Monaco's Prince Albert II was leaving behind the sunny shores of the Riviera for some of the planet's coldest reaches in a voyage to the South Pole to raise awareness about global warming.
In an interview with The Associated Press, the princecalled his trip "the natural and logical follow-up" to his visit to the North Pole in 2006.
The trip will last through January 22 and will include visits to 26 international bases on Antarctica. Albert said his trip would begin on King George Island, where many countries have research stations, and take him to the US research bases at Patriot Hill and Amundsen-Scott, the French-Italian base Concordia, Russia's Vostok and Novolazarevskaya, Australia's Davis station, the Belgian base Princess Elisabeth and Norway's Troll.
The prince, who ascended to Monaco's throne in November 2005, said his trip would be the most exhaustive visit to Antarctic research stations ever.
"This is one of the most sensitive regions in the world,"Albert said, adding: "Everything happening at the South Pole, like the North Pole, has repercussions everywhere on the planet.
The prince said his trip also is timed to celebrate Monaco's commitment to the Antarctica Treaty, aimed at preventing commercial or military exploitation of Antarctica.
Albert, son of the late Prince Rainier III and the former Hollywood beauty Grace Kelly, has long been active in environmental causes and created an environmental foundation in 2006.