South Pole conquest hailed 100 years on with eye on climate

14th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

Norway's prime minister and several hundred scientists and adventurers gathered at the South Pole Wednesday to celebrate its conquest 100 years ago, with a focus on climate change as a backdrop.

On December 14, 1911, not long before the outbreak of World War I as nationalism was on the rise in Europe, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and the four members of his team were the first to arrive at the southernmost tip of the globe, planting a Norwegian flag at the pole to mark their epic victory over British adventurer Robert Scott, who would perish on the return journey.

"We are here to celebrate one of the most outstanding achievements of mankind," Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said during the ceremony, according to a copy of his remarkds provided by his office.

Stoltenberg becomes only the second government chief to ever set foot on the South Pole, following the 2007 visit by then prime minister of New Zealand Helen Clark.

"And we are here to highlight the importance of this cold continent for the warming of the globe," he added in his speech to adventurers and the scientists stationed at the giant US Amundsen-Scott base camp, today located right next to the geographic pole.

During the short ceremony, Stoltenberg, like Amundsen before him, planted a Norwegian flag in the ice, and also unveiled an ice sculpture of his famous compatriot.

The ill-fated British naval officer and his team were not forgotten.

"Scott and his team paid the ultimate price... Their names will forever be inscribed in Polar history," Stoltenberg said, hailing "their courage and determination in reaching one of the most inhospitable places on earth."

After reaching the pole on January 17, 1912, more than a month after the Norwegian expedition, Scott and four of his compatriots died on their return journey, falling victim to extreme cold, exhaustion and starvation.

© 2011 AFP

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