Rachel Hazell is a book artist, photographer, and writer based in Edinburgh. She travels frequently, and has made three visits to Antarctica. She has been there twice as artist-in-residence on expedition ships, and most recently, as Assistant Post Mistress and Penguin Monitor!
In this video, Rachel talks about her experience and creative response to Earth's southernmost continent.
You can also read a transcript of this video.
The travelling bookbinder
Rachel is passionate about books.
After completing a degree in English Literature at the University of Edinburgh, she went on to study bookbinding at the London College of Printing. On discovering that there was such a thing as 'book art', she transferred to the MA course at Camberwell College of Art.
On returning to Edinburgh, Rachel set up her creative practice, Hazell Designs Books. As well as exhibiting her work, she also undertakes commissions. She also shares her knowledge and enthusiasm for books by delivering workshops in schools, at book festivals, on ships, in private houses, on small islands, and even in lighthouses. You can find out more about her artistic travels on her video blog, 'The diary of the travelling bookbinder'.
Rachel is widely travelled and has visited Antarctica three times. In 2004, she circumnavigated the continent for a month as artist-in-residence for the American polar cruise company Quark Expeditions. In 2006, she spent a month on the Royal Naval vessel HMS Endurance. In 2008, Rachel worked as Assistant Post Mistress and Penguin Monitor at Port Lockroy.
Find out more about Rachel's time in Antarctica on her web page 'Rachel in Antarctica'.
The most southerly post office in the world
The post office at Port Lockroy is located on Goudier Island in the Antarctic Peninsula. It is run by the Antarctic Heritage Trust on behalf of the Government of the British Antarctic Territory.
The Antarctic Heritage Trust cares for the bases and artefacts left behind by four early Antarctic expedition teams:
- British Antarctic Expedition ('Southern Cross'), 1898-1900
- National Antarctic Expedition ('Discovery'), 1901-1904
- British Antarctic Expedition ('Nimrod'),1907-1909
- British Antarctic Expedition ('Terra Nova'), 1910-1913.
Port Lockroy is the most popular stopping-off point for tourist vessels crossing the Antarctic Peninsula. To find out more about daily life there, read the Port Lockroy blog.
Rachel's own Antarctic blog, 'The diary of the travelling bookbinder', documents her time as Assistant Post Mistress at Port Lockroy. Over five months, she welcomed 18,000 visitors and franked nearly 80,000 stamps, as well as monitoring the population of Gentoo penguins!
'The worst journey in the world'
In the video clip, Rachel mentions the book 'The worst journey in the world', written by Apsley Cherry-Garrad and first published in 1922.
Cherry-Garrad was one of the youngest members of Scott's 'Terra Nova' expedition, 1910-1913. He was also one of the rescue party that found the frozen bodies of Captain Scott and his companions.
In July 1911, during the Antarctic winter, Cherry-Garrad travelled to Cape Crozier with Henry Bowers and Bill Wilson to study the Emperor penguin colony. Cherry-Garrad described the expedition, made in almost total darkness and in temperatures of minus 76 degrees, as 'the worst journey in the world'. His book of the same name is an account of the 'Terra Nova' expedition, and is considered to be a masterpiece of travel writing.
Creative responses to Antarctica
Following on from her time in Antarctica, Rachel created a body of artwork inspired by her observations and experiences:
- Icebound: antarctic bookworks
- Wide white page at the Scottish Poetry Library
- The walk-in iceberg and other stories
You might also like to explore these literary responses to Antarctica and Antarctic exploration:
- 'The wide white page: Writers imagine Antarctica' — an anthology of fictional accounts of Antarctica compiled by New Zealand poet Bill Manhire [NLS reference: HP2.205.2775]
- 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. 1863 edition [NLS reference: H.5.b.1]
- 'The birthday boys' by Beryl Bainbridge — a fictionalised version of Scott's Polar expedition [NLS reference: HP2.96.188]
- 'Terra incognita: Travels in Antarctica' by Sara Wheeler — a writer's account of taking part in the National Science Foundation's Antarctic Artists' and Writers' Program [NLS reference: NPB1.203.3580]
- 'Victim of the Aurora' by Thomas Keneally. 1988 edition, [NLS reference: NPB1.88.26]
- 'MS. found in a bottle' by Edgar Allan Poe — a short story written in 1833. [NLS reference: N3.205.2032L].