She said that cruise ships approved by industry body, International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators usually travel in pairs, so they can rely on the “buddy system” if one experiences difficulties.
She said that the association has done a good job of minimizing the environmental impact of Antarctic tourism.
“It’s essentially the scenery, the wildlife and a relatively unspoiled environment that they’re selling to their tourists,” she said. “So it’s in their best interests to keep it that way.”
Association spokeswoman Amanda Lynnes said that tourist ships adopted strict decontamination measures to prevent travellers from taking non-native species or microbes ashore.
She added that ships carrying more than 500 passengers did not put tourists ashore, while those on smaller vessels who did land had to follow guidelines designed to protect flora and fauna.
In addition, ships must employ officers with Antarctic experience and have plans to contain any oil leaks.
Lynnes said that tourism can act as a driving force in conservation by giving people first-hand experience of the Antarctic.
“Visitors to Antarctica ... return home as ambassadors of goodwill, guardianship and the value of peaceful cooperation in this great wilderness,” she said.