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12 Dec 2011 13:19
Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg arrived at the South Pole on Monday to celebrate the 100th anniversary of countryman Roald Amundsen’s expedition to the frozen continent with a group of adventurers.
Often described as “no man’s land”, the Pole will be a comparative hive of activity for Wednesday’s anniversary.
Stoltenberg travelled from New Zealand on an American C-130 Hercules plane, becoming only the second head of government to visit the South Pole while Amundsen made the trek on skis.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Helen Clark visited the Pole in 2007.
Stoltenberg, who upon arrival immediately strapped on skis, is scheduled to welcome Norwegian adventurers attempting to reach the Pole to mark the occasion—some of whom are retracing the route taken by the explorer.
According to the Norwegian Polar Institute, a dozen Norwegian South Pole expeditions are expected in December.
On Wednesday, an ice sculpture of Amundsen is scheduled to be unveiled at the US scientific base station Amundsen Scott, which is located near the Pole and where Stoltenberg will be staying.
To pay homage to the heroism of English naval officer Robert Scott, whom Amundsen beat to the Pole in a dramatic race and who tragically lost his life on his return, British visitors are also expected to visit Antarctica around the same time.
Just beaten to the finish line, Scott and his men, who had chosen to make the trip using ponies rather than dogs, died after being caught in a blizzard on their way back.
A treaty signed in 1959 bans all claims to territory on the inhospitable continent and visits there by dignitaries are rare. The lack of jurisdiction also makes it difficult to have an overview of how many adventurers are there and where they are from.
The only certainty is that none of the current expeditions will reach the Pole using sled dogs, as canines have been banned in Antarctica since the 1990s to avoid introducing new illnesses.—AFP
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