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President of Estonia in the Antarctic: climate change concerns us all and all of us need to look for the solution

President of Estonia in the Antarctic: climate change concerns us all and all of us need to look for the solution © Offfice of the President

21.01.2020

President Kersti Kaljulaid of Estonia landed on the King George Island in the Antarctic today, where she joined the Admiral Bellingshausen expedition arranged by the Estonian Maritime Museum and NGO Thetis, commemorating the 200. anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica. The aim of the visit is to draw attention to the climate crisis and to demonstrate opportunities offered by digital society and eGovernance.

“When admiral Bellingshausen began his journey 200 years ago, the oceans of the world were much cleaner and our fears for the Earth were much smaller. The water in the oceans and the air in our atmosphere do not recognize national borders. Polar areas, the coolers of our world, are also extra sensitive to the changes in our climate. Therefore, they are on the frontline of global warming. The Antarctic Penninsula is one of the places, where the warming is happening very fast. One day the changes may cross the point of no return and drastic fluctuations may make the climate and living environment of our planet considerably different from what we are used to. Climate change concerns all the countries of the world and the solution must also be found together,” said president Kaljulaid after landing on King George Island.

“Estonia has always been a seafaring nation. Today we are also a digital nation. Being a digital society means geography doesn’t matter anymore – we can do business, run the country and communicate with our close ones wherever we are in the world. I intend to demonstrate in Antarctica how a digitally advanced society like Estonia allows its citizens to do their everyday work online no matter where they are located,” president Kaljulaid added.

The Estonian head of state plans to visit research stations on King George Island, the Deception Island, Port Lockroy and to take part in the commemoration of the 200. anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica. Naturally, in the polar regions weather can influence the itinerary. 

President Kaljulaid 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.

The Admiral Bellingshausen expedition is organized in honour of the Estonian-born explorer Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen, who was one of the first people to see Antarctica in 1820. The expedition began on July 4 1819 from Kronstadt and reached the Antarctic coast on January 27 or 28. This year's trip repeats that journey.

Previous high-level visits to the Antarctic include for example Prince Albert of Monaco, Harald V of Norway, President of Chile Sebastián Piñera and Governor General of Australia Sir Peter Cosgrove.