Friday, October 28, 2011

Partial Destruction of Christchurch landmark to save treasures including flag flown in Antarctica

It is kind of stretching to make an article about the controlled partial demolition of the Christchurch Cathedral to be related about Antarctica, but really really it is!!!  The cathedral was damaged in the earthquake back in February and the partial demolition is being done for safety reasons as well as to recover treasured historic items.  One of the historic items is a flag that was flown in Antarctica at Scott Base by Sir Edmund Hillary (yes, the guy better known for being the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest).

Read more about the demolition here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Chile's efforts to lure cruise ships hurts Ushuaia

In recent years, Chile has really been pushing to be THE jumping off point for Antarctic cruises.  Still it seems that cruises were pretty evenly going from Punta Arenas in Chile and Ushuaia in Argentina with Ushuaia still being the main port for Antarctic bound cruises.

Chile has been luring cruise ships with various incentives including reducing port fees if they stop in more than one Chilean port.  According to this article, Ushuaia is really beginning to feel the squeeze, as it tries to increase port fees and Chile becomes more appealing to cruise operators with the incentives and better infrastructure.

While it seems bad for Ushuaia, I think they will still are a key port for Antarctic cruises, but will they be able to continue to compete with Chile?  I would hope so, as I fondly remember it as a fun port to walk around and shop in before departing from the End of the World and Beginning of Everything (i.e. the motto of the city).

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

M/V Polar Star fate unkown

The M/V Polar Star ran aground in Antarctica in Febuary 2011.  The ship was later deemed safe enough to return to Ushuaia with passengers, but the rest of the cruise season was canceled.  It turns out that the ship did not return to doing cruise in the north in May as expected and instead it remains in dry dock in the Canary Islands due to $1.6 million in unpaid repairs.  The company that owns the ship (Karlsen Shipping Co. Ltd.) ended up in receivership in May and the ship was seized.  Whether the ship will return to use in the Antarctic is unclear, although there are rumors G Adventures is considering purchasing it.

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Emergency Evacuation Controversary related to Stroke Victim at South Pole Base

A controversy has arisen related to whether a stroke victim should be/have been evacuated sooner from the South Pole Base.  Renee-Nicole Douceur is believed to have had a stroke (they cannot confirm with tech they have at base) on August 27, 2011, but was denied emergency evacuation until regular flights resume in mid-October.  It is pretty routine that an emergency evacuation just cannot happen until then due to weather.

However, in most cases when you hear about medical evacuations being necessary in Antarctica, there is a crew put on standby to go in if weather allows.  It sounds like it has not been the case this time, but at the same time the feasability of it being the South Pole versus more coastal parts of Antarctica makes a difference.

The evidence that she should be evacuated brings up Dr. Neilson who had breast cancer, yet does not bring up the fact that she still had to winter over there and wait before being evacuated, which is basically the same as in this situation. 

Sure, you do not want the person to get worse, but the harsh winter conditions do not seem to really warrant the risk of an emergency evacuation until the weather is appropriate, as otherwise more are at risk than just the patient.  Unfortunately, you cannot expect to get the same medical care if you choose to work in Antarctica as you would get back home in the states.

The facts about all this seem kind of messed up with one report calling it a heart attack and another calling it a stroke (this seems more likely, as it has quotes that describe it). 

Related Links:

Monday, October 3, 2011

Whale Wars 2011-2012: Operation Divine Wind

The Sea Shepherd group will once again be trying its best to intervene with the Japanese whaling operation around Antarctica starting in December of this year.  Last year they helped to shorten the time the Japanese spent whaling and really limited the effectiveness of the program.  However, their tactics are not the most desirable, as they are willing to put their lives at risk and it really is becoming a true war.  It seems the Sea Shepherds are always portrayed as heros and the Japanese as villians, but it would be interesting to see more press that shows the Japanese side or less bias.

Personally, I think the Japanese might be stretching the meaning of the international laws regarding whaling, but at the same time the Sea Shepherd group is taking everything to the other extreme and being unlawful, too.  The Japanese are obviously at this point really trying to save face and the Sea Shepherds or some other intervening party could perhaps make negotiations that respected the Japanese traditions and allowed them to not be totally disgraced.  There are obviously cultural differences that seem to exacerbate this to a point of just ridiculousness by both parties.

What do you think about the Whale Wars?  I'd love to hear others opinions on it whether for one side or the other or even just neutral.

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