Antarctica's summer is exceedingly brief and provides the only window for travel. The visit will also give Kerry a chance to get a firsthand look at climate change's intensifying effects on the southernmost continent before attending a major climate conference in Morocco later this month. He will be the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the land of ice, penguins and research outposts.
Kerry “will meet with scientists and researchers studying a wide range of subjects in the extreme south of the planet, including climate change,” according to the State Department. “He will also see firsthand part of the recently established Ross Sea Region Marine Protected Area,” which came into existence last week, is the world's largest, and was pushed heavily by Kerry and the Obama administration.
Kerry voted early in his home state of Massachusetts. He has privately made comments about how this year's rancorous election has made his job as America's top diplomat much more difficult. Some jokingly took the news that Kerry would be not only in the air but on his way to the South Pole as evidence that those who could get as far away from the election's aftermath as they could were doing so.
But Kerry's stated goal is to draw attention to the diminution of polar ice sheets and the perils of rising sea levels that ensue. He led the U.S. delegation in helping draft the historic Paris climate agreement last year, and he visited Greenland earlier this year for much the same reason that he is now going to the opposite end of the Earth.