Estonian president joins Admiral Bellingshausen expedition

Admiral Bellingshausen in the Port of Itajai
Admiral Bellingshausen in the Port of Itajai Photo: CJ Kask

President Kersti Kaljulaid landed on the King George Island in the Antarctic on Tuesday where she joined the Admiral Bellingshausen expedition arranged by the Estonian Maritime Museum and NGO Thetis, commemorating the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica.

The aim of the visit is to draw attention to the climate crisis and demonstrate opportunities offered by digital society and e-Governance, the president’s office said.

„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 changes in climate. Therefore, they are on the frontline of global warming. The Antarctic Peninsula is one of the places where the warming is happening very fast,“ Kaljulaid said after landing on King George Island.

"One day, these changes may pass 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,“ the president added.

„Estonia has always been a seafaring nation. Today, we are also a digital nation. Being a digital society means geography does not matter anymore – we can do business, run the country and communicate with our loved 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,“ Kaljulaid said. 

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 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica. Naturally, in the polar regions weather can influence the itinerary.  

The president 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 honor 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 is repeating that journey.

Previous high-level visits to the Antarctic include, for example, Prince Albert of Monaco, Harald V of Norway, President of Chile Sebastian Pinera and former governor general of Australia Peter Cosgrove.