Antarctica Reading List

A collection of our favorite books about Antarctica and her islands.

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Antarctic History and Stories

Endurance

Alfred Lansing

Alfred Lansing’s best selling book tells the extraordinary tale of survival and recounts the epic stories of the 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. It’s the gripping account of Shackleton’s legendary perseverance, his leadership and the attempts to bring his entire crew home safely after losing his ship in the ice; an unforgettable story that redefines our understanding of the word ‘courage’.

South

Ernest Shackleton

In 1914, as the shadow of war falls across Europe, a party led by veteran explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton sets out to become the first to traverse the Antarctic continent. Their initial optimism is short-lived, however, as the ice field slowly thickens, encasing the ship Endurance in a death-grip, crushing their craft, and marooning 28 men on a ploar ice floe.

Mawson's Will

Lennard Bickel

Mawson’s Will is the dramatic story of what Sir Edmund Hillary calls “the most outstanding solo journey ever recorded in Antarctic history.” For weeks in Antarctica, Douglas Mawson faced some of the most daunting conditions ever known to man: blistering wind, snow, and cold; loss of his companion, his dogs and supplies, the skin on his hands and the soles of his feet; thirst, starvation, disease, snowblindness – and he survived.

The Birthday Boys

Beryl Bainbridge

An imaginative, brilliantly realized evocation of the thoughts and voices of Captain Scott and the four men with him, who suffered extraordinary hardships before finally dying during their 1912 attempt to be the first to reach the South Pole.

Alone

Richard Byrd

When Admiral Richard E. Byrd set out on his second Antarctic expedition in 1934, he was already an international hero for having piloted the first flights over the North and South Poles. His plan for this latest adventure was to spend six months alone near the bottom of the world, gathering weather data and indulging his desire “to taste peace and quiet long enough to know how good they really are.” But early on things went terribly wrong.

Race to the Pole

Ranulph Fiennes

In 1911, Captain Robert Scott and his competitor Roald Amundsen conquered the unconquerable: Antarctica. This perilous race to the South Pole claimed the life of Scott and became the stuff of legend, as well as scrutiny. This compelling, meticulously researched history, by renowned modern-day explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, is the definitive account of this hotly debated quest.

Shackleton’s Boat Journey

Richard Byrd

When Admiral Richard E. Byrd set out on his second Antarctic expedition in 1934, he was already an international hero for having piloted the first flights over the North and South Poles. His plan for this latest adventure was to spend six months alone near the bottom of the world, gathering weather data and indulging his desire “to taste peace and quiet long enough to know how good they really are.” But early on things went terribly wrong.

Forgotten Footprints: Lost Stories in the Discovery of Antarctica

John Harrison

A mix of history, geography, myth, and personal truth, this book explores the Antarctic Peninsula, the South Shetland Islands, and the Weddell Sea—the most visited places in Antarctica. Filled with beautiful photographs by the author from his travels, this record offers a selection of anecdotal accounts of the merchantmen, navy men, sealers, whalers, and aviators who, along with scientists and adventurers, drew the first ghostly maps of the white continent. It delves into the heads and hearts of those who were driven to discover the unknown land and is ideal for the armchair traveler who wants to explore the continent’s past and present.

Mind Over Matter

Ranulph Fiennes

A noted adventurer describes his ninety-seven-day, two-man, unsupported journey across the icy wilderness of Antarctica, offering a vivid narrative of the physical and mental challenges of the epic journey.

A Time to Speak

Sir Vivian Fuchs

An autobiography by Sir Vivian Fuchs, a British Antarctic explorer who was the first to cross the Antarctic continent.

The Last Place on Earth

Roland Huntford

In this brilliant dual biography, the award-winning writer Roland Huntford re-examines every detail of the great race to the South Pole between Britain’s Robert Scott and Norway’s Roald Amundsen. Scott, who dies along with four of his men only eleven miles from his next cache of supplies, became Britain’s beloved failure, while Amundsen, who not only beat Scott to the Pole but returned alive, was largely forgotten.

Through the First Antarctic Night

Frederick Cook

The Belgica expedition was the first to winter in the Antarctic. It was not well prepared to do so. With a disparate crew and commanders, ill equipped, and an old ship, their chances of surviving were slim. Fortunately they had on board one of the stranger personalities form the rich gallery of polar explorers: Dr. Frederick Cook.

