An imaginary Antarctica at the Turnbull

5 July 2014: An imaginary Antarctica at the Turnbull

An extremely rare copy of the first book to be printed in Antarctica is a feature of the latest exhibition at the National Library’s Turnbull Gallery.

The exhibition, Extreme South: Antarctica imagined, draws on the rich collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library to illustrate the wildly imaginative ways Antarctica was perceived in the two thousand years before explorers actually reached the South Pole.

“Antarctica was invented long before it was discovered,” says the exhibition’s curator, Dr Fiona Oliver, the Turnbull’s Curator of New Zealand and Pacific Publications.

“The books, maps and illustrations on display all represent visions of Antarctica when it was quite literally Terra Incognita – ‘the unknown land’. Exhibits range from a 16th-century map that populates a vast land mass with camels, elephants and unicorns to one of only 30 bound copies of Aurora Australis, the first book to be written and printed on the Ice.”

The book was a ‘winter quarters’ activity of members of Ernest Shackleton’s 1908-09 expedition to Antarctica.

“The book contains ten written contributions, with illustrations by George Marston, the expedition’s artist. Book covers were made from the wooden crates used to pack food, so each book is unique,” said Dr Oliver.

The exhibition also features installations by contemporary New Zealand artist Gabby O’Connor.

More about Aurora Australis on the blog

Extreme South: Antarctica imagined opens at the Turnbull Gallery, 1st Floor, National Library Molesworth Street on Monday 7 July.


Allen Walley, Department of Internal Affairs, 04 495 9351 or 027 837 7111