you are one of the most pristine areas of our planet: With its alluring snow – and Icescapes, and the wild animal inhabitants of the Arctic and Antarctic have a great appeal. Except for researchers, tourists pushing since some years the deeper areas to the North and South pole, usually by ship. Cruise operators the promise of exotic adventure and always send new ships into the ice. Environmentalists and scientists see the growing polar tourism is critical. They fear that the sensitive environment could suffer.

visitors from the polar regions appear to be at first glance, to be comparatively harmless: The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), for example, almost 52,000 visitors, almost all of them have traveled recorded in the area around the South pole in the last season, the area by ship and then put a foot on Land. The Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) reported a total of 80,000 cruise passengers in 2016 for large parts of the Arctic. For comparison: in Bavaria counted according to the country last year, statistics arrivals of more than 37 million Guests.

a Lot of Wind so nothing? No, because the upward trend is here to stay: According to the IAATO Antarctica rise in visitor numbers for years, alone from the previous to the most recent season by 17 percent. “In the area of the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula – this is a more like in the German North sea than in the remote Antarctic,” says Greenpeace marine biologist and expedition leader Thilo Maack. There are more cruise providers to enter the area. Also in the Arctic, the business is booming: over the course of eleven years, the number of cruise passengers grew loud AECO to 60 percent.

Always popular expedition cruise ships are smaller, more agile and more flexible. The place to find them, if at all, only a few Hundred passengers. Country visits are part of the program. According to AECO information from last year should go up to 2020, around two dozen new expedition vessels in operation.

In the Arctic the decline of sea ice cover of the Arctic ocean is considered an important reason for the advantage of tourists, because the routes are always driving easier. Scientists of the Alfred-Wegener-Institute (AWI) and the University of Bremen, reports that the Arctic ocean loses more than the average sea ice: The ice cover will be shrunk with the end of the summer melt season to 4.4 million square kilometres, had researchers estimated in September. “In the past, you could visit the Arctic as a Tourist, only aboard the Russian nuclear icebreaker,” says the head of the German Arctic office at AWI, Volker Rachold. “Today you can drive with a normal Aida ship in the Arctic – that is to say, it is also used for the mass tourism.”

Where there is more supply, more demand – but this has its price: A 14-day Spitsbergen-circumnavigation of such costs to the 8000 Euro per Person. The high prices also have to do with regulations. For example, the so-called Polar Code the International Maritime Organisation since the beginning of 2017: a set of rules, the Design, construction and equipment of ships for polar waters requires, for safety reasons and for the protection of the environment. Members of IAATO and AECO undertake to comply with certain directives, which specify the organisations. And to be able to travel to Antarctica needs of each operator, a Tourist, a Journalist or a scientist an approval.

Per se, polar tourism is not bad, say environmentalists and researchers. You however, are asking for even stronger regulation. Many very large cruise ships continue for about still with heavy fuel oil. The nature protection Federation Germany (Nabu) for a heavy fuel oil ban in Arctic as it already applies in the Antarctic. Because if, in the case of an accident, the Oil would expire, drop it immediately, says Nabu-traffic officer Beate Klünder.

the AWI Arctic office Manager Rachold adds: “The Oil degrades much slower at low temperatures.” Another Problem is exhaust gases are, according to the experts of the Ship. “They will be stored directly on snow or ice, the soot-stained glaciers and the ice is black,” says Nabu-wife Klünder. “The sunlight is no longer reflected, the ice melts much faster.”

