ATCM XXXVII (Or Eight Days in a Tie)

It’s not often that you’ll catch ALE owner Mike Sharp in business attire…But Mike recently donned a jacket and tie for the best part of eight days, while attending the 37th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM XXXVII) held in Brazil. Below he reports on ALE’s participation.

ATCM Delegates and IAATO Participation

The meeting was attended by delegates from 49 Treaty signatory countries, plus various observers and experts such the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC), the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

Mike commented, “The last time I was at ATCM was in Christchurch in 1997 and back then, only a handful of Treaty nations spoke. Now almost everyone speaks, including IAATO and ASOC, and one really has a sense that all opinions are heard. There is a feeling of consensus building and being able to talk freely. ‘Tourists’ are now an accepted part of the landscape and people were interested, during the coffee breaks and lunch, in finding out about IAATO and the tourists’ point of view.”

Tourism Working Group

The IAATO delegation participated in various sessions, in particular the Working Group on Tourism and Non-Governmental activities. The delegation contributed to decision making about the future of Antarctica, as well as demonstrating its members’ commitment to operating in a safe, self-sufficient and environmentally responsible manner. During the week, IAATO presented estimates of Antarctic tourism numbers for the 2014-15 season, to the Working Group.

Coffee breaks provided an opportunity for the IAATO group to talk with other delegates and join forces to present their positions and find agreements. At the end of several days’ deliberations reports were generated by each Working Group that were carefully checked, paragraph by paragraph, to make sure they reflected the various view points. It is a slow process that keeps a consensus among the countries in the Antarctic Treaty System.


During lunch breaks there were presentations. The Brazilian Antarctic Program showed their new Comandante Ferraz Antarctic Station (EACF) and an expanded research program south of Union Glacier. The Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR) also gave an insightful presentation on ice levels and climate change. Interestingly, the head of the SCAR delegation, Jerónimo López-Martínez, climbed Mount Vinson with ALE in the early 1990’s.

Informal Networking

Mike tells us that most days work finished at 6pm, although occasionally overran, after which there were receptions with drinks and canapés, which fortunately ended at a reasonable hour. It seems that gave him time for an early night so that he could be up for the delegation meeting at 7am the next day!

“I met a very wide range of interesting people,” Mike said. “I introduced myself by saying that I was there as a substitute for David (ALE owner, David Rootes, who has attended many ATCM meetings on the IAATO delegation) and they all said ‘Oh yes, I know David’ except for one delegate from Turkey who said ‘I’ve sailed on Northanger’ * It is a small world!”

More info about Brazil’s Antarctic Program

* Northanger is an expedition sailboat built by Mike Sharp and Rick Thomas

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