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Message Cylinders

This work is part of the Antarctic Circles sculptural book series which explores Antarctica’s natural environment, science and heritage in the context of the 1959 Antarctic Treaty and subsequent environmental protocols.

Comprised of an aluminium container protecting a poem encased in a sealed cylindrical glass vessel, the Antarctic Message Cylinder series references both communication during the early days of polar exploration and current day paleoclimate science research.


Early polar explorers would leave messages in metal cylinders buried within stone cairns for communication between ships and potential rescuing parties  These messages would commonly give details of events; weather and seas conditions faced; and the route of the planned forward journey. In contemporary Antarctic paleoclimate research, ice cores are drilled and the air trapped in bubbles in the ice can be extracted and analysed. Data from the gases inside the air bubbles enables scientists to understand levels of carbon dioxide in past climates dating as far back as hundreds of thousands of years.

The aluminium case in this artwork is an echo of both the historic message cylinders and the containers used to store ice cores. The sealed glass vessel is a metaphor for both the ice cores and the air bubbles extracted by scientists to analyse past climate conditions. The encased poems speak of global atmospheric circulation over millennia, and the ice is represented as a vault, holding the histories of Earth's changing atmosphere and climate.

Life Skies

Through air, leaves, and seas, I breeze

The world changes me

In this southern home, I rest

Freezing time

Layered with tales to tell

Stay a while. Let me share all that I’ve seen

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