Sophie Hardcastle: The Antarctica Dream

I am a child of the ocean. I was swimming in the sea before I was born, rising and falling with deep-sea swells inside my mum’s belly. She swam in open ocean with me inside her right up until the week I was born. Growing up, I felt a deep affinity with the nature. Entering the ocean, I always experienced an overwhelming sensation of coming home. What drew me in was its vastness and unfathomable depths. When my uncle died and we scattered his ashes in the ocean, I imagined him becoming part of the clouds, part of the rain. I understood the interconnectedness of all things and that sparked in me an unswerving respect for the natural world.

Who is Sophie Hardcastle?

Sophie Hardcastle, artist and writer

Sophie Hardcastle, artist and writer. Photo credit: Sophie Hardcastle

When I was five-years-old, I received a picture book about whales for Christmas. The last page had an illustration of orcas poking through an ice sheet in Antarctica. I distinctly remember that the sky was pink and there were stars appearing. It was the most extraordinary image I’d ever seen and it made a mark that has never faded. All through school, I chose to research Antarctica for all my school assignments. And while my friends dreamt of going to Disneyland or the Eiffel Tower, I dreamt of going to the end of the earth.

My name is Sophie Hardcastle and I’m a twenty-two-years-old with a healthy disregard for the impossible. I am an emerging artist and the published author of two books. Next year, I’ll be studying painting for my honours degree at Sydney College of the Arts and writing my next book. Antarctica lends itself to both projects.

The next novel

Cruise to Antarctica.

Cruise to Antarctica. Photo credit: shutterstock

For my novel, my protagonist, Maddie, gets work on a commercial vessel going to Antarctica. As with all of my work, nature isn’t merely a backdrop. In my stories and art, the natural world is a living presence, as real as any other character. When Maddie, a girl with deep-seated trauma, visits Antarctica, it is so cold it hurts. She becomes painfully aware of the experiences she has tried to bury and is forced to resolve them. Her voyage to Antarctica and her character arc run parallel.

For my art, my work is concerned with humanity’s relationship with the nonhuman. We share ancestry with all living organisms. Our connection to the natural world is innate, and yet we have insulated ourselves to the extent that wilderness, for most of us, is unfamiliar and unnerving territory. I am interested in the anxiety many people feel when they are confronted with their natural roots. Even more so, I am interested in environmental science. I have always said that if I had two lives, I’d study art in one and science in the other. For the last two years, I have studied Art and Nature at university and researched climate change with my own reading. The more I read, the more compelled I am to fight for a stable climate.

Writer or scientist

Lindblad Cove, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica.

Lindblad Cove, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica. Photo credit: James Balog

Earlier this year, I was considering studying science at university in 2017, thinking I could make a difference working out in the field. But then I watched a documentary about nature photographer, James Balog, and I realised that I am a writer and an artist who understands science, and that is powerful. Scientists have been trying to tell the story of climate change for decades, but as Balog says, sometimes people need to see what the data looks like in the real world. Or perhaps they need to read about it in their own, everyday language. I decided I needed to create art and write stories that make the science easily understood. I’d tell the story of Antarctica with words and paint. There was only one problem… Antarctica is really far away.

Living the dream with Chimu Adventures

Antarctic's pink sky, the child memory of Sophie Hardcatsle

Antarctic’s pink sky, the child memory of Sophie Hardcatsle. Photo credit: shutterstock

I heard about Chimu Adventures in April and started reading about the company. The emphasis Chimu places on supporting and empowering local communities in Latin America impressed me. Even more so, I admired Chimu’s environmental conscience and their commitment to carbon offset measures. I saw that Chimu runs charter cruises each year, themed to support a charity. I wanted to be a part of it, and so I pitched myself to the company. I said that if I were taken as an artist-in-residence to research my next art exhibition and novel, I would use my work to support Chimu’s charity of choice. Little did I know, Chimu already takes an artist-in-residence on their charter cruise each year… And that artist has an exhibition when they return to support Chimu’s charity of choice. And, just two days before I sent my pitch, Chimu Adventures’ CEO, Greg Carter, had suggested Chimu take an emerging artist in 2017.

I was at the Sydney Writer’s festival the day I found out I’d been selected as the artist-in-residence for 2017. I was standing in the foyer of the Rosalyn Packer Theatre when I read the email on my phone. I was going to Antarctica. And if that wasn’t cool enough, Andrew Denton and Jennifer Byrne were coming onboard as guests. I was so ecstatic I did a little dance on the spot. A moment later, my publisher walked up to me with two tickets. I asked her what event she was taking me to. She said, ‘it’s a Q&A with Andrew Denton.’
The whole thing seemed too perfect to be a coincidence. There had to be a reason for it. In my lifetime, Antarctica could become unrecognisable, and I realised my voyage is not only about the romance of seeing the landscape as it is today. I have to make use of the journey to tell a story that is important.

A month later, I was at Ken Done’s exhibition at The Rocks in Sydney. He thanked Chimu Adventures for taking him on the 2015 voyage, and then he talked about the colours of the white continent. He said he’d wondered what there would be to paint other than ice and ocean. He’d expected a palette of blues and whites. What he hadn’t expected were the greens, purples and pinks. It made me think about the picture book with the orcas, the pink sky and the stars appearing.

I’m excited for the screaming 60s, for the wildlife, for the vastness. I’m excited for the colour, for topaz icebergs, for the pink dusk. And most of all, I’m excited for the silence when the twilight stars appear.

Sophie Hardcastle will be a guest on Chimu’s Pure Antarctica voyage departing in February 2017.

Creating a dream, having the dream and let dreams come true. At Chimu Adventures that’s what we like to do. We offer small ship cruises to Antarctica and bring you in contact with the most untouched piece of earth: the white continent. Click here for more information about Chimu or click here for more information about Sophie Hardcastle 

Author: Guest writer