Rising out from cornflower waters is the badly wounded orange hull of a cruise ship reminiscent of a monument that marks the end of Antarctica’s end of innocence. Not knowing about what danger lies underneath that sheeny oil in the water, penguins perch atop the overturned vessel without any qualms. Flowing out are more of the diesel fuel from the shipwreck, even after tens of thousands of diesel fuel gallons that initially poured out evaporated already.
There is no stopping time from changing at the final frontier of this planet. Consistently, bulldozers, amphibious trucks, ships and aircraft are sent in by the countries interested in reinforcing their claims to a portion of this Continent of Ice. Research efforts are undertaken with nationalistic fanfare along with new bases being established. Each week of the austral summer, several hundred tourists who are indubitably well heeled come in throngs from specialized agency’s vehicles such as cruise ships, military transport planes and even supply vessels.
Since the last place Earth does not require passports, polar skiing expeditions and private yachts get to venture here with ease. Inevitable accidents abound like the sinking of the cruise ship, making Antarctic wildlife pay the price as tons of legal, environmental and highly political questions come in the way hazardous icebergs abound in the poorly charted waters of Antarctica. Since Antarctica is owned by no country, as per the Antarctic Treaty, laws do not apply in this land.
The treaty involved 12 countries who signed it back in 1961, making them all set aside their territorial stakes for around 30 years and allow peaceful research to thrive for at least the next thirty years. As eight powerful nations that joined the pact were granted full voting powers, 18 nations were only given observer status while agreeing to abide by all its rules. Treaty countries meet every two years. A plan that will allow a strictly regulated exploration and exploitation of Antarctica has been developed by the alliance. They are now beginning to see themselves tussling with issues on indemnification, air safety, medical and evacuation facilities and even proliferation of work bases.
Come the austral summer season, over 30 ships scheduled to head to Palmer usher in about a hundred tourists. Tourism can barely be tamed as it is out of control. Perceiving tourists to be causes of delay, the Science Foundation attempted to ban them last year but they did not succeed. There was an immediate removal of the ban once prominent Americans asserted their rights to know how exactly their money collected as tax were used.
To care for people?s health, the station staff also includes a medical corpsman in charge of a small venue that accommodates up to four dozen people whenever they need medical attention. Maritime catastrophe solutions is not its best feature. A disaster can be avoided if the weather is fair, state the workers at the station. They were mostly open inflatable rafts that missed oars and motors, they shared when asked about the lifeboats found in the sunken cruise ship. Working with the calm day, this can be towed back to shore without much hassle with plain work boats from the station. Many workers state that on a positive note, it is a good thing that it did not overturn of get blown out to sea with the vile Antarctic weather, creating more troubles.
To quickly address the oil catastrophe, navy and civilian pollution containment team were dispatched by the National Science Foundation taking with them 52 tons of specialized equipment to carry out the mission The worth of the mission went beyond 2 million dollars. Sent to perform clean up missions are the navies from Chile and Argentina. The clean up did not suffice for the submerged ship still had around 63,000 gallons that couldn’t possibly be siphoned or reached, so even as the cleaning lasted until mid March, there is a huge chance it will keep poisoning life as the wreckage disintegrates and the chance gets higher if a winter storm rages in that area. Hauling away the wreckage, according to experts, would entail so much cost.
The area affected by the spill is brimming with birds like penguins, cormorants, Arctic terns and skuas. Swimming through the bay are whales and seals. Scientists have found indirect evidence that show penguins and other birds poisoned by the spill however they have not yet succeeded in establishing the extent of the damage caused by the poisonous spill. Comprehensive data on the environmental damages caused by the spill is being gathered by the special team of 15 research experts from countries such as America, Argentina and Chile. There is not a possibility for damage claims and it will also take years before it is over.
Only the Antarctic Peninsula and countries like Chile, Great Britain and Argentina can claim damages for United States of America do not own any property rights whatsoever to the area at or around Palmer Station. Chile recently announced plans to propose, at the next Antarctic Treaty, an article to hold each country financially responsible for environmental or other damages. For the costs on spill and accident clean up missions, an agreement on cost sharing must be made, along with the organization of an international emergency coordinating council and these are all being planned by the people from the Science Foundation.