Shackleton

Roland Huntford

The acclaimed biographer of Robert Falcon Scott masterfully chronicles the life of one of the last great Edwardian heroes, Ernest Shackleton, from his Anglo-Irish childhood through the race for the South Pole to his last expedition to the North Pole.

Antarctic Diaries

Douglas Mawson

This is the record of Sir Douglas Mawson’s four trips to the Antarctic in the early twentieth century. The book brings together for the first time all of Mawson’s descriptive writings while in the Antarctic, including his refusal to join the ill-fated Scott expedition in order to lead an Australasian team.

Home of the Blizzard

Douglas Mawson

Sir Douglas Mawson records his historic expedition to explore uncharted land in Antarctica. Pitted against formidable natural forces, he and his team faced unrelenting winds with speeds of up to two hundred miles per hour as well as freezing temperatures and day-long blizzards. They traversed the previously unexplored King George V Land directly south of Australia and collected geological samples and magnetic readings. After accident and illness led to the death of his two teammates, a starving and frostbitten Mawson finished one hundred miles of the return journey alone.

Voyage of the Beagle

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin’s account of the momentous voyage which set in motion the current of intellectual events leading to The Origin of Species.

Beyond Cape Horn

Charles Neider

Writer and Antarctic explorer Neider tells of his third trip to the frozen continent, describing the international stations there and the goals they are working toward. Neider also tours the Antarctic landscape, observing the geography and wildlife and evoking it in detail. Devoting scrutiny to the international treaties that protect the continent politically and environmentally, Neider reveals how important those treaties are.

North Pole, South Pole

Bertrand Imbert

Chronicling the adventures of Shackleton, Amundsen, Scott, and other famous explorers of the polar regions, this illustrated history of discovery reveals what these men initially found and the challenges facing these areas today

The Storied Ice

Joan Boothe

This fascinating book recounts mankind’s dramatic history from Magellan through the first years of the twenty-first century in the part of the Antarctic regions below South America and the Atlantic Ocean.

Terra Incognita

Sarah Wheeler

This is a book about the call of the wild and the response of the spirit to a country that exists perhaps most vividly in the mind. Sara Wheeler spent seven months in Antarctica, living with its scientists and dreamers. No book is more true to the spirit of that continent–beguiling, enchanted and vast beyond the furthest reaches of our imagination.

The Worst Journey in the World

Aspley Cherry-Garrard

The Worst Journey in the World recounts Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole. Apsley Cherry-Garrard—the youngest member of Scott’s team and one of three men to make and survive the notorious Winter Journey—draws on his firsthand experiences as well as the diaries of his compatriots to create a stirring and detailed account of Scott’s legendary expedition. Cherry himself would be among the search party that discovered the corpses of Scott and his men, who had long since perished from starvation and brutal cold.

Safe return Doubtful: The Heroic Age of Polar Exploration

John Maxtone-Graham

A history of the efforts to reach the North and South Poles from Parry’s Arctic expedition of 1827 to the achievement of the South Pole in 1911-12. The major heroes such as Nansen, Peary, and Amundsen are treated at some length, and numerous minor figures are covered as well. Maxtone-Graham has written a readable, generally accurate account which will be enjoyed by polar buffs who want both their poles in the same volume.

The Quest for Frank Wild

Angie Butler

The Quest for Frank Wild tells the gripping story of the final years of Frank Wild, one of the greatest British Edwardian Polar explorers of all time. He supposedly died in penury, unable to come to terms with Ernest Shackleton’s death and forgotten by his fellowmen in the small mining town of Klerksdorp, near Johannesburg. The little that was known of his later life in South Africa has been maligned by hearsay and sensational journalism and most tragically of all, no-one knew where he was buried. An outstanding man lost in life and in death.

Antarctica Guides

The Oceanites Site Guide to the Antarctic Peninsula

Ron Naveen

Though this book is out of print and can be difficult to track down, the thoroughly researched spiral bound guide book, with its descriptions, maps and wonderful aerial photographs of visitor sites, is the one book you will want to have with you as you travel to the peninsula.

Natural History of the Antarctic Peninsula

Sanford Moss

Explores the natural riches of the coldest continent and examines the plant and animal life, particularly penguins, birds, seals, and fish.

The Crystal Desert

David Campbell

A splendid, prize-winning portrait of Antarctica. Campbell’s vivid essays on fossils, glaciers, history and wildlife of the Antarctic Peninsula are an excellent introduction. It is shared in a way that will captivate the reader before they experience Antarctica with their own eyes.

