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Suite of lectures on Antarctica

16 September 2008

A lecture on whaling, held aboard a tugboat on Lyttelton Harbour, is one of a suite of public lectures about the continent that the Christchurch Antarctic Festival is offering its patrons this year.

Professor Donald Rothwell, the Chair in International Law at the College of Law, Australian National University, will talk on the Japanese Whaling programme in Antarctica aboard the historic Lyttelton in Lyttelton Harbour on Friday October 3.

The one-hour lecture is expected to draw capacity crowd, given both the novelty of the venue and the news that New Zealand, along with Australia, has just announced a plan for a non-lethal whale research programme in Antarctic waters.  The two countries will host a gathering of international whale scientists in February next year to draft a five-year research proposal before submitting it to the International Whaling Commission midyear.

Professor Rothwell will explain why some aspects of the Japanese scientific whaling is deemed to be unlawful and how it violated some portions of the International Whaling Convention that Japan is a party to, says Michelle Rogan-Finnemore, Centre Manager of Gateway Antarctica at the University of Canterbury.

“His talk will be an objective presentation based on the findings of the International Panel of Independent Legal Experts on Special Permit ("Scientific") Whaling Under International Law (2006), of which he was member,” says Ms Rogan-Finnemore.

Professor Rothwell is part of a cadre of expert speakers who will present different issues connected to the Continent during the Festival.

Dr Sergio Marenssi, director of the Argentina Antarctic Institute and Vice President of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) will hold a public lecture on what Argentina is doing on Antarctica in the Christchurch Council Chambers and a lecture on "Exploring the geology which connects South America to the Antarctic Peninsula" at the University of Canterbury.

“I think it would be interesting to provide a glimpse of the Argentine scientific activities in Antarctica, and in our stations and field-camps,” says Dr Marenssi. Of the connection between Argentina and Antarctica, he says his research aims to understand the paleogeobiographical and paleoclimatic evolution of these two areas now separated by almost 1000 kms of rough sea

He will also dwell on how the two land masses were tied together until the last 30 million years and how this break-up is related with the world-wide cooling and the start of the present day oceanographic and climatic conditions.

“I found in Antarctica a special place full of challenges, not only in science but also in every issue of life. To work in Antarctica means not only to do science but also to live in a ¨world¨ something different, that pushes you to become a better person or to quit,” says Dr Marenssi.

The Consul at the Embassy of Argentina in New Zealand, Pedro Ezequiel Marotta says the Ambassador, His Excellency Pedro Herrera had pointed out that there was no better exponent of the Argentina's engagement with Antarctica than Dr. Marenssi. It is an honour to be represented at the Festival by a researcher of that calibre, says Mr Marotta.

The Ambassador has visited the Festival for the past two years but will not be able to attend this year as he has to receive the Argentinean training ship, the tall ship Libertad, in Wellington at the same time.

There will also be a number of research-based lectures during the Science in the Pub evening on Monday September 29, with speakers on what is New Zealand’s involvement on the continent  – the Census of Animal and Marine Life (CAML); the Antarctic Drilling project (ANDRILL); and the joint project between Antarctica NZ and Meridian Energy to set up a wind farm at Scott Base.

Other presentations include:

  • Melissa Clarke-Reynolds and Bryan Storey present Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and global warming impact on the ice.

Tuesday September 30, 6.30 pm – 9 pm

Room 105 Law Building,

University of Canterbury, Ilam Rd Campus.


Professor Rothwell’s Presentation:

“What are we doing about whaling?


Friday October 3, 6-7 pm

Lyttelton Tug, No 2 Wharf.

Lyttelton Port of Christchurch


Dr Sergio Marenssi’s presentation:

 “Exploring the geology which connects South America to the Antarctic Peninsula”.


Thursday 2 October

12 noon – 1 pm

Room 009, Commerce Building,

University of Canterbury

 "An insider’s view of Argentina’s Antarctic Science Programme"


Wednesday 1 October 

 1-2 pm

Christchurch City Council Chambers

Civic Offices

The Christchurch Antarctic Festival is coordinated by the Christchurch City Council and members of Antarctic Link Canterbury. The festival runs from Friday 26 September to Friday 3 October and includes a wide range of Films, Lectures, Live links, Exhibitions, Tours and the Antarctic Ice-Capade at Christchurch International Airport and the International Antarctic Centre.

For full programme details, please check our website


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