Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Cruise Weekly Comment: Global Warming has expedition cruising on the boil


Cruise Weekly – Comment by Roderick Eime

Global Warming has expedition cruising on the boil

With reports of record numbers of cruise vessels visiting the polar regions, it’s clear that adventure cruisers are busting to see the rapidly changing environment before it’s too late.

Centre stage are the majestic polar bears whose northern kingdom is literally melting beneath their mighty paws. Broken and dispersed ice make it difficult for the world’s largest terrestrial carnivore to trap seals, hence the bears are beginning to suffer.

Epicentre of polar bear cruising is Svalbard (Spitsbergen) north of Norway and numerous cruise companies, large and small, offer polar bear cruises to the most northerly inhabited land on Earth. Some products, such as those offered by Sweden’s Polar Quest, could have you in the company of just eleven other enthusiasts on a tiny converted maritime vessel tip-toeing through the ice pack. Adventure cruising is, by nature, environmentally conscientious, so smaller vessels often deliver the most rewarding results even if some of the big ship comforts are surrendered.

Greenland is also attracting a growing fleet of disaster voyeurs as throngs of mesmerized passengers crowd the decks to observe the disintegrating glaciers along Kaiser Franz Josef Fjord and visit Inuit communities at impossibly named places like Ittoqqortoormiit and Myggebugten.

Antarctica, perhaps because most of the ice is attached to an enormous continent, is resisting catastrophic change although some scientists argue that recent, republic-sized icebergs are the harbinger of worse to come. Either way you look at it, our polar regions are in the midst of great upheaval and the urgency to see them during this global transition is sending tourists there in droves.