Antarctica Cruising Guide

Peter Carey & Craig Franklin

Packed with breathtaking color photographs, wildlife descriptions, and detailed area maps, this Antarctica travel guide includes fascinating, full accounts of interesting places, spectacular landscapes, and local plants and wildlife—from penguins and other birds to whales, seals, and myriad mammals.

Wildlife Guides

Antarctica: A Guide to the Wildlife

Tony Soper

This comprehensive guide provides full coverage of identification, breeding, feeding and the best locations to observe the varied species. Dafila Scott’s illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to naturalist Tony Soper’s detailed and researched text.

Natural History of Seals

Nigel Bonner

This volume documents the evolution of the seal and the many species of seal encountered throughout the world. It provides a full study of the phocidae, or true seal, as well as comparisons of this species with the other two families of the order pinnipedia, the walrus (odobenidae) and the earred seal (ottariidae).

Birds of the Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic

George Watson

Detailed species accounts with a synopsis of each of the families and a page dedicated to each species covering identification, flight (where relevant) and habits, voice and display, food, reproduction, arrival, eggs, hatching, fledging and departure, molt, predation and mortality, ectoparasites, habitat and distribution.

Among Penguins, A Bird Man in Antarctica

Noah Strycker

With wit, curiosity, and a deep knowledge of his subject, Strycker weaves a captivating tale of penguins and their researchers on the coldest, driest, highest, and windiest continent on Earth. He recounts the reality of life at the end of the Earth–thousand-year-old penguin mummies, hurricane-force blizzards, and day-to-day existence in below freezing temperatures–and delves deep into a world of science, obsession, and birds.

Penguin

Frans Lanting

Penguin is a celebration of the nature and beauty of penguins as expressed through the exquisite images and unique personal stories of master photographer and naturalist Frans Lanting.

The Total Penguin

James Gorman

The Total Penguin fills the insidious black hole in penguin literature. At once serious and jocular, it combines first hand experience, natural history, and personal observation in one inspired, witty volume. Complemented by superb color photographs throughout, writer James Gorman takes us on a delicious romp through the favorite haunts of the penguin.

Antarctic Wildlife: A Visitor's Guide

James Lowen

Antarctic Wildlife is the definitive identification guide to the birds and marine mammals of the Antarctic Peninsula, Drake Passage, and Beagle Channel. This easy-to-use photographic field guide enables visitors to this unique region of the world–newcomer and seasoned traveler alike–to identify with confidence the penguins, whales, seals, seabirds, and other stunning wildlife they encounter on their journey. Full-color photographs show typical views of each species of bird or marine mammal, together with the terrestrial plants likely to be seen. Detailed species accounts describe key identification features, give tips on where to look, and highlight interesting facts. This one-of-a-kind guide also includes introductory chapters that cover the wildlife of each Antarctic environment by season, as well as information on tourism and Antarctic cruising that will help visitors get the most from their trip.

Albatross: Their World, Their Ways

Tui De Roy

This book is both an authoritative book covering all the world’s species and a beautiful work of art to admire.  The text comprises a series of essays by leading experts in the field and a systematic section that gives identification, behavioral and distributional information for each of the world’s 22 species.

Falkland Islands and South Georgia

A Visitor’s Guide to South Georgia

Sally Poncet & Kim Crosbie

This book features hundreds of color photographs of the diverse wildlife and breathtaking scenery on South Georgia. It includes extensive and up-to-date coverage of all wildlife groups–from albatrosses and petrels to seals and penguins–as well as color maps and detailed information for the 23 key visitor sites.

A Field Guide to the Wildlife of South Georgia

Robert Burton

This beautifully illustrated field guide depicts the birds, mammals, insects, flowering plants, and other vegetation found in this unique part of the world. It features 368 full-color photographs of more than 180 species, including 65 species of birds, 20 species of sea mammals, nearly 60 species of insects, and more than 40 species of flowering and nonflowering plants.

A Field Guide to the Wildlife of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia

Ian Strange

Isolated in the south Atlantic between South America and the Antartic Peninsula, the Falkland archipelago is one of the last unspoiled areas in the world and a region of wild beauty. Its very remoteness also makes the fauna and flora of these 420 islands unique.  This book is a fully illustrated identification guide concerned largely with the 107 bird and 39 mammal species of the region, but also including selected fish, invertebrates and plants.