Wednesday, 23 April 2008
Antarctica is a continent capped by an inland ice sheet up to 4.8 km thick, containing about 90% of the world's fresh water. The ice sheet is so heavy that it has pushed the land below sea level in places. Because of the thickness of the ice sheet, Antarctica has the highest average altitude of all of the continents.
The South Pole is 1235 km from the closest coastline, and is situated high on the polar plateau. Here it may be as cold as 75C, but the world record lowest temperature is from an even more remote Antarctic station, Vostok, which logged -89C.
Antarctica is a cold desert, with snowfall equivalent to only 150 mm of water each year. This snow builds up gradually, and ice flows towards the coast as huge glaciers. In many places, these extend out over the sea as massive ice shelves.
Only about 0.4% of the surface of Antarctica is free of snow and ice. The tops of mountain chains stick up through the ice - the highest is Mount Vinson, 4900 m above sea level.
The Southern Ocean is a continuous belt of sea surrounding Antarctica. In winter, over half of the Southern Ocean freezes over. Although this seawater ice is only about 1 m thick, it has a significant effect on ocean and atmospheric circulation. Nearly all of the sea ice melts in summer.
There are no native peoples in Antarctica. Eighteen countries operate year-round scientific research stations on the continent and the surrounding islands, and during summer as many as 10,000 scientists and support staff work there, but only about 1000 in winter. Tourists also visit Antarctica during the summer to enjoy the spectacular scenery and abundant wildlife. Currently there are about 14,000 visitors per year.
Antarctica is a continent for science . All countries working in Antarctica carry out scientific research, in a surprising range of physical and biological sciences, from the vastness of space to the minute scale of micro-organisms. Activities are regulated by the Antarctic Treaty, which has been in force since 1959 and is signed by all countries operating there. The Treaty reserves the continent for peaceful purposes, and all military and industrial activities are banned.
Thursday, 10 April 2008
I just had the opportunity to travel for a couple of weeks to Antarctica aboard the Ushuaia, a ship that was designed for marine research and is now used to take tourists in a memorable and rewarding expedition cruise. The Ushuaia is 84 metres in length and 15 in breadth, his gross tonnage is 2963 tonnes and the maximum speed is 14 knots. The captain and the officers encourage the passengers to take advantage of the open bridge policy to observe the navigational operations of the ship and to enjoy the views of the unique places you are visiting. Each evening the expedition leader and lecturers present information not just about the next day's activities, but also about conservation and respect for the ecosystems you visit. Our voyage started from Ushuaia pier, where a few workers were waiting orders to start loading all kind of products to be consumed mainly in Europe. I took some pictures while waiting for my trip and I thought it could make a good introduction to explain travel from almost opposite angles.
Tourism as a global phenomenon can be approach from many different points of view and there is no doubt Tourism transform places and experiences so quickly in certain ways we have never seen before.
The Vernadskiy Station in Antartica for instance is becomming a metheorology theme park for tourists or maybe just improving his revenue to be reinvest in research.
La Boca in Buenos Aires has lost completely his identity and historical roots to please tourists or maybe is just transforming his urban structures for a better future.
Probably you could simplify the analysis from either the tourist or the worker perspective. I thought it could be interesting to show the other side, people working for tourist while doing exactly the same trip, eating the same food, seeing the same landscapes but having most probably very different experiences.
La Boca is not the kind of neighborhood in Buenos Aires for casual strolls outside the tourist section of Caminito, Del Valle and Magallanes, and it can be rough in some spots.
In the 19th century La Boca became home to Spanish and Italian immigrants who settled along the Riachuelo, the river that divides the city from the surrounding province of Buenos Aires. Many came during the booming period of 1880 and ended up processing and shipping out Argentinian beef in meat-packing plants and wharehouses. After tearing up the shipping barges, the port dwellers put leftover paint on the metal siding of their houses, giving La Boca what would became one of its famous landmarks.
Caminito is the most famous street and on weekends buses full of tourists come here to browse the small crafts fair while watching tango dancers perform for spare change.
Tango is the other main reason for visitors to come here, because is not an easy dance to describe; it needs to be seen and experienced. Despite a long evolution from its origins, it is still sensual and erotic and the perceived vulgarity did manage to influence some young members of the upper classes who modified and supported a dance that became an acceptable outlet for human desires. The trend spread from Paris around Europe and when finally the evolved dance returned to Buenos Aires, the tango earned the respectability it deserves now refined and famous.
Academian Vernadskiy Station is located on Galindez Island in Antarctica. The island offer several sheltered yatch anchorages and it was discovered by Charcot on his "Francais" expedition and named after an Argentinian in thanks for its help.
The Ukraine's station was transferred from the United Kingdom in 1996 for just 1 pound ( the coin now is embedded in wood at the station bar), and it was previously called Faraday after the English discovered of electromagnetism. The station now accomodates 24 people and commemorates Vladimir Vernadskiy, the first president of the Ukranian Academy of Sciences. Currently it is the most senior station open continuously in Antartica and the researchers working on climate change pride themselves with the discovery of the first noticed deficiencies in the ozono layer.
Whether records kept at the station show that annual temperatures along the Antartica Peninsula's West coast have risen by about 2.5 grades since 1947. Local ice cover has declined and the number of plants in the vicinity has increased, possibly as a result of global warming.
A popular remnant from its British era is the pub, with a dartboard, billiards table and a carved wooden bar with a large collection of bras periodically added by tourists and visitors in exchange of a few shoots of homemade vodka.