40TH ANNIVERSARY OF SCOTT BASE

  • Jim Bolger
Public Trust

COMMEMORATIVE CEREMONY
SCOTT BASE, ANTARCTICA

Sir Edmund Hillary; George Lowe and Ramon Tito, representatives of the Trans-Antarctic Expedition; General Birks, Chief of Defence Force; Gillian Wratt, Chief Executive, "Antarctica New Zealand"; Your Excellency, Mr Josiah Beeman; distinguished guests and Antarcticans.

On 1 July last year I had the pleasure of speaking in Christchurch, our Gateway to Antarctica, at the launch of the New Zealand Antarctic Institute.

At the time I expressed the hope that Joan and I would together be able to visit the Ice to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Scott Base.

I also hoped to be the first MMP Prime Minister in office to visit the Base.

I am delighted to say that both these hopes have been fulfilled.

But I am saddened that Sir Robin Irvine, the Chair of the Antarctic Institute, passed away last September, before he could realise the vision for the Institute that he had set out for us at that launch.

We are here this morning to commemorate other hopes that were fulfilled by the establishment of Scott Base 40 years ago and to reflect on the sacrifice, courage and vision of the pioneers.

At the same time our thoughts turn to the future of New Zealand's involvement with Antarctica: what we see around us today is a fine base which will serve as the springboard to the 21st century for our scientists and Antarctic explorers.

It is a privilege to be here to see this unique and precious continent. This is truly a marvellous place.

It is also a privilege to be here on this occasion and in the company of a great New Zealander, who, as much as anybody, brought Antarctica to our attention.

Sir Edmund, your contribution to the national effort of building Scott Base has been widely acknowledged.

Your subsequent journey to the Pole with your colleagues Murray Ellis, Jim Bates, Peter Mulgrew and Derek Wright captured our imagination, and gave an added dimension to New Zealand's sense of nationhood.

You stamped your mark on Antarctica, Sir Edmund, by displaying qualities that are uniquely New Zealand.

What you achieved with those Ferguson tractors has entered the annals of legend.

It testified to the ability of New Zealanders to find practical, creative, sensible and low-cost solutions to problems.

But there is another dimension to this pragmatism - fundamental decency and the leavening of humour that lightens hard collective effort: qualities that will serve the New Zealand of tomorrow.

And I welcome George Lowe. You were the 'other Kiwi' with Sir Edmund on Mt Everest.

You were also the Kiwi with Sir Vivian Fuchs and his team on the great Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition, supported from Scott Base.

That journey of science and survey began on the other side of this huge continent in late 1957. It ended right here 99 days later with a tumultuous welcome from your fellow countrymen.

Welcome back, George.

And, while I am talking about great and arduous journeys, let me acknowledge on behalf of all New Zealanders the recent fine achievement of Borge Ousland from Norway here with us today.

Borge has just completed the first solo unsupported crossing of the continent.

Your journey reminds us of that by another famous Norwegian, Roald Amundsen, who was first to reach the South Pole in 1911.

Norway can be proud of your achievement and we all salute you on an outstanding effort of human endurance.

I am pleased that it coincided with our commemoration. Thank you for that.

You are in the company today of some of the few people in the world who will fully appreciate your extraordinary experience.

And, let me also welcome back Ramon Tito.

Forty years ago, as the youngest sailor on the Navy's Antarctic support ship Endeavour, you raised the flag on this very spot when Scott Base was commissioned.

It is a pleasure to be able to offer you the opportunity of doing so again.

The successes of the Trans-Antarctic Expedition and of the International Geophysical Year were the product of co-operative efforts by many people, agencies and countries.

The contribution of our Defence Forces in this effort and in our subsequent history of activities on the Ice is of great importance.

General Birks, we could not have done it without your people. I thank our Defence personnel for their professionalism and ability over the years in supporting our national effort.

I am confident that there will continue to be exciting and relevant opportunities for engagement by Defence personnel in our national Antarctic activities in the years ahead.

The use by the RNZAF of the Pegasus runway for our flight yesterday indicates the way new opportunities can widen the possibilities for our scientists and programme managers.

In 1957 Admiral Dufek, a good and generous friend of New Zealand, stood here to represent the United States at the raising of our flag.

I am delighted that you are able to be here this year Ambassador Beeman, to represent the United States and to accept our thanks for your co-operation and assistance over these years.

The strength and enduring nature of our partnership on the Ice is a testimony to the international spirit in which nations undertake their work in Antarctica.

I am confident that this partnership will continue to thrive as both our programmes meet and overcome the inevitable new challenges they will face on the Ice.

I should also like to acknowledge those who have given their lives in the quest for knowledge of Antarctica.

The plaques beneath this flagpole record the names of those involved in our programme who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

I should also like to remember all those who died in the tragic crash of Air New Zealand Flight 901 in 1979, not so far away from here, on the other side of Mt Erebus.

Their deaths, too, remind us of the unforgiving nature of this beautiful but harsh continent.

Courage, teamwork, dedication and partnership have marked our involvement in the Ross Dependency over the past four decades.

Outstanding contributions from our explorers and scientists have built New Zealand a proud international Antarctic reputation.

We stand tall because of the practical efforts, common sense and basic decency shown by all our Antarcticans.

Scott Base is our Gateway in Antarctica.

In establishing "Antarctica New Zealand" last year, New Zealand signalled that we intend to continue our work on this continent and to maintain New Zealand's profile as an active participant in Antarctica.

The challenge for the Institute is to work with our existing Antarctic scientists and support staff to identify and nurture our next generation of Antarctic endeavours.

As the central focus for our national presence, "Antarctica New Zealand" has the opportunity to show New Zealanders the wonderful benefits that can flow from our interaction with this continent.

Chief Executive Gillian Wratt and her team have a great opportunity in front of them.

There are other opportunities, too, for New Zealanders to be involved in Antarctica.

We hope that New Zealanders will take them up in the spirit of innovation, creativity and respect that have marked our presence from the outset.

Tourism and other non-governmental activities, carried out responsibly and in accordance with the commitment that New Zealanders have always shown to the protection of the Antarctic environment, will create awareness of what this continent means.

It is a unique and precious asset for the world.

Wise stewardship of the Ross Dependency and Antarctica is the responsibility of us all.

As my Government's strategic goal for Antarctica acknowledges, we are committed to conserving its intrinsic values for the benefit of the world community and for present and future generations of New Zealanders.

The task ahead is to find ways of making this extraordinary place more accessible to those who want the experience.

But we must do so in ways that ensure the unique environment is undamaged.

We have achieved this in the National Park system in New Zealand. It can be achieved here.

If the next 40 years of Scott Base are as wise and as productive as the first four decades have been, New Zealand will have been proudly served.

Thank you all for your contributions to our national Antarctic effort.

Ends