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210 × 148 × 15 mm
232 pages
132 illustrations, 96 in colour
01 Apr 2016
  • £15.95

  • This edition is currently unavailable

South Pole Nature and Culture Elizabeth Leane

The Geographic South Pole is a place of paradox. It is a point around which the earth quite literally pivots; yet it has a habit of falling off the edge of our maps. An invisible spot on a high, featureless ice plateau, the Pole has no obvious material value, but is nonetheless a much sought-after location. The endpoint of exploration’s most famous ‘race’, between teams led by Robert F. Scott and Roald Amundsen, the Pole has more recently become a favoured destination of ‘extreme’ tourists. Like the whole of Antarctica, ‘90˚ South’ does not belong to any nation, but six national claims meet there, and for nearly sixty years the u.s. has occupied the site with a series of scientific stations. The Pole is a deeply political place.

In South Pole Elizabeth Leane explores the important challenges that this strange place poses to humanity. What is its lure? How and why should people live there? How can artists respond to its apparent blankness? What can it teach us about our planet and ourselves? Along the way, she considers the absurdities and banalities of human engagement with the Pole.

Ranging chronologically from the ancient Greeks to the present, and featuring spectacular images of the South Pole, this book offers a fascinating history of the symbolic heart of the Antarctic.

To read and download some sample pages from the book please click here.

‘As the quintessence of Earthly remoteness, Antarctica has drawn hordes of scientists, iconic explorers such as Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen, and novelists who have peopled it with vast humanoid lobsters or radioactive elephant seals. Historian Elizabeth Leane tours the research, literature, exploration, and geopolitical maneuverings that swirl around the pole. Hers is a detailed, compelling portrait of a place at once central and marginal, fantastically inhospitable and beautiful, and a mecca for physicists, government claimants, and extreme tourists.’ — Nature

South Pole is an enticing cultural and natural history of this real and yet elusive place.’ — Sydney Morning Herald

‘this is a work that has to be considered a real contribution to the better understanding of a range of important Antarctic matters. With Leanes clear and straightforward writing, this book will surely encourage not only polar experts, but also a wider public to take a lively interest in the many stories of the South Pole.’ — Imago Mundi

‘Musicians, artists, writers and sculptors are among those to have visited Pole in the years since Amundsen led the way, and it has left its mark on all of them. This is a highly readable study of the worlds most remote destination.’ — Geographical Magazine

South Pole is well-written, beautifully produced on fine quality paper and well illustrated, with over half the photographs, paintings and diagrams in colour . . . a particularly well-produced book, well written and interesting to read.’ — Geological Journal

‘I found this book a very informative and surprisingly entertaining read that covers a wide variety of Antarctic topics . . . she has made a very good job of relating and collating the experiences and impressions of the many and varied visitors to this symbolic heart of Antarctica and its place in our quest to understand our planet.’ — Polar Record

‘[the book] weaves together mythology and tales of ancient speculation, the sledging journeys of the early 20th century, scientific investigations, environmental issues, political negotiations and new challenges of tourism. Leane draws on stories from researchers to describe what it is like to live in a place where every direction is north. A fascinating journey from ancient Greece to the modern day on an unexpectedly rich theme.’ — Cosmos

‘Elizabeth Leane has managed to capture the essence, the allure, the mystique and the magnificence of this isolated, featureless place on the earth, presenting it in such a way that it combines history, with geography in a manner that entertains as well as educates. If you are an armchair explorer or traveller you will definitely enjoy this journey!’ — Blue Wolf Reviews

Shortlisted for the William Mills prize for non-fiction polar books’ — 2018

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Elizabeth Leane is Associate Professor of English at the University of Tasmania. She is the author of Reading Popular Physics (2007) and Antarctica in Fiction (2012), and the co-editor of Considering Animals (2011).


1. Where is the South Pole?

2. Maps and Mythologies

3. Polar Imaginations

4. Pole-hunting

5. Settling in at ‘Ninety South’

6. Highest, Coldest, Driest

7. Looking Up and Looking Down

8. South Polar Politics

9. Pictures of Nothingness

10. Adventurers and Extreme Tourists



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Photo Acknowledgments