Opening Statements

South of the Border: Jenner & Block Chairman Plants Firm's Flag at the South Pole


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In the race to open up new offices around the world, Jenner & Block may be the first to lay claim to the South Pole.

Sort of.

Last December, Jenner chairman Anton Valukas sent the firm an email announcing its newest location on the South Pole. The email, sent in jest, was actually notice to the firm’s 450 lawyers that Valukas would be incommunicado for some time while he satisfied a lifelong ambition to travel to the South Pole.

The former U.S. attorney spent five frigid days trekking through the glaciers surrounding the Ellsworth Mountains in Antarctica on cross-country skis and camping out in tents at night before flying into the geographic center of the continent and camping out another four days there. All the while, Valukas carried with him a Jenner flag that he eventually planted at the South Pole.

Valukas, 68, says he had always been fascinated by the experiences of Antarctic explorers Roald Amundsen and Sir Ernest Shackleton. “Not that we faced what they faced,” Valukas says, “but we got a taste of it.”

While tourist travel to the barrier islands of the Antarctic has become more common over the years, travel to the geographic center of the continent still is an exercise in intention. Valukas says only a few hundred tourists travel there each year. Those who want to go must brave flights on Russian cargo planes and the possibility of being grounded in Antarctica for days or even weeks due to weather conditions.

Aside from braving daily temperatures that averaged 38 degrees below zero, Valukas and his fellow adventurers endured altitudes each day in excess of 3,500 feet above sea level, desolate landscapes and DIY campsites in unheated tents. “It was a very physical and substantial challenge,” he says.

But he also was surrounded by dazzling displays of color, as well as colonies of friendly and curious penguins, and experienced an adventure to last a lifetime.

So what’s next for this lifelong adventure traveler? “A trial.”

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