Stoltenberg at South Pole for 100th anniversary of Amundsen trek

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg arrived at the South Pole on Monday to celebrate with a group of adventurers the 100th anniversary of countryman Roald Amundsen's expedition to the frozen continent.

Stoltenberg at South Pole for 100th anniversary of Amundsen trek
Photo: Guri Dahl/Office of the Prime Minister

Often described as "no man's land", the Pole will be a comparative hive of activity for Wednesday's anniversary.

Stoltenberg traveled from New Zealand on an American C-130 Hercules plane, becoming only the second head of government to visit the South Pole, while Amundsen made the trek on skis.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Helen Clark visited the Pole in 2007.

Stoltenberg, who upon arrival immediately strapped on skis, is scheduled to welcome Norwegian adventurers attempting to reach the Pole to mark the occasion — some of whom are retracing the route taken by the explorer.

According to the Norwegian Polar Institute, a dozen Norwegian South Pole expeditions are expected in December.

On Wednesday, an ice sculpture of Amundsen is scheduled to be unveiled at the US scientific base station Amundsen Scott, which is located near the Pole and where Stoltenberg will be staying.

To pay homage to the heroism of English naval officer Robert Scott, whom Amundsen beat to the Pole in a dramatic race and who tragically lost his life on his return, British visitors are also expected to visit Antarctica around the same time.

Just beaten to the finish line, Scott and his men, who had chosen to make the trip using ponies rather than dogs, died after being caught in a blizzard on their way back.

A treaty signed in 1959 bans all claims to territory on the inhospitable continent, and visits there by dignitaries are rare. The lack of jurisdiction also makes it difficult to have an overview of how many adventurers are there and where they are from.

The only certainty is that none of the current expeditions will reach the Pole using sled-dogs, as canines have been banned in Antarctica since the 1990s to avoid introducing new illnesses.

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Russia on agenda at Nordic Nato discussions

Norwegian Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg is in Stockholm to meet Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and defence officials from across the Nordics, with Russian aggression in the region set to be a key talking point.

Russia on agenda at Nordic Nato discussions
Former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg at the Nato Parliamentary Assembly in Stavanger in October. Photo: Carina Johansen/NTB scanpix

Former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg is visiting Sweden for the first time since becoming Nato’s new Secretary General last year, taking over from fellow Scandinavian, Denmark’s Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

The 56-year-old diplomat who served as Norway's Prime Minister from 2005 to 2013 with the Labour Party has promised to visit all Nato member states during his term, as well as non-members such as Sweden which have close ties to the intergovernmental military alliance.

His trip coincides with a regular two-day meeting of the Nordic defence cooperation group, Nordefco, attended by representatives from Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Finland and Denmark as well as partners from the Baltic states. Polish and UK officials have also been invited to the talks.

Sweden will hand over the rotating presidency of Nordefco to Denmark, following the discussions.

Russia’s presence in the the Nordics is expected to be a key focus of their debates, following continued jitters surrounding recent intrusions from the eastern country.

In October 2014, a foreign submarine – suspected to be from Russia, although this was never confirmed – was spotted in Swedish waters just outside Stockholm. A number of Russian planes have also been spotted in or close to Swedish and Danish airspace over the past year. Both Swedish and Danish Intelligence services have reported that Russia is one of the biggest threats in the region.

The visit from the new Nato chief also comes as public support for Sweden joining the organization is growing, according to recent polls. 

In September, 41 percent of Swedes said they thought their country should join Nato while 39 percent remained against it. A similar survey in May stated that just 31 percent of respondents were in favour of Nato membership.

Sweden's ruling centre-left coalition – made up of the Social Democrats and the Green Party – is historically against Nato membership. However, there have been indications in the past year that the Scandinavian nation is moving closer to joining the defence alliance.

In April, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland announced far-reaching plans to extend their military cooperation. Two months ago, Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet suggested that Sweden could get involved with a UK-led Nato-linked force that could be deployed in the event of war in the Baltics, although this was later denied by Sweden’s Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist.