While the United States and the world continues to digest Donald Trump's shock presidential election triumph, US Secretary of State John Kerry has today returned from a flying visit to Antarctica.

A relaxed Kerry, in jeans and open-neck shirt, landed at Christchurch early this evening after a whistle-stop tour of the ice continent where he was struck by its "majesty and awe".

Kerry, 72, spoke to assembled media briefly on the tarmac before jetting off to Wellington where he will hold bilateral talks with Prime Minister John Key tomorrow.

Kerry stands inside the historic Shackleton hut near McMurdo Station. Photo / AP
Kerry stands inside the historic Shackleton hut near McMurdo Station. Photo / AP

The long-time champion for action against climate change described his two-day trip to Antarctica as "an extraordinary experience".

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He visited New Zealand's Scott Base where he was given a "terrific tour" and saw scientists preparing for field missions.

Yesterday, Kerry took a helicopter ride where he says he got a "sense of the majesty and awe of the place".

But most importantly, Kerry said, was to see the "really vital science" being done in Antarctica, which is providing "critical knowledge" on the Antarctic ice sheet, melt rates, its potential impact, and helps guide policy decisions.

"For those of us deeply concerned and involved in climate change this was very, very helpful, very instructive," he said.

Kerry boards an U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster as he leaves Antarctica for New Zealand. Photo / AP
Kerry boards an U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster as he leaves Antarctica for New Zealand. Photo / AP
Kerry walks on a frozen section of the Ross Sea near the McMurdo Station. Photo / AP
Kerry walks on a frozen section of the Ross Sea near the McMurdo Station. Photo / AP
Kerry flies over the Taylor Valley area near McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Photo / AP
Kerry flies over the Taylor Valley area near McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Photo / AP

He also thanked Russia for its co-operation in establishing the world's largest marine protected area (MPA) in Antarctica's Ross Sea.



"And I think we can all be very proud of that. A lot of work still to do, but it was very very helpful for me to get there."

Kerry will meet Key tomorrow before attending a wreath-laying ceremony at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park and unveil a plaque at the site for a future US War Memorial.

He met with Foreign Minister Murray McCully for about 40 minutes behind closed doors in Christchurch on Thursday where they discussed topics currently high on the UN Security Council agenda, including the Syria crisis.

"As you'll have observed, things haven't really got much better there. We remain on the case and we've had a chance to compare notes on that today," McCully said.

Kerry, left, talks with New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully in Christchurch prior to his trip. Photo / AP
Kerry, left, talks with New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully in Christchurch prior to his trip. Photo / AP

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) was not a major topic of conversation, McCully said, adding that it would be something for the Prime Minister "to spend more time on".

Kerry's tour will also include Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Peru, and will wind up on November 18.