Environment Minister Tony Burke today announced Australian writer and academic Jesse Blackadder had received the 2011 Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship.

Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowships are awarded to enable those with a non-science focus to experience Antarctica first-hand so that they may communicate this unique experience and understanding to other Australians.

Mr Burke said Ms Blackadder would use the Fellowship to work on several projects but in particular to research an historic novel about Ingrid Christensen, the first woman to see Antarctica. The novel is part of Ms Blackadder’s Doctor of Creative Arts project at the University of Western Sydney.

“Our opportunity to understand the precious and unique Antarctic landscape should not only be through the eyes of scientists. That’s why the Federal Government runs the Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship program,” Mr Burke said.

“The writing of Antarctic history has been about the heroic efforts of men who explored the continent.

“As we celebrate the centenary of expeditions by our famous male Antarctic explorers such as Australia’s Sir Douglas Mawson it is perhaps surprising for many of us to discover the virtually invisible role of women in our early Antarctic history.

“Women such as Norway’s Ingrid Christensen, who is the subject of Ms Blackadder’s proposed novel, travelled south with their husbands on whaling ships.

“Ingrid Christensen accompanied her husband Lars on four Antarctic whaling ships in the 1930s but while the first woman to ‘see’ Antarctica, Ingrid Christensen was beaten to her goal to be the first woman to land on the continent by a woman from another whaling ship, Caroline Mikkelsen.”

Jesse Blackadder, from Myocum, in New South Wales, will travel to Antarctica on the Australian Antarctic Division icebreaker Aurora Australis, leaving Hobart on 23 October. She will visit Australia’s Davis station before returning in early December.

Her novel will give glimpses into the life of a woman on an Antarctic whaling ship in the 1930s. It will also tell the story of how exploitative whaling devastated populations in the Southern Ocean.

Ms Blackadder, who writes extensively across a range of media, will also share the experiences of her Antarctic trip through digital story telling on social media; magazine articles and as a subject for her academic project, presentations and lectures. Ms Blackadder has been writing fiction for 20 years specialising in environment, landcare and sustainability. Her works include After the Party, and The Raven’s Heart.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the departure in 1911 of the first Australasian Antarctic Expedition led by Sir Douglas Mawson, who established Australia’s first base for scientific and geographical discovery at Cape Denison in Antarctica.