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Dutch crown prince to visit Antarctica with wife and experts

First hand looks at melting ice caps

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

THE HAGUE - Dutch Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, a widely recognized authority on water management, and his Argentina-born wife Princess Máxima are planning to spend three days in Antarctica next month. Their visit underscores the commitment the Netherlands has for the governance of the Antarctic region. They will be guests of the British at the Rothera Research Station.

The royal couple will be accompanied by Ronald Plasterk, the Dutch minister of education, culture and science, and by Jos Engelen, Chairman of the Netherlands organization for scientific research. The Rothera Research Station, which is located on the island of Adelaide, is about 1,600 km from the southernmost tip of Chile. Rothera only has about 100 residents.

Dutch interest in Antarctica stems in part from their concerns about the problems stemming from the melting ice cap near the South Pole, and the resulting rise in sea levels.

The South Pole Treaty gives 28 countries a so-called consultative status in the governance of Antarctica. The Netherlands was granted such status in 1990, after meeting its obligations of carrying out "large scale scientific research" in the South Pole region. The Netherlands, which does not have a South Pole base of its own, has worked in partnership with the Belgians, Poles and British.

International Polar Year

The royal visit takes place as part of the International Polar Year (IPY) program. The IPY is intended to stimulate internationally coordinated scientific research and cultural projects. The guests will assess Dutch scientific research in Antarctica. The royal couple will not be accompanied by the media on this occasion. Instead, Prince Willem-Alexander will personally report on the visit by way of an internet blog.

The Dutch delegation will also study the effects of climate change on the ice caps of Patagonia, in southern Chile. They will also visit a glacier in the Torres del Paine National Park, which is rapidly shrinking in size.