Passing through customs on your way to the very bottom of the world generally goes beyond the simple “anything to declare?” inquiry. There’s actually an international treaty that precludes you from bringing anything foreign to the continent, for fear of invasive colonization by bugs, plants, and other critters that shouldn’t be traipsing around down there.
But what about the things visitors don’t know they’re carrying?
With sub-arctic species beginning to intrude in Antarctica, scientists decided it was time to figure out just where these invaders were coming from. And it took a vacuum cleaner, nearly a thousand volunteers, and endless pairs of pants, backpacks, and shoes.
"Often [the volunteers] were amazed at what they had left in their pockets and had missed for some time."
At the end of the day, over 2,800 individual plant seeds were found, averaging about 9.5 per tourist and far more for scientists among the group that “tested positive” for vegetative hitchhikers.
My advice is to bring a dust buster if you plan on hauling yourself to the southern pole. —MN
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