President Kersti Kaljulaid reached King George Island in Antarctica on Tuesday making her the first Estonian head of state to visit the continent. She also called for the world to come together and find a solution to climate change.
Kaljulaid will visit several science stations on the King George Island, Deception Island, Port Lockroy, and participate in commemorations for the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica.
The voyage of the Admiral Bellingshausen, a 24-meter Dutch-built ketch, marks the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica, or its ice shelf, by Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen, at the time a Captain in the Imperial Russian Navy, and a Baltic German native of Saaremaa.
The Estonian-led expedition to retrace his journey to Antarctica departed from Tallinn in July 2019.
Kaljulaid said: “When Admiral Bellingshausen began his journey 200 years ago, the world’s oceans were much cleaner and we were much less concerned about the earth. Neither ocean water nor atmospheric air knows national boundaries. The polar regions, which are the coolers of our planet, are particularly sensitive to climate change. The Antarctic Peninsula, where the Admiral Bellingshausen is currently located, is, among other things, one of the fastest-warming locations on the planet. At one point, the polar regions may cross the point of no return and cause drastic changes in our planet’s climate and living environment. Climate change is a common concern for all countries in the world and a solution must be found together.”
“Estonia has always been a maritime nation. The Bellingshausen expedition is yet another good example of Estonia’s long-standing maritime tradition and will make our country a little bigger and more visible in the world again.”
Kaljulaid will be accompanied on her visit to Antarctica by Timo Palo, the president’s climate adviser and one of Estonia’s leading polar scientists. Estonian scientists have been involved in Antarctic exploration for decades.
The president can be reached in the Antarctic at all times. Data and phone connections are guaranteed by a device developed in collaboration by Iridium and Thales, which will allow president Kaljulaid to digitally sign documents anywhere in the world, also in places without a fixed internet connection.
On Monday, Kaljulaid posted a photograph of herself in a Chilean supermarket on social media saying she was stocking up on fruit and vegetables to take on the trip. She wrote: “Picking out fresh produce to bring with us. Because next stop: Antarctica!”
Last Thursday, Kaljulaid met with President Sebastian Pinera, in Santiago, Chile while on a visit to the country. She also visited the Chilean Antarctic Institute before her visit to the continent.