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Hodgson: Andrill Antarctic Drilling Celebration

Hon Pete Hodgson
Minister for Science Research and Technology

27 May 2008 Speech
Andrill Antarctic Drilling Project Celebration Speech

Speech to mark conclusion of drilling project
6pm Rutherford House, Victoria University of Wellington

Thank you Lou.

It is a great privilege to be here tonight, in the presence of so many talented, hard working people. The conclusion of the Andrill project is a massive achievement, something that you can all be very proud of.

Tonight we are celebrating science success; a team effort involving different nations, different organisations, different science disciplines and a whole lot of talented people.

So there are a lot of people whose roles and expertise and contribution to Andrill need to be acknowledged this evening.

But first I would like to stand back a little and look at the bigger picture of science in Antarctica.

We all understand the importance of Antarctica to New Zealand. But what is it that makes Antarctic science so important to New Zealand?

Like many other Antarctic Treaty nations, New Zealand’s presence in Antarctica is firmly based on strong science programmes. The science undertaken there has a range of outcomes, some beyond those we sometimes expect of science.

The Antarctic Treaty system provides the international framework for the management of Antarctica as a place of peace and science and cooperation.

Science helps us to play our part in supporting the Treaty System in areas such as managing of toothfish stocks and environmental advocacy. Science helps us to manage the human impacts from both science and tourism on the pristine Antarctic environment. Science also helps us conserve the historic heritage of the heroic age of Antarctic exploration in the early years of the 20th century.

And of course, past and present climate science helps us understand probably the greatest challenge that faces mankind today – the impact of climate change on the environment, economies and people of the world.

And last, leadership and collaboration in science programmes in Antarctica shows New Zealand's commitment to the ongoing and careful stewardship of the Ross Dependency, the southernmost part of New Zealand.

The Andrill programme contributes directly to the last two of these outcomes – understanding climate and our Antarctic stewardship.

And now its time to celebrate the science and the agencies and people who made Andrill happen and made it a success.

First I would like to acknowledge the contribution of the Andrill international partners – the United States, Germany and Italy. I’m delighted to see representatives of these countries here tonight. Science today has a global context and this is well reflected in Andrill. Andrill is an international partnership contributing to an issue of global importance – the world’s future climate.

The project leadership of Andrill was always going to be a challenge with its technical and logistical complexity, along with trying to keep scientists from four countries all happy.

I’m pleased that Antarctica New Zealand stepped up to this challenge. They provided the project leadership that enabled the biggest Antarctic science research project managed by New Zealand to be a success. And of course the lynchpin of this project at Antarctica New Zealand was Jim Cowie.

Now before I get to the science, I think that it is important to recognise the group that did all the hard work that led to holes being drilled and cores extracted for scientific study.

Here I want to particularly mention the technical vision and practical application of Alex Pyne from Victoria University. In his quest for a long thin core of sedimentary rock, Alex wasn’t fazed by moving ice shelves, tides, a kilometre of strong ocean currents, melting sea ice and a multitude of other technical barriers that would have broken many a lesser person.

I know Alex’s contribution to the successful drilling has been widely acknowledged internationally. In the unforgiving Antarctic environment, a drilling record of two out of two is pretty good. But on the ground of course the drillers did the hard work and their expertise too was integral to the successful extraction of the cores.
I know tonight that there will be further discussion of the important science that will come out of the Andrill programme. I will let those who were more directly involved talk about those successes.
I do want to note though the collaborative science contribution of science agencies in New Zealand and overseas. Within New Zealand, researchers from Victoria and Otago universities and from GNS Science played important roles. In particular Tim Naish showed New Zealand's science leadership as Principle Investigator for the McMurdo Ice Shelf core.

The success of Andrill has created considerable goodwill within New Zealand and internationally, and has kept New Zealand firmly on the map with our key role in the successful project. And successful really is the right expression for a project that has retrieved the two longest intact sedimentary cores from beneath the Antarctic continent.

And finally before I finish tonight I want to acknowledge the role of someone who wasn’t as directly involved in Andrill as many of you here tonight, but whose work assisted the project. Professor Peter Barrett led the precursor to Andrill, the Cape Roberts Project which finished in early 2000. Cape Roberts provided the stepping stone for both the science and drilling technology for Andrill.

Thank you for inviting me here tonight to join you in celebrating science success in a project that will help us to understand and face the challenges of global climate change.


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