Secretary of State John Kerry will be the most senior U.S. official to ever visit Antarctica when he travels to the continent next week.
Kerry will visit McMurdo Station, where he will meet with scientists and researchers at the U.S. Antarctic Program facility. At the edge of the McMurdo Sound, the station studies climate change, an issue to which Kerry has dedicated a significant amount of his diplomatic efforts.
McMurdo is one of the most remote and harshest places on earth. It can only receive supplies by ship when vessels can make it through the ice, and is also supplied via air using landing strips and a helicopter pad. The station was built on volcanic rock of Hut Point Peninsula in 1955 and serves as logistics hub for the American Antarctic program. It has a power plant, a water distillation plant, stores, a firehouse, dormitories and more.
The secretary will also visit the Ross Sea Region Marine Protected Area, which is the world’s largest at 598,000 square miles.
Kerry will then go to the U.S. Government’s Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, which lies on an ice sheet 850 nautical miles south of McMurdo Station. Fifty scientists and support personnel spend the winter at the station, with 150 people at the station in the summer.
The secretary will travel on to New Zealand, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Morocco, where he will attend a U.N. climate change conference.