State visit to the Argentine Republic: Seminar on Antarctic relations
Ladies and gentlemen
It is a great pleasure to participate at this seminar on the Antarctic relations between Argentina and Norway. The Queen and I have both had the pleasure of visiting Antarctica and experiencing the breath-taking beauty of its wilderness.
In 2005, The Queen opened the Norwegian year-round research station Troll in Queen Maud Land. In 2015, I visited Troll myself to celebrate the station’s 10th anniversary. The seemingly endless vista of blue ice scattered with dramatic mountain peaks made quite an impression.
Human beings seem very small in Antarctica. At the same time, human activities can leave big footprints.
Being here in Buenos Aires, enjoying this warm hospitality and the pleasant weather, it seems rather strange that this city has played a key role in the strong connection between Argentina and Norway – on the cold and icy Antarctic continent.
However, the Antarctic connection between Argentina and Norway is strong. It has long historic roots, with Antarctic pioneers from both countries – exploring, hunting and helping each other. Allow me to mention a couple of stories from our shared polar history with clear links to Buenos Aires:
Firstly, the conquest of the South Pole by Roald Amundsen and his men. An extraordinary feat that has always fascinated me. It was an important achievement for Norway at the time – when our country was still a young nation. What is less known perhaps, is that Buenos Aires was the first port of call after the expedition returned from the South Pole. It was also the home of don Pedro Christophersen, who generously supported the expedition. As someone once said: “Amundsen would have reached the South Pole without the assistance of don Pedro, but he would not have made it back again”.
Another Norwegian adventurer with strong ties to Argentina was the explorer and whaler Carl Anton Larsen, who established the first whaling station in Grytviken on South Georgia. He was also captain of the ship Antarctic, which sank during an expedition. He fought against all odds to keep his men alive, and in the end they were all miraculously rescued by the Argentinian corvette Uruguay under the command of the Argentinian Antarctic hero, Julián Irízar.
These stories date back more than a hundred years, but we can learn a good deal from those experiences. About respect for nature – its strength and our vulnerability. About determination and perseverance. They also bring important lessons of the value of human beings helping each other, and of cooperation between nations.
This is all vividly presented in the exhibition that we just had a tour of. Thanks to the efforts of those first pioneers and the many who have followed since, we have gained a better understanding of the uniqueness of this large continent – of its grandness and particular biodiversity, of its importance to scientific knowledge, and of its vulnerability to human activities.
This growing awareness was key when both Argentina and Norway became two of the original signatories to the Antarctic Treaty in 1959, and agreed to protect Antarctica as an area devoted to peace and science. With the adoption of the Environment Protocol in 1991, international collaboration in Antarctica gained a third pillar: protection of the environment.
Scientific research on the Antarctic region is becoming increasingly important, particularly for understanding the impacts of climate change. Global warming affects us all and is a key challenge of our time.
The scientific research that takes place in the Antarctic is central to gain further knowledge on how to address this challenge. At the same time, the dramatic changes that we witness in the polar regions are stark reminders of the likely consequences if we ignore the warning signals. The Paris agreement was a breakthrough. This gives me hope that our grandchildren still have a chance to put right our mistakes.
I am pleased with Norway and Argentina’s joint efforts in the Antarctic Treaty system to protect the environment and increase our knowledge. And I welcome the agreement signed during our visit to increase even further our bilateral cooperation in this important area.
Norway and Argentina have more than a hundred years of joint history in the Antarctic. We have a shared responsibility in the region to protect its vulnerable environment. I am confident that we will continue to learn more about this unique area, and seek to ensure that it remains the most pristine and peaceful place on earth.
I wish you all a successful seminar.