Monday, February 28, 2011

Lessons from a Tragedy

Last week a Norwegian ship called the Berserk went missing somewhere in the Ross Sea. Sea Shepherd, who has aided in the search for the missing ship, found a damaged liferaft about 70km north of the original location of the yacht’s stress beacon. 2 members of the crew had been dropped off near Scott Base, to undertake a trip to the South Pole on four-wheel-drive quad bikes, to mark the 100th anniversary of the Norwegian Roald Amundsen’s Antarctic expedition. When the pair learned of their yacht’s disappearance they went to the US base at McMurdo Sound and were then flown to New Zealand.

This trip is regarded as a significant break in protocol, considering that this is a rather poor time of the year to travel to the Antarctic, and the ship never gained permission from the Norwegian government. But, no laws were broken. Had there been a ‘Polar Code’ or a commonly agreed upon law that strictly governed Antarctic tourism, this boat may not have made its way to the Antarctic, and thus would not have met its dire fate. The tragedy of the Berserk is just the latest in a string of similar incidents. It shows how not only for the preservation of the Antarctic, but also for the safety of would-be explorers, there needs to be an internationally agreed upon, well enforced Polar Code.

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