Antarctica Tourists

I read “Human Society Carries Trouble to the Bottom of the World” (Opinion, Feb. 12) with more than a general interest. While I was a tourist down in Antarctica, our ship, the Illiria, rescued the crew involved in the Bahia Paraiso “accident.”

Michael Parfit’s essay was a succinct and poetic summing up of the difficulties facing Antarctica. Though his facts were essentially correct, it might have been stressed, however, that although a tour group was indeed on board the Bahia Paraiso, the Argentinean vessel was primarily a military (Argentina Navy) ship.

Perhaps I am hopelessly optimistic, but I feel that the stupidity, thoughtlessness, and arrogance exhibited (and, sadly, still being maintained in regards to that incident) by the Argentina Navy is fairly absent from the captain and crews of the commercial tourism ventures to Antarctica that are sponsored by the various natural history museums.

Part of this, I believe, has to do with the different relationship between the captain and crew of a completely chartered expedition (tourists as employers) and an expedition like the Bahia Paraiso’s (tourists as paying guests of the Navy). The pressure that can be brought to bear by the former has got to be much more direct and effective than any efforts that might be exerted in the latter situation.

After personally witnessing the stunning, unphotographable colors of the majestic Antarctic landscapes, I am an ardent supporter of the Greenpeace idea of making Antarctica the first “World Park"--an idea that is simple in concept, but an idea I fear will be extremely delicate and complex in its diplomatic execution.


Hopefully, the American public will shake loose the attitude that Antarctica is “just a bunch of snow and ice” and become aware of the enormous beauty of the seventh continent.

If enough people care, then political pressure can be brought to bear by the public upon our representatives in Washington before the treaty comes up for renewal in 1991. If not, we then have ourselves to blame when oil and mining interests throttle and rape the last continent.

P.S.: As to Parfit’s statement that “you don’t keep visitors out of a park,” he might try entering Yosemite during the summer sometime without a reservation!