This is shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje prize. 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 opportunity 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 50degreeC below zero and the unexpected comfort that the penguin community bring.
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.
Shortlisted for Ondaatje Prize 2013.
"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 Sunday Times Travel Book of Month: 'A book full of wonder. Brilliantly imagined, superbly brought to life'" -- Anthony Sattin Sunday Times "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
Gavin Francis was born in 1975 and brought up in Fife, Scotland. After qualifying from medical school in Edinburgh he spent ten years travelling, visiting all seven continents. He has worked in Africa and India, made several trips to the Arctic, and crossed Eurasia and Australasia by motorcycle. His first book, True North, was published in 2008. He has lectured widely and his essays have appeared in the Guardian, Granta and the London Review of Books. He lives in Edinburgh. www.gavinfrancis.com