Sunday, December 23, 2007

Antarctic travel: risky business?

Whether for tourism or research, travel in Antarctica is never free from risk. The same could be said, though, of anything. There is a certain level of risk in crossing a road, hiking a trail, riding a bicycle, driving a car, taking a train or a plane. We may or may not acknowledge it consciously, but the risk is there.

Antarctic travel is no different, except for the environmental conditions. Because of these conditions, extra precautions are taken when embarking on any sort of travel, be it on foot, skidoo, tractor, plane or ship. These precautions are designed to reduce the gravity of the consequences of any accident that might occur.

Because of these precautions (be they practice evacuation drills on ships, distance limits on how far from base a sortie can take place, or the obligation to carry radios and spare batteries and to keep in regular contact with the base) the risks involved in any activity in Antarctica are more likely to be acknowledged consciously.

With this acknowledgment comes a certain degree of personal responsibility for one's own safety and the safety of others. Risks are taken, yes, but they are taken with eyes wide open, with all the requisite precautions, and in full knowledge of the potential consequences.

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