“I am standing on a rocky hill on a sunny spring day in Antarctica. It’s minus four degrees with hardly any breeze – most unusual for the planet’s windiest continent, and ice and snow stretch to the horizon in every direction. I am waving a 70-year-old Australian Red Ensign flag that I’ve unearthed from a rock cairn, and my companion is a life-sized fibreglass Guide Dog called ‘Stay’. It’s one of the more surreal moments of my Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship, researching a novel about the first women to reach Antarctica, but it typifies several things about the extraordinary continent: history is truly alive in the moment when you are there, it helps to have an eccentric obsession if you want to visit, and if there’s something you want to find again – a ship, a flag, a vehicle – it’s a good idea to make sure it’s red.”

Meet Jesse Blackadder

Jesse Blackadder was an award-winning Australian author of novels for adults and kids, an emerging screenwriter, a public speaker, literacy advocate, and a freelance journalist.

Blackadder was the recipient of the Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship in 2011. She was awarded a second Fellowship in 2018, in collaboration with television writer, producer and creator Jane Allen.

Arts Fellowship project

Jesse Blackadder used her 2011 Fellowship to work on several projects at Davis research station. In particular, she researched an historic novel about Ingrid Christensen, the first woman to see Antarctica. Her novel, Chasing the Light, offers glimpses into the life of a woman on an Antarctic whaling ship in the 1930s. It also tells the story of how exploitative whaling devastated populations in the Southern Ocean.

On her second fellowship at Mawson research station in 2018/19, Blackadder collaborated with television writer, producer and creator Jane Allen. Living at Mawson for 3 months, Blackadder and Allen worked side by side on an adventure novel about the first children’s expedition to Antarctica, and a contemporary television drama series about life on an Antarctic research station.

Find Jesse Blackadder’s work

Jesse Blackadder shared the experiences of her Antarctic trip through social media, magazine articles, as a subject for her academic project, presentations and lectures. These included a talk at the State Library of New South Wales (January 24, 2012). Her article Heroines on the Ice about female experiences of Antarctica was published in Australian Geographic in March 2013. Jesse’s essay The first woman and the last dog in Antarctica won the 2012 Guy Morrison Prize for Literary Journalism.

Inspired by a dognapping incident on her field trip, Jesse wrote Stay – a novel for 9 to 12 year-olds about an Antarctic canine legend, published by HarperCollins.

Her novel about Ingrid Christensen, Chasing the Light, was published by HarperCollins in February 2013.