Antarctica is hot… who knew? Chinese wedding planners did, and the chilly and forbidding seventh continent is looming ever larger as a destination for status-seeking newlyweds. A number of factors including fast-rising incomes at home and China’s growing fleet of large polar exploration vessels at sea have conspired to fuel this surprising trend.
China also boasts four science and research stations in Antarctica (the most recent, Taishan Station, opened in February of 2014), and though the stations really aren’t equipped to accommodate large numbers of tourists, the latter are visiting anyway. The numbers are hard to come by but according to the South China Morning Post, about 2,300 Chinese tourists of all types visited Antarctica between November of 2011 and March of 2012. An increasing proportion of these visitors are tour groups associated with weddings.
Naturally, wedding-oriented trips take place during the comparatively warmer and ice-free antarctic summer which corresponds to winter in the northern hemisphere. As well, most of the tour groups head for Zhongshan Station in East Antarctica, China’s largest antarctic base. The station can accommodate up to 60 personnel in summer but as some tour groups can comprise well over 100 people, stays on the shore are typically short and are limited to photography and wildlife watching – both before and after the weddings are held. Such regular incursions by large tour groups are causing concern among environmentalists, many of whom are Chinese themselves.