When it comes to environmental concerns, the Arctic has crept up in many people’s consciousness in the past few years. No longer perceived as an untouched wilderness, it’s now right up there with the razed rainforests in terms of precariousness; images abound of chunks of Greenland melting into the sea, Alaska and Russia racing to drain the oil, and lonely polar bears floating out into the ocean on ever-shrinking cubes of ice. Temperatures are increasing in the Arctic at almost twice the global average, and the warming oceans have melted such a huge percentage of once-permanent sea ice, that National Geographic’s 2014 Atlas of the World has been drastically redrawn to reflect the receding polar ice cap.
With such a bleak outlook, it’s easy to question the ethics of flying to the Arctic at all. But flying to the Arctic contributes just as much to global warming as flying to any other destination does. In fact, tourism here can be a force for good; traveling in national parks and wildlife reserves involves paying park fees, which support the maintenance, protection and monitoring of these wilderness areas, as well as encouraging the creation of new protected areas. Visiting remote Inuit communities creates much-needed income and supports a disappearing way of life. And onboard lectures from Arctic experts offer an unrivalled chance to learn – creating a boatful of ambassadors who will return home to spread the word about the disappearing Arctic.