Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled later this week to visit McMurdo and Amundsen-Scott South Pole stations in Antarctica, where he’ll meet with researchers funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Kerry is set to become the first secretary of state, and the most senior U.S. government official, to travel to Antarctica, where the U.S. has maintained a scientific presence since the late 1950s.

The secretary’s Antarctic visit is scheduled to take place Nov. 10-12 as part of a global tour.

NSF manages the U.S. Antarctic Program, through which it makes awards to researchers across the nation and provides the logistical infrastructure to support U.S. scientific research on the southernmost continent.

“We are honored that Secretary Kerry will visit NSF’s facilities in Antarctica, a vast and globally important region,” NSF Director France A. Córdova said. “He will meet with researchers whose work forges new frontiers in science.”

Kerry’s Antarctic itinerary includes a visit to NSF’s facilities in Christchurch, New Zealand, the gateway city to Antarctica.

While in Antarctica, Kerry will visit McMurdo Station, NSF’s logistics hub and the largest of the three U.S. Antarctic Program stations. There, he’ll meet with scientists studying a wide range of subjects, from geophysics and glaciology to astrophysics and biology as well as the effects of climate change. Two of NSF’s Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites are located in Antarctica, including one near McMurdo Station in the McMurdo Dry valleys.

The secretary will then visit Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, located at the earth’s southern axis atop the 9,300-foot high, ice-covered Antarctic plateau. Amundsen-Scott is the site of long-term atmospheric monitoring and large-scale, cutting-edge astrophysics and particle physics experiments.

Kerry will also see firsthand part of the recently established Ross Sea Region Marine Protected Area, the world’s largest marine protected area (598,000 square miles or 1.55 million square kilometers).

The U.S. is a signatory to the Antarctic Treaty, which sets the continent aside for peaceful purposes. Under the treaty, scientific research is the principal expression of national interest in Antarctica.