Mar 22 2009

Is Booming Antarctic Tourism a Prelude to Earth Orbit and the Moon?

Today’s New York Times (3/22/09; M. Higgins) asks rhetorically, “Is Antarctica getting too popular?” The number of tourists traveling to Antarctica reached 45,213 in 2007-08, according to the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators. Over the last decade, Antarctica has experienced an adventure travel boom with the number of tourists skyrocketing more than fourfold.

Antarctic tourism continues its ebullient, decade-long boom because trips are “otherworldly”, moderately expensive, and even risky! Click antarctic.jpg.

And the Antarctic trips are not cheap. Typical per person cost is around $10,000, but despite the current recession, people are continuing to flock to the “last place on Earth.” Part of the reason, according to tour operators, is that, “Like Everest, Antarctica has become a destination with cachet, favored by adventurous travelers seeking bragging rights.” According to Barbara Banks of Wilderness Travel, Berkeley, CA, “one can experience an otherworldly realm…”

Here at 21stCenturyWaves.com, we call this attitude “early ebullience.” It’s typical of the approach to a Maslow Window when certain elements of society — e.g., high-end clinentele, dynamic societies, and/or groups especially excited about a particular MEP, — anticipate the ebullience that eventually engulfs society during the height of a Maslow Window. Since we apparently are only 5 – 6 years from the opening of the 2015 Maslow Window, early ebullience is expected.

Antarctica is increasingly compelling because it’s not only enthralling, but risky. The Economist (2/14/09) characterizes it as “Waiting for another Titanic.” (Their Titanic imagery is especially interesting considering that the celebrated ship was a seconday MEP of the early 19th Century Peary/Amundsen Maslow Window.) According to Jim Taylor of Polar Cruises, Bend, OR, it’s not as simple as a Mediterranean cruise, because of Antarctica’s severe weather and ice-covered waters. “It’s very different when you’re operating in such a remote part of the world…It truly is adventure travel.”

Indeed, in recent years two ships have run aground just off the coast of Antacrtica, and in November, 2007 a ship from Toronto did a “mini-Titanic” by becoming the first commercial passenger ship to sink near Antarctica after hitting an iceberg. Its 150 passengers were safely rescued. They were “very lucky with the weather,” warned a top official from Chile’s navy.

In a few years, what adventure traveler will be able to resist the otherworldly experience, gentle risk, and impressive cost of a suborbital trip into space? Imagine the bragging rights someday to a weekend in Earth orbit! And the ultimate adventure tourist prize — the Moon — has beckoned since the last Maslow Window in the 1960s.

Today’s Antarctic adventure travelers — with their “early ebullience” — are sparkling harbingers of what awaits us all in the 2015 Maslow Window.

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