Photo: Arild Lyssand/MFA Norway.Photo: Arild Lyssand/MFA Norway

Polar Regions Events in London

Director of the Norwegian Polar Institute, Dr. Jan-Gunnar Winther recently visited London to present his views on the Polar Regions to a UK audience. The visit included a lecture regarding the Antarctic at The Royal Geographical Society and a seminar on the Arctic at the Norwegian Embassy.

On Monday 18th of February, Mr. Winther spoke to an audience of 750 at the Royal Geographical Society in London. The polar explorer had been invited to talk about his expedition to the South Pole in 2011. This adventure was dubbed the Centenary Expedition because it retraced the route that Norwegian polar hero Roald Amundsen followed to the southernmost point on Earth as the first man ever in 1911, beating the British explorer Scott in the race. The Centenary Expedition was part of the celebration of the Nansen-Amundsen Year of 2011 honouring Norway’s most famous polar heroes. 

In the expedition, which was run by the Norwegian Polar Institute, Winther led a team of four that reached the South Pole on December 14th - 100 years to the day after Amundsen. At the Amundsen Scott base, the expedition was welcomed by the Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. Mr. Winther gave a fascinating presentation on the course of the expedition in 2011 and compared this to the expedition by Roald Amundsen and his team in 1911, backed by photos and film clips from both expeditions. The expeditions met harsh and difficult conditions that put the members to the test of great physical and emotional challenges. One can only imagine how the situation must have been in 1911 without the equipment and communication techniques of the 21th century!

The next day, Mr. Winther gave a lecture on the impact of climate change in the Arctic at a seminar at the Norwegian Ambassador’s residence. The invited guests included ambassadors of Arctic nations and distinguished guests from Parliament and governmental offices as well as academics and representatives from the press. Here, Winther outlined the results of the Polar Institute’s research on climate change in the Arctic region. He put special emphasis on the melting of the Arctic ice, elaborating on both the dangers this poses to Arctic life and the new challenges but also possibilities it creates for the numerous nations with interests in the High North. 

Following his talk, Mr. Winther answered questions from the guests. Several of the queries focused on the future of the Arctic in light of the increased attention paid to the region by a large number of countries. On the current issue of the approval of new observers to the Arctic Council Mr. Winther underlined the need for the Council to balance inclusiveness with the ability to cooperate effectively.

The potential for future territorial disputes in the Arctic was also discussed. The general opinion amongst the participants was however that the national borders in the region are largely settled and that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) provides a sound governance regime for the Arctic Ocean. The risk of territorial conflicts arising in the Arctic region should therefore remain minuscule.

 

 Dr. Jan-Gunnar Winther in the Norwegian Ambassador’s residence


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