John Kerry heads back to NZ and reality

  • 12/11/2016
John Kerry flies over the Taylor Valley area near McMurdo Station, in Antarctica (Reuters)
John Kerry flies over the Taylor Valley area near McMurdo Station, in Antarctica (Reuters)

US Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to head back to New Zealand after checking out summer in Antarctica.

He's been criticised for heading to such a remote place while the US election riveted the world but on Thursday he said he had told State Department officials to fully co-operate with president-elect Donald Trump's incoming administration.

After tweeting a photograph of himself boarding a C-17 cargo plane in Christchurch on Friday, Kerry, an experienced pilot, then spent much of the five-hour flight in the cockpit chatting to the pilots.

He was later pictured on Pegasus ice runway near McMurdo Station, the largest research station of the US Antarctic programme, and observing a penguin after touching down in Antarctica at 11am.

During his visit he was scheduled to meet with scientists and researchers as well as visit surrounding areas on Ross Island, and the US Government's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

He was also due to see the world's largest marine protected area, the recently established Ross Sea Region Marine Protected Area.

He is the first secretary of state and the most senior US government official to ever travel to Antarctica.

Kerry's aides described it a learning opportunity, with the secretary of state having directed much diplomatic focus to climate change and set next week to give a major speech at a global climate conference in Morocco.

He is hosted by the US National Science Foundation, which manages the US Antarctic programme.

He's scheduled to spend most of Saturday travelling back to Christchurch, a service centre for the Antarctic, and then on to Wellington.

He has talks with Prime Minister John Key and Foreign Minister Murray McCully on Sunday morning and there's a wreath laying ceremony at New Zealand's National War Memorial Park.