Jess Verheul grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa and has always had an affinity for the outdoors, wild and remote places, exploring, surviving and adventuring. She believes she might have been inspired and influenced by her grandparents being farmers; “we spent much time playing outside growing up. I loved being on the farm, and my parents took us on some great safari holidays when we were younger too”. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree, specialising in Geography and Environmental Management. In her third year (2009), her mom showed her an article in an old girls school newsletter, an article by a fellow former school girl, who had been in Antarctica as the overwintering Medical Doctor. This sparked a conversation which in turn started a personal obsession…Mission Antarctica, by any means necessary. Her sense of adventure and the will to explore, or a search for depth and resilience to struggle and experience the elements for one’s-self sparked this obsession.

Jess completed her Master’s Degree in Environmental Management in 2012 and started working in the corporate consulting world. She relocated to Cape Town in 2014 and got involved as a volunteer firefighter and started experimenting more with creative hobbies like drawing and painting. In 2018 she was offered a volunteer position for the summer takeover to SANAE IV, South Africa’s Antarctic station located on the Vesleskarvet nunatak in Dronning Maud Land. She joined the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) team as a volunteer for the summer takeover expedition. As a member of a team of 10 people for SANSA undertaking upgrades and maintenance at SANAE IV over the summer takeover period from December 2018 to March 2019.

“Lacking a good camera but having a desire to experience this incredible place to the fullest, and knowing that drawing is a fantastic meditation; I treated myself to a blank sketchbook and some fine-liner pens before departing on our journey. I like creative expression. It helps me clear my head and experience a place or a situation more deeply.”

The SANSA Team didn’t have to do any work for the 11-day ship journey South, so she spent her time reading several books and did a bit of sketching. On the 19th of December the S.A. Agulhas II was close to the Fimbul Ice-shelf in Dronning Maud Land. Over the summer Jess spent approximately 100 hours in between work and chores, helping out and socialising; drawing, painting and studying the landscapes. “It was an unforgettable experience, one that still feels like a dream. I am ever grateful for the incredible opportunity. Since having spent all that time observing the place, I will remember it deeply for the rest of my days.”

ANT{INK}TICA :        There were initially no plans to publicise her art, but the opportunity was presented by the archivist at Antarctic Legacy of South Africa (ALSA) to publish it in a coffee table book. This is the first art publication from the Antarctic Legacy of South Africa. The book consists of 49 sketches and 3 poems, depicting scenes experienced by Jess during her Antarctic Expedition. Only 100 publications are available and will be signed by the artist. This publication will be a unique addition to Art Book Collections and Antarctic publications.  Visit the website  to read more about the publication and place an order or contact for more details.

Jess’ message to you: “To get out there, challenge yourself. To believe in yourself and your ability. To try new things. Try harder, to judge yourself less and to never give up. To appreciate the experiences and lessons you’ve been endowed with and to help others along their way”. . Jess’ hope is that this book will shine a light for you, to show you that anything is possible. That persistence pays. Magic exists. And every day is a gift. Life is short, don’t waste a second.

Text: Jess Verheul Photo credits: Jess Verheul, Colin de la Harpe, ALSA

© South African National Antarctic Programme • Managed and administered by Antarctic Legacy of South Africa • Photo Credits
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