It was while he worked as a doctor in the sweltering heat of the tropics by the Indian Ocean in Kenya that Gavin Francis first dreamed of travelling to colder climes. The tropics for him were not 'palm tree-strewn beaches' to lie about on, but relentless sun and teeming humanity. Perhaps it's not surprising that it was there that he conceived a desire to experience its antithesis: Cold and Emptiness.
For a time he worked as a GP in Stromness. Then he travelled further North through Unst in Shetland to the Faroes and on to Iceland, Greenland, Svalbard, Lapland. His account of these travels, True North, became an award winning book fascinating to all those for whom the north holds mystery and allure.
But he is clearly a man of opposites. His trip to the far north accomplished, he felt the call of the south. The extreme south: Antarctica. He spent six months there with the British Antarctic Survey in the company mainly of Emperor penguins.
In an interview on BBC Radio Orkney this morning he told Fionn McArthur how he became entranced by the place and by the penguins. 'It's so empty,' he said, 'the only species that survives there apart from humans, is the penguins. I'm not a specialist bird watcher or a twitcher, but I became fascinated by them and their behaviour.'
His book, Empire Antarctica is the result of that fascination.
Fionn recognised that in this new book the writing is even 'more assured' and Gavin Francis agreed. He hopes, he says, to go on developing as a writer, because good writing is important to him.
There is a unique chance to come and see Gavin Francis at this stage in his writing journey. He will be visiting Orkney again on Monday to talk about his new book and to show his amazing slides of the area. Expect stunning images of aurora borealis, sunrises, sunsets, ice, spindrift. And Emperor Penguins.
Monday 5 August
Orkney Library & Archive
The event is FREE but TICKETED
Phone: 01856 873166 to make sure you get your ticket!
Come on now, form an orderly queue!