But the cruise industry is green: The Norwegian company Hurtigruten about omitted entirely on heavy fuel oil, the German company Hapag-Lloyd cruises, at least in the polar regions, as it is called in the business. As an Alternative, about LNG (liquefied natural gas), liquefied natural gas applies to marine diesel. The coming year is also the first expedition cruise ship with a hybrid drive in operation: The “Roald Amundsen” of Hurtigruten, with space for about 500 passengers is specially created for polar waters. “This is going in the right direction,” says AWI researcher Rachold.

in 2013 included the Arctic States, including the USA, Norway and Russia, an agreement on Preparedness and response to oil Spills in the sea in the Arctic. It is not the only one: a number of international agreements have been agreements on the protection of the polar regions, or of their visitors in the past few decades, taken.

environmentalists fear, however, that tourism could disturb the animals: penguins in the moulting Phase, and in the spring renewed dress – be, for example, little active, and should not consume a lot of energy, says Greenpeace marine biologist Maack. “Any disturbance by tourists or ships, allows for a higher energy turnover.” And for Whale Watching, although there were some strict rules in the paper if they were but observed, too, am on a different sheet.

the visitors may be the animal inhabitants dangerous. Again and again incidents with polar bears for the headlines, most recently in July, a case from Spitsbergen: A polar bear guard for a ship of Hapag-Lloyd kreuzfahrten trips, by one of the predators attacked and injured at the head. Security guards had to shoot the animal, according to organizers and police. Polar bear guards are required according to the company, to the Arctic-travel: you are in front of the country, the area courses, to inspect and make sure no polar bears are there.

critics fear that such incidents could become more frequent. “This underscores the call to it, tourism to severely restrict and control,” says Maack. According to the biologist and WWF wildlife trade expert Sybille Klenze village, tourists can make to the country some broken: “A footprint on the Arctic tundra the ground with his small Lichens remains for decades,” she says.

meadow grass spreads

With the number of tourists and also to researchers – increases the risk that alien species via ships or visitors will be introduced in the Region. About ten years ago researchers reported in the Year-long panicles of grass that had spread from a research station on the Antarctic-Northern edge in more remote areas. Tourists are therefore advised, before the journeys to the Arctic and to clean before the country gears clothes thoroughly and wipe.

In the best case, the audience is aware of the dangers. If you ask the tour operator to tell you of interested and sensitive to visitors. “This is not the classic cruise guest,” says Hurtigruten spokesman Arne Karstens. Traditionally, the Expedition crusaders are “very trip and want to collect on these trips exclusive and authentic experiences, they are intellectually more,” says the press officer of Hapag-Lloyd cruises, Negar Etminan. Often would be on Board the expedition’s scientific lectures ships, therefore, kept. “Many report to us that they care by traveling to the Arctic or Antarctic, much more aware of a sustainable way of life.”

“The special thing about expedition cruising is that there is no mass tourism,” said Karstens. “If you have 400 guests in the Antarctic, of which a maximum of 100 at the same time to land, that is something completely different, as if 2000 people go to Venice or Barcelona to the country.”

, tourism can also have benefits

More than the cruise tourists WWF-species protection expert fears Klenze village for those visitors who are not in organized groups. “Those who come on their own and are not prepared for this.” To Svalbard, for example, people could fly relatively easily, a kayak hire and a license from the tourist office to get, she says. In a tourism that comply with certain Standards, she sees potential. Because of the could be in the Arctic is definitely an Alternative to the raw material development, she says.

“If the message is carried to the outside, the areas are worth protecting, the tourism benefits,” says the head of the German Arctic office at AWI, Volker Rachold. “The mass-tourism, I rather see the disadvantages.”

“Our world is largely penetrated by globalization and capitalization,” says the Austrian tourism ethicists Harald Friedl of the FH Joanneum in Graz. A bit of tourism to mass tourism a result, generally speaking, mostly: First, the pioneers, the awarded a place symbolic value would be, then the masses followed, it would lead to a Boom, and the symbolic value is disappearing. “Therefore, the operators must create new offerings and reach new audiences.” And increasing competition lead to the question: “Where and from whom can I press charges?”

The travel consent should, in the end, even the question: “Is it worth that to me?” Friedl: “We must rid ourselves of the notion that every human being has a right to every trip – this is absolute madness.”

Sam Yoon has many years of experiences in journalism. He has covered such areas as information technology, science, sports and politics. Yoon can be reached at 82-2-6956-6698.