> Skip to content

* WINNER OF THE SCOTTISH BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD 2013 * Empire Antarctica is the story of one man and his fascination with the world's loneliest continent, as well as the emperor penguins who weather the winter with him. This is travel writing at its very best.

* WINNER OF THE SCOTTISH BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD 2013 *

*Shortlisted for the 2013 Costa Biography Prize*
* Shortlisted for the 2013 RSL Ondaatje Prize *
* Shortlisted for Banff Adventure Travel Prize *

* Shortlisted for Saltire Book of the Year Award *

Gavin Francis fulfilled a lifetime's ambition when he spent fourteen months as the base-camp doctor at Halley, a profoundly isolated British research station on the Caird Coast of Antarctica. So remote, it is said to be easier to evacuate a casualty from the International Space Station than it is to bring someone out of Halley in winter.

Antarctica offered a year of unparalleled silence and solitude, with few distractions and very little human history, but also a rare oppurtunity to live among emperor penguins, the only species truly at home in the Antarctic. Following the penguins throughout the year -- from a summer of perpetual sunshine to months of winter darkness -- Gavin Francis explores a world of great beauty conjured from the simplest elements, the hardship of living at 50°C below zero and the unexpected comfort that the penguin community bring.

Reviews

A finely written account of an extreme experience of the Antarctic, worthy to stand beside some of the great travel narratives in the English language.

RSL Ondaatje Prize Judges

Empire Antarctica is the embodiment of everything I admire in travel writing -- a great journey, intense isolation, wide reading, vivid writing, scientific research, and something in the nature of an old-fashioned ordeal. That Gavin Francis is a medical doctor, with an important role to play in the darkness and cold at the ends of the earth, is a bonus. I loved this book.

Paul Theroux

One of the best travel titles I have read in a long time. Thoughtful, lyrical, extremely well written, it’s a triumph.

Giles Foden, Conde Nast Traveller

A beautiful, profound and highly readable account of a remarkable personal adventure. Francis’s pacing is deft, his prose vivid, his research worn lightly. This is probably as close as most of us will ever get to experiencing a modern polar winter. Empire Antarctica is surely destined to become a standard, not so much of travel as of staying very still.

Ed O'Loughlin, Daily Telegraph

Francis’ best writing (and it is excellent)... is Robert Macfarlane on ice. This writing achieves the ‘quilted quality’ of silence, and through it we are brought to a new landscape of words.

Katherine MacInnes, Literary Review

A Sunday Times Travel Book of Month: 'A book full of wonder. Brilliantly imagined, superbly brought to life'

Anthony Sattin, Sunday Times

This is the sort of book that gives obsession a very good name. Here, in a cold, silent place you realise that obsession is another name for love. And love leads to extraordinary and beautiful writing -- this is a wonderful book

Sara Maitland

A valuable addition to polar literature, vividly describing the brutal, but beautiful, realities of undergoing an Antarctic winter

Ranulph Fiennes

An extraordinary book -- lyrical, precise, intoxicating and with a remarkable spiritual depth

A.L. Kennedy

One of those rare books that leaves you with an almost breathless sense of the wonders of the planet. Beautiful, erudite and informative, it speaks joyously of the indomitability of Man and the natural world alike

Esther Woolfson

Mesmerising and memorable

Economist

An awe-inspiring memoir of a modern-day pioneer who writes with a poetic style and descriptive flourish that is part education, part enthrallment, and wholly entertaining.

Shari Low, Daily Record

Part-travelogue, part memoir, part natural history book, a fascinating, lyrical account of one of the strangest places on earth and its majestic inhabitants.

Esquire

He writes beautifully about the strange other-worldly allure of this habitat of ice and snow

Siobhan Murphy, Metro

He perceives...continuous sights, sounds and sensations, writing as vividly and as fiercely in darkness at noon or in sunlight at midnight

Iain Finlayson, The Times

Excellent mix of travel and nature writing

Nic Bottomley, Bath Life

Lyrical and enjoyable account

Tom Robbins, Financial Times

Fascinating

Lesley Glaistor, Scotsman

[An] intense and lyrical portrait... shines with a clarity and lyricism descended from Thoreau

TLS

His [Gavin's] description of what he found out about himself and his re-navigation of his personal compass in this bleakly remote location is utterly compelling

Janet Archer, Scotsman

Travel writing at its very best combining evocative narrative with a sublime sensitivity to the natural world

Edinburgh Evening News

A brilliant combination of Antarctic essay, travelogue and autobiography. For a man that wanted to be alone, he writes so well you're there with him

John Lloyd, TheBookbag

An absorbing account of life at the end of the world

Alastair Mabbott, Herald

Read More

Formats & editions

  • Paperback

    9780099565963

    November 15, 2013

    Vintage

    272 pages

    RRP $24.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook

    9781446484821

    November 1, 2012

    Vintage Digital

    272 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks
    • Amazon Kindle
    • Booktopia
    • eBooks
    • Google Play
    • Kobo
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

Recommendations

The Road to Little Dribbling
Shackled
The Man Who Climbs Trees
The Fatal Shore
In Shackleton's Footsteps
Far and Away
Without Reservations
The Worst Journey In The World
Cherry
Long Road from Jarrow
The Marches
Africa Solo
A Sky Full of Birds
Neither Nowt Nor Summat
What Days Are For
Too Much Information
Gironimo!
Four Fields
Visit Sunny Chernobyl
The Voyages of the Princess Matilda