Polar tourism

Overtourism in Antarctica

Tourism in the Antarctic region predates the Antarctic Treaty itself and has been a matter of discussion among Antarctic Treaty states since the early Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings beginning in 1961. Antarctic tourism growth, in particular, has resulted in significant discussion in Antarctic Treaty fora and also generated substantial academic interest. Earlier ATCM instruments on tourism addressed issues such as regulating tourist visits to stations, protecting designated areas and historic monuments, and preventing tourist landings in newly formed islands. At the time, few tourism ships travelled to the Antarctic region, and only a few hundreds of tourists visited the region each season.

Boreal mer de WeddelIn contrast, Antarctic tourism nearing the 2019-2020 season is an established, robust industry that transports tens of thousands of tourists to Antarctica each year over a season lasting approximately five months. However, the relative predictability of Antarctic tourism over the past two decades – steady overall growth managed by limited industry-led regulation – seems to be about to change. Significant growth is predicted in the next few years, which puts again the focus on tourism growth as an issue that merits consideration from the industry, decision makers, competent authorities and other stakeholders."...

Antarctic Treaty

Shared research stations in Antarctica: The holy grail of international cooperation, or just a nice idea?

The evolution of the Antarctic Treaty System has established scientific research, international cooperation in science and environmental protection as the main pillars in which Antarctic activities, management and governance are based. But Antarctic research stations are still operated by a single Nation, with the exception of Concordia, the uniq bi-national base operated jointly by France and Italy.

HalleyIVThe placement of infrastructure on certain places in Antarctica has long been played a practical, ritual and symbolic role in safeguarding (or countering) territorial claims and of keeping a foothold in a region recognised as terra nullius. Many research stations were established before the signature of the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, and it could be assumed that one of the key motivations to establish them concerned asserting territorial interests by exerting effective occupation. However, Art. IV of the Antarctic Treaty puts territorial claims on hold, and establishes that "no acts or activities taking place while the present Treaty is in force shall constitute a basis for asserting, supporting or denying a claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica or create any rights of sovereignty in Antarctica."...


The true North Pole conquered by Russians !

The event that caused a diplomatic explosion: August 2, 2007, a Russian expedition planted their national flag at a depth of 4261 meters and a latitude of 90° north. Technological achievement or manifestation of force ?

Marliave128On 2 August 2007, a Russian submersible planted a flag at a depth of 4,261 metres at the Geographic North Pole. The event, broadcast almost live on Russian television, was quick to spark irritated reactions on the part of the governments of the other circumpolar nations, who took the Russians to be making a territorial claim for the Pole. Against this backdrop, it may be worthwhile to look into the expedition’s inception and organisation.
The story goes back to 1997, onboard Russia’s 45,000-horsepower nuclear-powered icebreaker Sovietsky Soyuz, which was taking a group of American tourists to the North Pole. Sharing a bottle of vodka, the Russian officers and the cruise organisers were recounting...


International Politics

Towards an Arctic Ocean governance

Exposé aux appétits des acteurs économiques et voué à une intensification des différends entre les cinq États riverains, il est urgent de réfléchir à une gouvernance internationale des activités en Arctique

choquet128Si jusqu’à présent l’Arctique était un territoire protégé par la glace, l’accélération de la fonte de la banquise ouvre aujourd’hui des perspectives accrues d’utilisation économique de la région. Les convoitises commerciales s’intensifient tant au niveau de la navigation commerciale qu’au niveau de l’exploitation de ses ressources notamment minérales. Plus encore que l’Antarctique, l’Arctique est confronté aux effets du changement climatique global et l’opinion publique s’intéresse de plus en plus à ces zones particulièrement sensibles de la planète. Si, de prime abord, les deux régions polaires semblent parentes en raison notamment de leur position géographique et de leur climat, la gestion des activités humaines qui y sont envisagées ne peut qu’être différente. En effet, les territoires...


Vostok, a subglacial lac below 4 km of Antarctic ice

Sous quelque 3 750 mètres de glace de la calotte polaire antarctique, un lac grand comme la Corse s'étend sous la station russe de Vostok construite au pôle du froid de la planète. Outre des bactéries inconnues déjà identifiées dans les glaces, l'exploration du lac de Vostok promet d'être riche en découvertes.

HerguetaB128À la fin des années 1960, des campagnes d’exploration aériennes systématiques furent menées dans le but de déterminer la topographie des sols sous les énormes glaciers couvrant le continent antarctique. Elles utilisaient le radar pour visualiser les surfaces du socle rocheux à travers les kilomètres de glace de la calotte polaire qui le recouvre. Les images qui furent obtenues révélaient la présence de surfaces planes et lisses, de tailles variables, en différents points du continent. Ces profils, typiques d’une surface d’eau sous forme liquide, signalaient donc la présence de lacs situés sur la surface du continent antarctique, mais enfouis sous les glaciers. Pas moins de soixante-dix-sept lacs ont ainsi été identifiés à partir de ces données et de celles de quatre autres campagnes ...

Maritime jurisdiction

The Arctic Ocean belongs to whom

With no regard to imperialism, the five Arctic coastal states commit to defining their sovereign rights to the Arctic Ocean within the framework of the international law of the sea. Irrespective of this, all states are concerned by maritime jurisdiction in the Arctic.

Pratt-B128In August 2007 Russian scientists sent a submarine to the Arctic Ocean seabed at 90° North to gather data in support of Russia’s view that the North Pole is part of the Russian continental shelf. The expedition provoked a hostile reaction from some of Russia’s Arctic neighbours and prompted much media speculation about the possibility of a “new Cold War” over the resources of the Arctic.
While there are a number of disputes over maritime jurisdiction in the Arctic region – and potential for more as states define the areas in which they have exclusive rights over the resources of the continental shelf more than 200 nautical miles from their coastal baselines – the reality is not nearly as anarchic as some commentators have suggested. In fact, the Arctic littoral states...

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