Christchurch’s reputation as an international gateway to Antarctica will be enhanced during the 2013/14 Antarctic Season which opens this weekend.
The season opening sees the city welcome scientists and researchers from the New Zealand Antarctic Programme as well as the United States, Italy and South Korea.
Central to the season opening is the United States Antarctic Program, which will see more than 2500 people come through Christchurch on their way to the ice.
It will also mark the return of the US icebreaker Polar Star to the Antarctic, following a substantial refit. The Polar Star will be used to break in the critical supply channel through McMurdo Sound.
Christchurch Deputy Mayor Ngaire Button says, "We are honoured to welcome our international partners for another Antarctic season. Their commitment is a welcome reminder of our city’s important connection to the Southern continent and the international Antarctic programmes."
The National Science Foundation’s Outreach and Education Program Manager Peter West says, "Everyone in the United States Antarctic Program once again looks forward to renewing our ties with the city of Christchurch and our New Zealand colleagues, as we embark on yet another season of science and discovery."
South Korea’s second Antarctic station, Jang Bogo is scheduled to open 12 February 2014. The opening will see over 200 South Koreans come through Christchurch en route to Antarctica.
Antarctica New Zealand Chairman Rob Fenwick says: "The commitment of South Korea to use Christchurch as a base for their Ross Sea region activities increases the opportunities for collaboration for both Antarctic science and also logistically to the national programmes that operate in that area. Their purpose built icebreaker, Araon, a multidisciplinary oceanic research vessel, also opens up collaborative possibilities for blue water research that will help Antarctic scientists understand how Antarctica will react to a changing global climate and provides another platform for accessing other areas in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean."
To kick off the new season, a Royal New Zealand Air Force Boeing 757 is scheduled to depart Christchurch on 3 October carrying staff and scientists to New Zealand's Scott Base and the US National Science Foundation's McMurdo Station.
The following day a C130 Hercules will travel south with cargo for the two bases.
The opening of the Antarctic season biennially coincides with the launch of the Council’s NZ IceFest.
Established in 2012, the festival delivers a diverse programme of Antarctic themed activities, celebrating New Zealand’s role within Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. Planning is currently underway for the 2014 event.
Deputy Mayor Button is encouraging everyone to embrace the city’s role in the Antarctic region by attending this weekend’s activities. "The wreath laying ceremony is a poignant reminder for us to reflect and remember those who have lost their lives in Antarctica, while the service is a chance for us to share our blessings with those travelling south this season."
The season opening celebrations wrap up with the annual South to Antarctica Church Service at 10am on Sunday 29 September.
The service this year will be held in the Transitional Cathedral, Hereford Street, led by Acting Dean of Christchurch, Lynda Patterson, along with Rob Fenwick, CNZM, Chairman, Antarctica New Zealand.
This will be followed by New Zealand Antarctic Society’s traditional Wreath Laying Ceremony, paying tribute to Antarcticans who have gone before, and those who follow.
This ceremony will be held at 11.15am at Scott Statue inside Canterbury Museum.
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