Discussions about the management of non-governmental activities in Antarctica have been handicapped by a lack of clarity in terminology. The term ‘tourism,’ for example, is used in a catch-all manner to describe activities as widely divergent and incommensurable as overflights by commercial jetliners and solo ski traverses of the ice cap. Recent debate about stricter regulation of independent expeditions has been similarly confused. This paper examines these definitional hurdles and offers a broad categorization of activities in Antarctica. An overview of recent independent expeditions is then given and issues are discussed. It is suggested that, to date, the terms of the debate have been set by the most powerful vested interests in Antarctica and that the discussion itself has been polarized. The paper does not prescribe policy but indicates alternative points of view and argues that the strict regulatory approach increasingly favoured by some national programs is out of all proportion to the size of potential problems and could diminish traditions of cooperation, non-proprietorship, and the adventurous spirit, which have uniquely characterized human endeavour in Antarctica.
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