Literature

Many writers have written about the Antarctic, a symbol of mystery. Students will discover a rich range of reactions from these different authors.

  • Read and discuss Antarctic literature.

The most famous polar poem is Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, in which a ship in Antarctic waters is cursed when a sailor kills an albatross. Kipling's Jungle Book includes the story of Kotick the white seal who visits several sub-Antarctic islands. In Madeleine L'Engle's Troubling a Star (1994) a teenager is stranded on an iceberg during a cruise.

Ursula le Guin's Sur from the Compass Rose tells the (fictional) tale of the conquering of the South Pole by a small group of Latin American women. Australian poet Douglas Stewart's radio play The Fire on the Snow tells the story of Scott's tragic expedition to the South Pole. Popular fiction gives us Wilbur Smith's Hungry as the Sea (1978), in which a tourist ship runs aground. Antarctica also appears in a number of novels by Hammond Innes - including Isvik, which revolves around an icebound ship implicated in the disappearance of a group from Argentina - and our own Australian Thomas Keneally tells a chilling tale of the killing of a newsman during the dark Antarctic winter in Victim of the Aurora (1977).

More recently Nikki Gemmell wrote the novel Shiver after her experience travelling on the Australian Antarctic icebreaker Aurora Australis, and Australian Matthew Reilly wrote his bestseller Ice Station. The Voyage of the Narwhal (1998) by Andrea Barrett, a novel about an imagined ship, The Narwhal, and its crew's search for the (real) lost Franklin Expedition, explores the motives behind the drive that sent so many explorers to the land of ice.

A review of the literature and culture of the Antarctic is in progress by Elle Leane, writer and academic, who travelled there in the 2003-04 season.

Here is a list of fiction, poetry and books for younger readers.

Examples of activities to use with any of these books by individual students, in groups or as a whole class include:

  • write a book review
  • give a talk to the class about the book
  • design a new book cover
  • retell the story in comic-book format
  • retell the story, setting it in a new location or time period
  • describe a setting or location important to the story
  • describe the feeling or mood of the book
  • describe a character in the book.
This page was last modified on July 2, 2014.