Norway PM to travel to South Pole 100 years after Amundsen

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Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg will travel to the South Pole in December to mark 100 years since countryman Roald Amundsen led the first team to the frozen continent, Norway's Polar Institute said Monday.

Stoltenberg, who unlike his eminent compatriot will travel to Antarctica by plane, will be only the second head of government ever to go to the South Pole, following in the footsteps of New Zealand's former prime minister Helen Clark who made the trip in 2007.

He will go there to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Amundsen leading the first-ever expedition to the pole, on December 14, 1911, after a dramatic race against a British team headed by explorer Robert Scott.

Just beaten to the finish line, Scott and his men, who had chosen to make the trip using horses rather than dogs, died of exhaustion after being caught in a blizzard on their way back.

To celebrate the feat of their countryman and raise awareness about the importance of the polar regions, four Norwegians will retrace almost the identical route taken by Amundsen a century ago.

The team will consist of the head of the Norwegian Polar Institute Jan-Gunnar Winther, former cross-country skier and Olympic champion Vegard Ulvang, a historian and an adventurer.

"The only advantage Amundsen had on us was that he had 52 sled dogs," Winther told AFP, pointing out that dogs had been banned from Antarctica since the 1990s to avoid introducing new illnesses to the ice-covered continent.

"At the same time, we will have modern equipment, adapted food, ways to communicate with the outside world and a known and safe itinerary," he added.

The expedition is set to reach the South Pole on December 14, when Stoltenberg will be there to welcome it.

A treaty signed in 1959 bans all claims to territory on the inhospitable continent, and visits there by dignitaries are rare.

© 2011 AFP

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