World news story

Welcoming RRS Discovery in Punta Arenas, Chile

Speech by Ambassador Fiona Clouder on board Royal Research Ship Discovery.

RRS Discovery and autonomous vehicles.
RRS Discovery and autonomous vehicles.

There is a sign on the square here in Punta Arenas stating that Scott, the great British explorer posted almost 400 letters on 8 July 1904, announcing that his ship Discovery had returned safely from its expedition to Antarctica. This ship – Royal Research Ship Discovery -is named after that earlier one – and continues that great spirit of exploration and discovery.

It is good to see Discovery here in Punta Arenas, and we hope that through this visit we can build greater cooperation on marine science and innovation with Chile. For both Chile and the UK are maritime nations. Both have pledged to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, including on ocean issues. The UK had a strong presence at the international IMPAC4 conference on Marine Protected Areas, hosted by Chile in La Serena in September 2017. The UK signed the ‘Because Our Ocean’ declaration, linking people, communities and the sea, in October 2017 at ‘Our Ocean’ conference in Malta. HRH Prince Charles, Prince of Wales met with FM Muñoz at that conference and discussed marine protection. Chile has radically increased its commitment to MPAs, including in these waters. The UK has committed, in conjunction with the Overseas Territories, to protecting over 4 million square kilometres of ocean, around the world, through the Blue Belt initiative.

It is one thing to declare commitment to protect the ocean. It is another to actually do so. To understand the nature of the ocean, the interface with climate change, the biodiversity, food stocks and resources. To monitor changes, and to protect the ocean that we all take for granted. That is why the work of scientists in the UK, and here in Chile and with international partners is so important. And why the capability provided by this ship the Discovery is so important.

We know relatively little of the truth about the ocean. We know more of the stars in our skies – and not least due to the world leading astronomy facilities and international collaboration, here in Chile – or more about the surface of the moon, than we know about the depths, flows and contents of our ocean.

The NOC – the National Oceanographic Centre is one of the world’s top oceanographic institutions. It undertakes world leading research in Marine Geoscience, Marine Physics and Ocean Climate, Marine Systems Modelling, Ocean Biogeochemisty and Ecosystems, and Ocean Technology and Engineering. It also includes the British Oceanographic Data Centre, the National Marine Equipment Pool – Europe’s largest fleet of autonomous and robotic vehicles and manages two start of the art research ships, one of which is this one the Discovery.

It seems very appropriate that we are here in southern Chile – the place where the painstaking hydrographic work by Captain Fitzroy and HMS Beagle meant that Darwin was able to make detailed observations of the landscape, fauna, flora and people around him, which lead to his thinking on the theory of evolution, which has so influenced science today and led to new discoveries. We hope that the scientists on Discovery will also be inspired by these southern oceans. Sir Isaac Newton was one of the early Presidents of the Royal Society – the oldest learned society, of leading scientists in the world. He said:

…the great ocean of truth lay undiscovered before me. Isaac Newton (1642-1747)

Let us celebrate Discovery in all aspects and the discovery of our ocean.

Also here in the square in Punta Arenas, there is a plaque, which states:

The British community of Magallanes dedicates this mast as witness to the recognition for the hospitality received and in recognition of our countrymen, the sailors that do hydrographic work in this zone.

As true over a century ago as its is today, with Discovery. Mariners come to these waters for discovery – that helps us understand our world. My thanks to Captain Gatti and his crew for hosting us today. This is a great opportunity to find out more about this ship, the research being undertaken and scope for collaboration and cooperation to develop greater understanding of the ocean around us and what this means for our world, our society and our future.

Fiona Clouder, H M Ambassador to Chile

9 January 2018.

Published 24 January 2018