Maritime Museum and group of businessmen planning expedition to Antarctica

Tracing the route Baltic German explorer Fabian Gottlieb Bellingshausen took soon 200 years ago, the Estonian Maritime Museum together with a group of businessmen is planning what would be the largest contemporary popular science expedition. The party would set off in Kronstadt in Russia on 11 July.

As businessman and passionate traveller Tiit Pruuli explained to ERR's radio news, the aim isn't to sail from Kronstadt to Antarctica in as short a time as possible. On the contrary, the party would make several stops on the way, Mr Pruuli said.

"Bellingshausen made stops as well. Some of ours will follow his original route, but not all of them. Bellingshausen didn't stop in Saaremaa," he added, pointing to the planned second stop after Helsinki. Bellingshausen, a Baltic German, was born on the Estonian island of Saaremaa.

Stops beyond Helsinki and Bellingshausen's own island would also include Kaliningrad, Gdansk and Oslo, where events would be held in cooperation with local maritime museums, Mr Pruuli said.

The plans for a stop in the German port of Kiel are more ambitions, with a conference currently in its initial planning stages. "It would focus on the Baltic German explorers that travelled in the services of Russia, and their destinations," he added.

If the expedition comes together, there will be some 30 stops all in all. Other aims of the planned trip are to popularise maritime sciences, and to raise awareness of climate change.

The ship the group would be using is a Jongert-24 two master built in the Netherlands in 1924. "This expedition isn't the cheapest thing in the world, but I'm not particularly worried about that part," Mr Pruuli said commenting on the funding of the trip.

Initial meetings with potential sponsors had been promising, he added. "But yes, we need to find the money." More important than the expedition's finances is the programme and its contents, he stressed.


Among Mr Pruuli's likely fellows in the party is the director of the Office of the President, Tiit Riisalo. "Poetically speaking the polar caps, especially the Antarctic, have been the world's pantries that feed the global ecosystem and have kept it working," Mr Riisalo said.

"That is exactly why we want to use the story of Bellingshausen and the Antarctic, it's an enticing story that will get attention, and it's much easier to get the point across to people this way, rather than by presenting them with dry facts," Mr Riisalo said.

The Estonian Maritime Museum is responsible for the expedition's scientific side as well as its equipment. Director Urmas Dresen said at the introduction of the project to the public that repeating Bellingshausen's feat is a worthy way of commemorating the explorer.

Other famous polar explorers, Roald Amundsen and Sir Robert Falcon Scott among them, mentioned Bellingshausen in their notes, Mr Dresen pointed out: "It's certainly appropriate that the Maritime Museum should tell this story and try to amplify it with the means at its disposal," he added.

The party will include 12 people. In addition to the expedition's captain, navigator and mechanic, the crew will eventually also include scientists and one or the other celebrity, ERR's radio news reported.

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Editor: Dario Cavegn

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