Warm opening of a cool conference

His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haakon, Norwegian Minister of Research and Higher Education Tora Aasland and the Research Councils Director General Arvid Hallén

His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haakon, Norwegian Minister of Research and Higher Education Tora Aasland and the Research Council's Director General Arvid Hallén

The IPY Oslo Science Conference was officially opened by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haakon. At the opening ceremony, 2400 polar scientists and friends of polar science were moved by a children’s gospel choir and by haunting music played on instruments made of pure ice.

“If you want to fight poverty, it actually makes sense to go to the Arctic,” Crown Prince Haakon said in his opening speech in Oslo today.

“Dealing with climate change is a prerequisite for reaching our goal of eradicating extreme poverty. And through your important work, you all help to bring us one step closer to solving the global challenges we are facing,” he continued, addressing all those who have taken part in the International Polar Year, or IPY.

Remarkable Polar Year

Together with Danish Crown Prince Fredrik and Swedish Crown Princess Victoria, Crown Prince Haakon has served as a royal patron for IPY. The three of them have visited both Svalbard and Greenland.

The trips were both fun and meaningful, the Crown Prince told the audience.

“The Arctic reminds me that I am part of nature and that the vulnerability of nature is a reflection of my own vulnerability,” he said.

Crown Prince Haakon described the International Polar Year as remarkable in many ways.

“The vision of involving the public through extensive education, outreach and communication activities makes IPY unique,” he said, recalling the inauguration of the Norwegian programme three years ago, with 3000 schoolchildren on the square in front of Oslo City Hall.

Good timing

In addition to the Crown Prince of Norway, ministers and other prominent speakers helped to make the opening ceremony an unforgettable event.Norwegian Minister of Research and Higher Education Tora Aasland pointed out that the timing of the IPY couldn’t have been better, referring to the clear indications of climate change in the last few years.

“I feel confident that data gathered during the IPY will be important in finding some of the solutions to these problems,” Ms Aasland said, before citing an English saying also used by Norwegian polar explorer and scientist Fridtjof Nansen:

“The difficult is what takes a little time, the impossible is what takes a little longer.”

Prominent speakers

Ms Aasland has just returned from a trip to Svalbard with her colleague, Indian Minister of Science and Technology Mr Prithviraj Chavan, who also spoke at the opening.

“For a tropical country like India, climate changes affect the monsoon rains, which are the backbone of the Indian economy,” Mr Chavan said.

India opened a small research station on Svalbard in 2007 to mark the start of IPY, but the country has been involved in polar research since 1981.

Other speakers were Dr Deliang Chen, Executive Director of the International Council for Science (ISCU), Mr Michel Jarraud, Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) (online from Geneva), Director General Arvid Hallén of the Research Council of Norway, and last but not least, the Russian explorer and scientist, famous for planting the Russian flag on the seabed at the North Pole, Dr Arthur Nikolayevich Chilingarov.

Arctic atmosphere

The ceremony combined darkness, blue lighting and music played by percussionist Terje Isungset on ice instruments to create an atmosphere evocative of the Arctic. The audience also heard a Sami joik performed by Ande Somby.

The ceremony closed with a touching performance by Oslo Soul Children, singing Michael Jackson’s Heal the World together with Haddy N’jie, a Norwegian writer, artist and singer who also compered today’s ceremony.

Source: Research Council of Norway

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