to
the all stations on King George Island to inform that we are performing the UAV
flights. It to begun with “securite, securite, securite” three times repeated,
because it is an international code that we inform that something important is
being organized. It’s not like there is a danger like “mayday, mayday”, but everybody should be aware that for example now the drones will be flying over the
Arctowski Station. Of course in that communicate we needed to put
some information like the date, the high of the sea level. Here
you have the typical message that
was used before the UAV flights. Citizen science is very interesting topic
connected with the touristic tours organized in the Arctic and in the
Antarctic as well. It means that people who are not really scientists, just
regular, normal people, who are working at the companies like
developers, many kinds of specialists, doctors are going
to the polar regions, and they have an opportunity to work or to act as a
scientist. There are special workshops organized for them during the
trips and stay. Thanks to it they might be more aware of
the scientific job that is done in the polar regions, and they may understand more some data that are collected by the scientists. Here we have for
example the penguinswatch.org. There is a special project. On the website we can
mark on a photo of the penguins, that photos are made in a rockery, it means
penguin colony, and we can mark the adult birds, the chicks or we can
even count nests, the nesting pairs in the colony.. That’s why we can help the
scientists to obtain those data. We have the happywhale.com for example,
the other interesting project organized in the Antarctic. The aim
is to put on the website as many photos as we can about the different whale
species. If we observe a whale during our trip, and we were lucky
to take some pictures, the organizers of that project are happy to have them on
the website. Non-native species is the other danger
connected with the tourist activity in the Antarctic region, because there
are species that are not originally distributed in the Antarctic.
We have intentional non-native species like reindeers, that were for example on
South Georgia for food for those people who work there, or unintentional, which
means seeds, worms, grasses. Sometimes when we have some seeds and we even don’t know about it – on our boots, clothes, we can transport it to the
Antarctic environment. That’s why we have a problem afterwards.
For example near the Arctowski Station, but not only Arctowski, we have the
poa annua – in latine there is a type of grass that was very common in Europe,
and that was transported in 60s or 70s by the tourists. That’s why we try to
somehow protect the natural environment against the non-native species. Now
the organization, the Association, tells that we have approximately 200
non-native species in the Antarctic, so it’s a huge number. The number of tourists is rising from year to year – the
peak was in 2007 and 2008; we have over 46,000 of tourists in that year. After
that there was a economical crisis in the US, so it had a little bit changed,
but the last year it is over 44,000 tourists. As you can see
there is a big group of people coming from different places in the earth
where there are different bacterias, species, non-native
species, so protecting the natural environment of the Antarctic it’s not an
easy thing. We have two typical
directions for the tour operators that are organizing the trips for the tourists
in the Antarctic area. We have the first direction from
the Southern America or southern Africa to the Antarctic Peninsula, and
the gateway cities are Ushuaia in Argentina, Punta Arenas in Chile,
Montevideo in Uruguay or Cape Town and Port Elizabeth in southern Africa. It’s the
first but the most common direction for the tour operators, and the second one is
from Hobart in Australia, Lyttelton, Bluff in New Zealand to the Ross Sea. It
is located in the southern part of the continent, so it’s less accessible than
the Antarctic Peninsula. Here you have the photo taken by one of
the tourists that participated in a trip organized by Aurora Expedition on Polar
Pioneer ship. It is one of the operators acting in the Antarctic and on
the Polar Pioneer ship we were transported, we traveled to the Antarctic
from Gdansk in Poland. Types of vessels – I have told you that on the
Spitsbergen when we have the smaller groups it is more convenient to operate
in Arctic areas in Svalbard archipelago, but here, in the Antarctic, we
have special rules what categories of vessels are allowed to land or not
allowed to land. We have small boats up to 12 passengers, we have bigger
vessels that have on a board from 13 to 500 passengers, and we have two
categories 1 & 2, and those two types of vessels are allowed to land, to
organize trips for the tourists on a land in a special areas. The third
one that has over 500 passengers are not allowed, because those cruises
organized by the tour operators contain only
traveling on a board, taking pictures from the board. They are not allowed
to land, because there are too many people on a ship. Here is the main
building of the Polish Antarctic Station called “Arctowski”. On the
second photo there is a visit of the tourist from “Fram” ship that we
had during the summer. Of course organizing that kind of visits is very
convenient because people from the ship are allowed to land in a small groups up
to 15-20 people, so it’s not like this that in a one moment we have 100 people
inside the station, but we have only small groups.
The rest is walking around the station, taking some picture, and when one group
is going back to the ship, another is coming. At Arctowski Station
we are observing, regulating how many tourists every year visit the station.
We have even a scientific project for it,
that is called “Tourism traffic in polar areas and its impact on the natural
environment as exemplified by Arctowski Polish Antarctic Station”. When
we had a visit of the tourists we just collect the data from what countries
they are, how many people are on the board, what kind of activity
they perform, and all those data we’re preparing in a special reports
and send to Poland. There is also a regulation that if a tour operator is
planning a visit in a scientific base, he needs to
confirm and ask for the permission 24-72 hours before
their arrival. It’s not like this that the ship is in the Admiralty Bay and
they are calling us – we are here, and shall we visit your station? We need to have that information earlier. There is a
last slide of my presentation if you will have some questions just ask me, I’m
here.

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