Reading in Antarctica

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Wasafiri, Volume 36, Number 2, p.79–86 (2021)



In April 2019, Isabel Hofmeyr and Charne Lavery, colleagues from the Oceanic Humanities for the Global South project based in Johannesburg, undertook a trip to the Antarctic peninsula. In this article, they discuss their shared yet distinct experiences of the same ten-day cruise, focused on the experience, history, literature, indispensability, and impossibility of reading in Antarctica. The article proceeds in three steps: ‘Not Reading in Antarctica’, which focuses on the difficulties and dangers of reading in this environment; ‘Some Reading in Antarctica’, which lists what they did read, both beforehand and on the trip, as well as histories of reading in the far South; and ‘Reading the Sea and Ice’, which explains how the Antarctic environment turned them into elemental readers, or readers of and for the elements. Combining life writing and cultural history, they approach the question of situated reading as Reader 1 (Hofmeyr) and Reader 2 (Lavery).


Publisher: Routledge _eprint: