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Creating in the Cold: Antarctic Artists and Writers Program

Updated: Dec 27, 2022

A few years back I watched Werner Herzog’s Encounters at the End of theWorld, a fascinating look at life in Antarctica. I knew he was invited to make a film at McMurdo base, but it wasn’t until I read Sara Wheeler’s book Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica, that I learned of the National Science Foundation Antarctic Artists and Writers Program. Anyone in the humanities can apply to work in Antarctica. The purpose of the program is to increase the public’s awareness of Antarctica, and in particular the heritage of the USA on the cold continent.

Sara Wheeler’s book is fantastic. On her second visit to Antarctica, she met Lucia deLeiris, a painter. The two of them roomed together in a remote hut on the sea ice. From Sara’s book, I learned how the two of them worked together to survive. When I finished the book I was curious to see Lucia’s paintings. Check out her Antarctic paintings:

It’s easy to lose several hours exploring the people and projects on the NSF list of past participants.

Meredith Hooper, for example, wrote The Ferocious Summer:Adelie Penguins and the Warming of Antarctica. Photographer Shaun O’Boyle created a body of work called Portraits of Place in the Arctic and Antarctic. Composer Glenn McClure created a sound installation—Ice Vibrations—based on seismic data from the Ross Ice Shelf. All this goes to show that the USA is doing much more than scientific research in Antarctica. The Humanities are as important to life as science!

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