Netizens question cost, safety of pricey Antarctic student trip

14:55, September 29, 2010      

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A netizen, who claimed to be the parent of a student at Beijing No. 4 High School, recently published a post on the Internet saying that the school is planning an expedition to the Antarctic, and its students will have to pay nearly 100,000 yuan per person if they want to join.

The netizen asked, "Should my child join the expedition?" Some replied "yes," but others voiced concern over the high expenses, travel security and other factors.

The school said on Sept. 27 that the expedition is jointly organized by the Beijing Youth Science and Technology Club and China Association for Scientific Expedition. Students can apply to join the expedition voluntarily, but at last only 20 will be selected based on their English proficiency and physical condition. The expedition is set for late January 2011, and there have been over 30 applicants so far.

An Ying, assistant to the school principal, said that the main purpose of providing students with an opportunity to explore the Antarctic is to expose them to natural science research and the methods adopted in field research as well as to inspire their interests in scientific research.

Previously, more than 60 students at Beijing No. 4 High School participated in expeditions to the Arctic. An stressed that the activity is totally voluntary. Every member should think of a research subject, and experts will evaluate the feasibility of their subjects before setting off. The journey will broaden their horizons, and "may exert great positive influence on their lives," An added.

Liu Li, director of the International Cooperation Department of the China Association for Scientific Expedition, confirmed that the 20 students will fly to Argentina's Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, on Jan. 24, 2011 and then transfer to a research ship to the Antarctic.

The expedition will last for 18 days, and experts on the ship will explain to the students about the Antarctic's history, geographical features, wild animals and other topics. In addition, the students also have the opportunity to take yachts and set foot on Antarctica.

Is the expense too high?

Liu said that the total expense for every student is 98,000 yuan, which includes air tickets, accommodation, expedition vessel costs, hiring experts, insurance and visas. The money will be deposited to the students' bank card and paid from the cards when needed. The China Association for Scientific Expedition will collect a little service charge. After interviewing many travel agencies in Beijing, reporters found that only a small number of travel agencies have an Antarctic tour project open. A staff member at a large travel agency said that they will have a tourist group for the Antarctic at the end of 2010 with a luxury cruise tour for 20 days priced at about 90,000 yuan.

A travel industry insider said that Antarctic tour groups have few customers and only a few travel agencies open the route due to its expensive price. The tour has multiple choices in terms of means of transportation, extra guidance and camping activities. In addition, the route and spending standards are uncertain. Therefore, it is hard to come up with a specific expense standard.

Can safety be guaranteed?

Parents are most concerned about students' food, lodging, transportation and safety issues in the Antarctic. Liu said that there is certainly a difference between the students' Antarctic expedition and an official scientific expedition. Students will stay in the expedition vessel most times to listen to lectures by experts about the Antarctic and carry out cultural exchanges.

Conditions permitting, they will have the opportunity to set foot on the Antarctic continent and can even camp on the continent. The organizer will invite experts to train these students about polar safety knowledge before leaving and professional rescue personnel will also further train them on the expedition vessel. However, students must have subjective safety awareness and follow instructions of the team leader.

By People's Daily Online

(Editor:王寒露)

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