Young explorers, Greenpeace plant flag on seabed at North Pole, call for global sanctuary

Press release - 15 April, 2013
North Pole, April 15, 2013 — Four young people on a mission with Greenpeace have planted a flag on the seabed beneath the North Pole, at the same spot where a submarine planted a Russian flag claiming the Arctic for Moscow. (1) The young people planted their ‘flag for the future’ four kilometers beneath the ice at the top of the world and called for the region to be declared a global sanctuary.

The campaigners (2) held a ceremony this weekend at the geographic North Pole, led by two Arctic Indigenous ambassadors. There they cut a hole in the ice and lowered a flag designed by a child (3) from Malaysia, through the freezing waters to the seabed.

The flag is attached to a glass and titanium time capsule (4) containing the signatures of nearly three million people, including actors, musicians, artists and business leaders (5) who asked for their names to be taken to the Pole when they joined Greenpeace’s campaign calling for the Arctic to be protected from exploitation.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu this weekend joined the call for a global sanctuary, saying: "I offer my full support to these young people who travelled to the North Pole on behalf of those whose lives are being turned upside down by climate change." (6)

Hollywood actor Ezra Miller — star of We Need to Talk About Kevin and The Perks of Being a Wallflower — is one of the youth ambassadors who planted the flag and the names. Another is 26-year-old Josefina Skerk, an Indigenous activist and Sami Parliament member in Sweden.

"By coming to the top of the world and planting this flag, we’re hoping to inspire young people everywhere. We’re here to say this special area of the Arctic belongs to no person or nation, but is the common heritage of everyone on Earth," Skerk said. "Our names and those of millions more are now planted on the seabed beneath the Pole. Together we're asking that this area be declared a global sanctuary, off-limits to oil companies and political posturing. We stand in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples, in the whole of the Arctic, whose way of life is now being threatened by the unchecked greed of industry."

The expedition coincided with the first ever meeting at the North Pole of the Arctic Council, the governing body comprised of foreign ministers and senior officials from Arctic states. As the expedition started, Skerk requested a meeting with the group, but was refused.

The week-long expedition to the Pole is part of a global campaign to protect the Arctic, under threat from climate change, oil companies, industrial fishing and shipping. As global warming melts the sea ice, companies such as Shell, Gazprom and Statoil are moving in to exploit the region's oil as nation states lay claim to areas previously covered by ice.

The youth ambassadors and Greenpeace campaigners have challenged the companies and nations seeking to profit from climate change. By planting the time capsule and flag, they have drawn a line in the ice, telling the polluters and oil companies: you come no further. 

The young people are part of a Greenpeace team that trekked for one week across the frozen ocean in freezing winds and temperatures of minus 30 degrees Celsius. They traveled around 10 km a day, each dragging heavy sleighs weighing 80kg behind them. In a remote and dangerous environment their supplies dwindled as the shifting ice took them further from the Pole. The team then hitched a ride with a helicopter that was flying in from the nearby Barneo Base, to put them within striking distance of the Pole, allowing them to ski and drift a shorter final distance and complete their journey to the top of the world.

-ENDS-

ADDITIONAL QUOTES FROM THE YOUTH AMBASSADORS:

Kiera-Dawn Kolson, youth ambassador and outreach campaigner for Greenpeace Canada:

"The Arctic Ocean is one of the great wonders of the world and its purity and beauty has struck me deeply this past week. We must keep reckless industry away from this purity, when these people have no idea how to clean up spills under the ice or protect this incredibly fragile place. This week I’ve realised that regardless of where we live in the world, we all rely on each other to survive, and it is this unity and respect that we need to protect our earth for future generations. As an Indigenous person, I absolutely oppose those industries that seek to exploit nature for profit against the subsistence needs of the community."

Renny Bijoux, youth ambassador, member of the Youth Parliament from the Seychelles:

"Though we are in the Arctic and I live in the Seychelles, on a global level it is my homeland too. Whatever happens here affects my people, from rising seas to growing storms. Sustainable development is the key. We must respect our environment and develop within its limits, because if we destroy our climate, we cannot sustain our development for future generations. The damage is clear and it is apparent. It’s time for those in power, like the Arctic Council, to realise this and to see that protecting the Arctic is a global necessity."

Ezra Miller, youth ambassador, actor and musician from New York:

"I can’t feel the tips of my fingers or toes but my head and heart are filled with a newfound determination. Melting ice is a catastrophe, not a profit-making opportunity. To see it as such is utter madness. Three million people have now joined this movement to declare their commitment to save this vital part of our earth; I feel honoured to be a part of this team, which was chosen to represent all of them at this critical moment in history. This is a collective responsibility. It’s up to all of us, and especially the youth, to change the way that humanity treats this amazing planet we love and rely on so completely."

Notes
[1] A Russian submarine, piloted by explorer Artur Chilligarov, planted the Russian flag beneath the Pole in 2007. Before embarking on his expedition Chilligarov said: "The Arctic is Russian. We must prove the North Pole is an extension of the Russian landmass." Wikileaks cables later revealed he was acting on the instructions of the Kremlin.

[2] The Team Aurora youth ambassadors include 20-year-old musician and Hollywood actor Ezra Miller, star of We Need to Talk About Kevin and The Perks of Being a Wallflower; Renny Bijoux, member of the Youth Parliament from the Seychelles; Kiera-Dawn Kolson of the Tso’Tine-Gwich’in nations in Northern Canada, and Josefina Skerk, an Indigenous activist and member of the Sami Parliament in Sweden.

[3] The ‘flag for the future’ was designed by 13-year-old Sarah Batrisyia from Malaysia, who won a global competition run by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts and Greenpeace. The contest was judged by fashion icon Dame Vivienne Westwood

[4] The time capsule was designed and made in Amsterdam by Joris Laarman Labs. More information on the construction of the time capsule can be found here.

[5] Among those who asked Greenpeace to take their names to the bottom of the ocean at the top of the world are boy band One Direction, Paul McCartney, Penelope Cruz and dozens of other actors, musicians, artists, and members of the business community such as Richard Branson.

[6] Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: "I offer my full support to these young people who travelled to the North Pole on behalf of those whose lives are being turned upside down by climate change. The melting of the Arctic matters to every person on earth, and I believe that we must work together to create a sanctuary in the uninhabited area around the North Pole. We owe it to future generations to protect the Arctic and keep destructive industry away from this fragile and beautiful place."

For more information or to speak with one of the team, please call:

Jessica Wilson, Greenpeace International Arctic campaign, +44 7896 893118

Anna Jones, Greenpeace International Arctic campaign, +44 7717 311103
Aaron Gray-Block, Greenpeace International media relations, +31 6 4616 2026

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Images can be viewed here and are available in high resolution from the Greenpeace picture desk. Please contact John Novis at  +31 (0) 629001152 or

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