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Empire Antarctica

Ice, Silence, and Emperor Penguins

List Price: $17.95

August 26, 2014 | Paperback | 6 x 9, 304 Pages | ISBN 9781619023406
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Winner of the 2013 Scottish Book of the Year Award

Gavin Francis fulfilled a lifetime’s ambition when he spent fourteen months as the basecamp 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 a very little human history, but also a rare opportunity to live among emperor penguins, the only species truly at home in he Antarctic. Following Penguins throughout the year — from a summer of perpetual sunshine to months of winter darkness — Gavin Francis explores the world of great beauty conjured from the simplest of elements, the hardship of living at 50°C 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. Combining an evocative narrative with a sublime sensitivity to the natural world, this is travel writing at its very best.

GAVIN FRANCIS was born in 1975 and brought up in Fife, Scotland. After qualifying from medical school in Edinburgh he spent ten years traveling, visiting all seven continents. He has worked in Africa and India, made several trips to the Arctic, and crossed Eurasia and Australia by motorcycle. His first book, True North was published in 2008. He has lectured at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge and the Edinburgh Book Festival, and is a regular speaker at the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. He lives in Edinburgh. For more information, visit


“It is difficult to read this engaging memoir without a smile on one’s face such is the author’s enthusiasm for the world’s southernmost continent and its endemic penguin species, the Emperor…Francis’s descriptions of his visits to this spot, where 60,000 Emperors live in a ‘great penguin jamboree,’ add moments of sheer joy to this mesmerizing and memorable book.” —The Economist

“In this engrossing account of a doctor’s 14 months at Halley… what truly stands out is the book’s lyrical prose… Through Francis’s juxtaposition of literary allusions and poetic descriptions of the Antarctic sky, the vibrant rookery of penguins, and aurora australis, the reader gains new perspective on the frozen continent.” Publishers Weekly

“Beautifully descriptive of the natural world and the night sky in winter, Francis lets the reader experience the hardships and wonder of life inside and outside the station. Readers who enjoy travel to faraway places, adventure, the natural history of wild places, or are interested in the past and present of life in Antarctica will enjoy this book.” Library Journal Starred Review

 “In this lyrical book, Francis plumbs his fascination with the barren continent, the very blankness of which intrigued him… Francis is an evocative writer; we feel the cold and the dark, revel in the silence, and find kinship with the penguins.” —Booklist Starred Review

“A highly readable, enjoyable account of one man’s year serving as a doctor at Halley Research Station… A keen observer of his surroundings, the author writes vividly of auroras, clouds, stars, sunlight, darkness, ice and snow… A literate, stylish memoir of personal adventure rich in history, geography and science.” —Kirkus

Empire Antarctica is a beautiful, profound and highly readable account of a remarkable personal adventure.” —The Telegraph

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. I love this book.” —Paul Theroux, author of Hotel Honolulu

“A Beautifully written love letter to Antarctica and a wonderful evocation of companionship, loneliness and discovery.” —Robert MacFarlane, author of Landmarks

“A valuable addition to polar literature, vividly describing the brutal, but beautiful realities of undergoing an Antarctic winter.” —Ranulph Fiennes, author of  Cold: Extreme Adventures at the Lowest Temperatures on Earth

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