Today Gareth Morgan announced the winner a of sponsored berth onboard his February 2012 “Our Far South” http://www.ourfarsouth.org/ voyage to the sub-Antarctics and Antarctica. The project, which has 50 New Zealanders aboard including 10 of the country’s leading science and technical experts on the region, is set to revise and update New Zealanders’ opinions on the issues that are besetting the region. The one that is the most scary in Morgan’s opinion, is the race for resources which looks set to replicate the jostling currently happening in the Arctic.
“The Antarctic Treaty System is a fragile document and at the rate the countries are building so-called bases on the continent right now, you’d have to be particularly naive to believe there has been such an explosion in international interest in science. It’s a thinly disguised positioning for territorial and mineral claims and I worry New Zealand is asleep at the wheel, oblivious to the significance of what’s going on”, says Morgan. “Certainly I don’t think New Zealanders in general are awake to this”.
“Are we aware for example, that Argentina has 14 bases there as frontier stations in its psychological battle with the UK and Chile for territory? Or that Russia this year has declared that prospecting for minerals, oil and gas is on its agenda, or that China has erected its Kunlun station (complete with a ‘Welcome to China’ sign) smack in the middle of Australia’s dormant territorial claim, at a site that has no scientific significance.”
“We’re amidst a global a race for resources right now with sovereign funds buying up food-producing land and mineral deposits the world over. Why would Antarctica be immune because some cosy club declares it to be so? That’s just not tenable. But what are the consequences for us of an open slather of economic activity down there? It is going to change and we need to be on the front foot, the romantic exploration age of Scott, Shackleton and Hillary is well gone now, this is about geopolitics. Russia reckons it owns the North Pole because it lies upon its extended Continental shelf. What should we claim as being on the continental shelf of the Ross Protectorate?
The modern reality is that there are a number of issues that envelop both Antarctica and our sub-Antarctic islands, and the Our Far South project is about highlighting those for discussion by New Zealanders. Oh , and we’ll keep an eye out for Happy Feet while we’re there.
The winner of the berth is Hunter Abbey, a young film maker from Wellington who will co-ordinate the filming and post production of both a documentary highlighting the key issues and a film on the human side of the voyage. Currently Hunter is working on the behind the scenes documentaries on The Hobbit.
"We had so many great applicants that we were really spoilt for choice. In the end we chose Hunter as we really wanted to produce a high quality documentary of the voyage and to enable audiences to re-live the voyage and learning that we will be doing onboard. As well as sponsoring Hunter we have partially funded a number of other berths who will help share their knowledge with schools and other key audiences." says Morgan.