With the rising number of tourists visiting the Antarctic, plans are moving forward for commercial flights to the continent. As this unique destination gradually becomes more accessible, intrepid explorers will fly from Argentina.
CGTN’s Joel Richards reports.
At the end of the world, the wilderness and isolation of the Antarctic make a visit here one of the most unique experiences in the world.
Juan Carlos Lujan was one of 21 men who built the first ever runway on Antarctica in 1969, connecting the Argentine military base to the mainland.
“For those of us who took part in the project, it was very emotive. It was like a dream, it was totally crazy,” he said.
Nearly 50 years since laying the first runway in extreme conditions, commercial flights to the Argentine military base on Antarctic have been announced for the end of the year.
Tourism to the continent continues to grow.
According to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators, in the most recent summer season, over 40,000 tourists visited this region.
Almost all tourists reach the windswept continent by sea, many leaving from the small southern city of Ushuaia in Argentina.
But just to reach this town is a three and a half hour flight from Buenos Aires, and an added expense for visitors.
Domestic flights are a considerable additional cost for tourists to Argentina.
The country is in the process of opening up to low-cost airlines and some tourist agencies are optimistic about the effect this will have on the sector.
Tours to Antarctic alone cost in excess of ten thousand dollars, but reducing internal travel costs would increase demand.
Since 2005, the agency Argentinian Explorer has offered tours to Antarctic.
Despite the cost, it remains a unique experience.
There are concerns about the impact of tourism and climate change on this fragile ecosystem, but the demand to see one of the world’s last great wildernesses continues to grow.
Xiaojun Yuan sits down with CGTN to discuss tourism in the Antarctic
CGTN’s Elaine Reyes spoke with Xiaojun Yuan, a research professor at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, about tourism in the Antarctic.