The author fulfilled a lifetime's ambition when he spent fourteen months as the base-camp doctor at Halley, an isolated British research station on the Caird Coast of Antarctica. Following the penguins throughout the year, the author talks about the hardship of living at 50 C below zero and the unexpected comfort that the penguin community bring.
Shortlisted for the 2013 Costa Biography 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 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.
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. His next book, Empire Antarctica, was shortlisted for the Costa and Ondaatje Prizes and won Scottish Book of the Year in 2013. He contributes regularly to the Guardian, London Review of Books, and the New York Review of Books. He lives in Edinburgh
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 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 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 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 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
Winner of Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book of the Year Award 2013 (UK)
Short-listed for RSL Ondaatje Prize 2013 (UK)
Short-listed for Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year Award 2013 (UK)
Short-listed for Costa Biography Award 2014 (UK)
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