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U.S. Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton in New Zealand.
Photo Credit: U.S. State Department Web site
Chair of Antarctica New Zealand Rob Fenwick, left, shows U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton a map of the Antarctic region as NSF Christchurch representative Art Brown looks on during an event on Antarctic cooperation at the International Antarctic Centre on Nov. 5.

Clinton in New Zealand

U.S. secretary of state makes special visit to U.S., NZ Antarctic programs

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton External U.S. government site made a special visit to the U.S. and New Zealand Antarctic programs in Christchurch on Nov. 5 (local time) during a two-week diplomatic tour through Asia and the Pacific.

Art Brown, the National Science Foundation (NSF) External U.S. government site representative in Christchurch for the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) External U.S. government site, greeted Clinton at the International Antarctic Centre External Non-U.S. government site. The centre is located near U.S. facilities that support the USAP science mission in Antarctica.

Brown extended a personal invitation for Clinton to visit Antarctica on behalf Subra Suresh, the new director at the NSF, and Karl Erb, director of the NSF Office of Polar Programs External U.S. government site. The secretary of state had planned to visit the Ice in January of this year but canceled her trip after the Haiti earthquake.

Brown commented on the long-standing relationship between the United States and New Zealand, which dates back to the 1950s during the International Geophysical Year External Non-U.S. government site when both nations began their research programs in Antarctica.

People exit plane on rainy day.
Photo Credit: Ron Rogers
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton deplanes Air Force 2.

“Over the years, that relationship has grown and matured into a complex and fruitful scientific and logistical partnership that is addressing global scientific challenges, including one of the most pressing scientific problems facing the world today — the efforts to understand the mechanics and consequences of changing climate,” Brown said.

In her speech during the ceremony, Clinton also acknowledged the bond between the countries, mentioning the joint wind turbine project that provides energy to New Zealand’s Scott Base External Non-U.S. government site and the USAP’s McMurdo Station External U.S. government site on Ross Island. [See previous article: Winding up.]

“That means lower greenhouse gases and less risk associated with transporting and storing liquid fuel. It’s a testament to that continent’s unique quality that for decades, the world has agreed on [for] Antarctica,” Clinton said.

“The Antarctic Treaty External U.S. government site, the first arms control treaty signed during the Cold War, has kept the area free of weapons since the 1960s, making it the most successful arms control treaty in history,” she added. “And today, America and New Zealand remain committed to keeping Antarctica a cooperative, peaceful, and pristine scientific reserve.”

Clinton then presented the people of New Zealand with a new aeronautical map of the route between Christchurch and McMurdo that included a new and unusual feature. Eleven of the waypoints had been named after “the unsung heroes of Antarctic exploration” — the dogs and ponies that early explorers used to open up the last frontier on Earth.

“In the story of the Antarctic, the names of the explorers are well known and famous, but now they’re joined by the likes of Helge and Snippet and Bones and Nobby,” Clinton said.

Air Force Col. Ronald J. Smith — a former commander of Operation Deep Freeze, the military arm supporting Antarctic research — had the idea to memorialize the animals used by Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott in their race to the South Pole. The centennial of their achievements of the Pole is next year. [See New York Times article on Smith's two-year campaign External Non-U.S. government site and The Antarctic Sun article about the Race to the South Pole exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History.]

The map will be displayed at the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch External Non-U.S. government site.

Clinton concluded her remarks with, “So I want to express my appreciation to our partners in New Zealand going back to 1958 who have been with us on this effort.

“I was very proud, when I was a senator from New York, to represent the C-130s on skis that fly out of Schenectady on behalf of the National Science Foundation, and I visited the crew there. This is a great example of our successful partnership and a sign of even more to come.”

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