Antarctic Gateway New Zealand September 2009. The invitation to Christchurch was an initiative of the Christchurch City to launch their 2009 Antarctic Season.
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Christchurch were phoning home looking for me as I had failed to arrive on time…
Eventually the family tracked me down to Melbourne.
Gifts were exchanged and the details of the four days were presented.
At the University there is a National Institute for Professor Brian Storey, Director of the Gateway Antarctic and Research on Antarctica. The hosts were Professor Brain Storey, Director of the Gateway Antarctic and Michelle Rogan Linnemore, the COMNAP Executive Secretary.
This was followed by a dinner hosted by the Events Office.
It was pointed out that each year every class in a New Zealand school does a curriculum around Antarctica, including Grade R. The university offers a whole series of Antarctic studies and every undergraduate course has to take a number of modules on Antarctic studies.
They also have a post graduate course and doctorates, and an internet-based correspondence post graduate degree for the USA. The City of Christchurch offers a bursary for one student to study Antarctic studies each year.
Each student in the post graduate course gets the opportunity to visit their base.
This was an extremely interesting morning and when exposed to this sort of information you realise how little we know.
Education is one field that the COMNAP are very keen to expand. The
importance of Antarctica in terms of the global warming impact is known
by every New Zealander, and it is promoted everywhere.
Afterwards there were press interviews with each of us and radio interviews. Each signatory had to make a speech around our country’s Antarctic programmes and the benefit they bring to our cities and their economics, as well as the expected benefits of signing the Statement of Intent.
A presentation by the leader of the Antarctic New Zealand Programme was given, describing a brief history of Antarctica, from Scott’s first trip until today. The main areas of study are climate change, the cryosphere change, geology of rocks and glaciers’ biology.
The Antarctic Centre was built in 1992 at a cost of $8 million NZ. It is in the heart of a working campus where Antarctic missions are organised. It gives a powerful and memorable experience of Antarctica to all visitors in a fun, exciting and informative way. It is hugely successful and The Science Centre in Cape Town is keen to replicate this experience at its new home.
As well as entertaining it conveys the global significance of “the frozen continent” to audiences of all ages.
It includes an aquarium for penguins. The little blue penguin is the smallest penguin and most nocturnal of all. It stands about 40cm tall. They have four types of penguins, five species of seals, baleen and toothed whales, birds and 125 species of fish as well as plankton and zoo plankton. All wildlife relies on Antarctic krill directly or indirectly for their existence, of which there is about 500 million tonnes.
The whales that visit Cape Town in the winter months rely directly on krill to survive. Therefore the significance of maintaining the Antarctic in an environmentally pristine way is crucial to these marine giants.
There is a tourist shop within the complex to buy souvenirs, and other branches at the airport. The venue is also used for functions and dinners. Although started by Christchurch Municipality it now, after four years, runs as a very successful tourist attraction. In fact it is the most visited attraction in New Zealand.
That evening there was an opening function for all the new groups going to the Antarctic base, including the USA and Italian groups. The statement of in-tent was on display together with a brief exhibition showing all the Gateway Cities National Base Stations i.e. SANAE. There were about 350 people. It was held at the Robert McDougall Art Gallery.
The excursion included a boat trip to Quail Island which was a former quaran-tine station for the dogs and ponies of Scott’s and Shackelton’s expeditions. The island is in the plug of an ancient volcano which forms Lytteleton Har-bour.
The CEO of Lyttleton Port Company in which Christchurch Council owns a majority share then took us to where the cruise liners depart from and the container shipping area. We then returned to the city.
A silver chalice is passed from the Dean, Reverend Peter Beck to the Ame-rican Air Force Chaplain who would spend the summer down there and at the close of the season it is brought back and returned to the Cathedral for safe keeping until the next season
We then flew out.
Already about 24 000 visitors visit the continent via the Ushuaia and Punta Arenas Gateways. Being further south they have the advantage as they are closest to the Antarctic Peninsula which is open for about ten months of the year. Most of their tourists are on cruise liners. They have a cultural festival to help promote their programmes, whilst Hobart also has an educational Adventure Park.
A further option is the flight south which adds another opportunity for tourists to visit Antarctica.
A South African Consortium was awarded the contract to build the new British Base at Halley. The contract’s value is in excess of R260m and is being built in Paarden Eiland.
DEAT is anxious to develop more of an industry and acknowledgement of the work that goes on in Antarctica especially at SANAE. They have hosted an open week at their offices with scientific displays available to school children as well as having the SA Agullas on show. It is our intention to turn this programme into a tourist attraction with welcoming and departure activities on the quays when the ships arrive at and depart from Cape Town.
Argentina has indicated their wish to host a festival next year to celebrate their Antarctic Programme for the Gateway Cities. DEAT and the High Commission have indicated a desire to also have one in the coming years but have not yet any idea when this would be, but provisionally in 2012 when the new ship is launched.
As we are already known Internationally as the Gateway to Africa we are now increasingly becoming the Gateway into Antarctica.
The signing ceremony of the Statement of Intent between the Southern Rim Gateway Cities to the Antarctic was attended by the Mayors, or their Representatives, from all the cities. They include Christchurch, New Zealand; Hobart, Australia; Ushuaia, Argentina; Punta Arenas, Chile and Cape Town, South Africa. The Ambassadors or High Commissioners from each of these countries attended the event too.
It took place at Riccarton House, a prime heritage site in Christchurch.