A Fulbright Fellow at Canterbury University, Christchurch is spending a year at Gateway Antarctica writing a book about New Zealand's relationship with Antarctic exploration and how it has influenced life in Lyttelton and Christchurch.
Leslie Roberts, an essayist with a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Iowa, is gathering together the stories, anec„ dotes and experiences of many New Zealanders who have travelled south to Antarctica.
"The book is unique in that it is attempting to define a culture most people don't recognise as such „Antarcticans. It is also trying to trace a line through the long lineage of Antarctic history here in Canterbury. Where does the connection between these small islands and the great ice land begin? How is it changing?"
Leslie fell under the spell of Antarctica 15 years ago when she spent four months at sea working as a news reporter on a Greenpeace ship. "I was never able to forget the Antarctic and really wanted to get back to it.
So I made a conscious decision about six years ago to radically change my life, and I packed up my family and moved from San Francisco to the mid-west to pursue creative non-fiction writing."
Leslie estimates that there are upwards of 10,000 Antarcticans worldwide, with a couple of thousand living in New Zealand. "I am interested in hearing their stories. I am interested in hearing how the Antarctic inhabits people's minds." she said. "For far too long Antarctic stories have been presented as essentially British stories. I believe New Zea landers' role in how we understand how the Ice has been, and continues to be, is profound.
"It is in New Zealand that we find the 'little stories', as carefully pre„ served as the pony snowshoes in Canterbury Museum. It's a great cultural gift to keep track of the oral traditions of the place that has no indigenous human population." Leslie said the book could only be written in Canterbury. "There is no other place where the history is so deep." Christchurch was rich in Antarctic resources, she said.
"Gateway Antarctica offers a unique, dedicated Antarctic research centre and the city is home to the two best Antarctic institutions in the world „ the International Antarctic Centre and the Canterbury Museum."
Leslie's book will be titled Amundsen's Knfe. Amundsen's knife is in the Canterbury Museum and was the knife that Amundsen used to cut the bamboo used to fly the first flag at the South Pole.
Leslie chose it for the name of the book because it was a simple seaman's tool that represented an important moment in man's quest for the unknown.
Leslie would like to hear from anyone with an Antarctic story to tell. She can be contacted at Canterbury University via email: 1ro24@student. canterbury.ac .nz.