Ardern’s trip has highlighted some of the challenges of visiting the icy continent. Her first flight in a military cargo plane was turned around after about two hours on Tuesday due to strong winds and deteriorating weather, making her part of what is informally known as the “boomerang club.”
She made it to Antarctica the next day, accompanied by a single pool journalist whose photos and videos can take many hours to transmit overnight due to the tenuous internet capacity. She is due to return home Saturday.
Ardern said the scientists and crew on Antarctica have noticed the effects of global warming over the past five years, including observing sea ice cracking and moving, and glaciers and icebergs changing.
She said it was important for New Zealand to maintain a leadership role on the continent.
“We’re in a period where internationally you see that parts of the world are becoming increasingly contested, and Antarctica is part of that, too,” Ardern said.
Standing in the hut, Ardern said that Irish-born Shackleton and his British expedition had tried to reach the South Pole, but that he was remembered more for his extraordinary leadership and saving the lives of his men. She said she didn’t exactly draw parallels with her own leadership.
“I don’t think I can quite compare government with the hardship and endurance of Antarctic exploration,” she said, adding with a laugh: “But some days.”