Wednesday, January 27, 1999 Published at 22:55 GMT
Summit-on-ice saves Antarctic
Peru's minister for foreign affairs looks at Ross Ice Shelf
An international conference held for the first time in Antarctica has pledged to ensure that the frozen continent remains the world's last great wilderness.
The continent's attraction as a tourist destination has also sparked concern over the growing numbers of cruise ships arriving at its shores.
In 1998, 10,000 tourists travelled to Antarctica and there have been warnings that its fragile ecosystem will be unable to sustain such numbers.
The BBC environment correspondent at the conference says the meeting is the start of a campaign to inject a sense of political urgency into protecting Antarctica.
Scientists warned the assembled politicians that after 6,000 years of relative stability, the entire Western Antarctic Ice Sheet could be on the point of melting, causing a disastrous rise in sea-levels around the world within less than a century.
"It will be too late to do anything about it when we know for certain," said Dr Peter Barrett of Wellington's Victoria University after the meeting.
"We might be at that point now."