Eric Nevin | Essays

Love Letters to Sub-Antarctic Islands


Assigned one portion of a world map, distributed in pieces by visiting critic Karel Martens to his graphic design students at the Yale School of Art, Eric Nevin created a booklet of love letters to the islands of the sub-Antarctic. The writing charmed us and the history adds something to our understanding of this desolate part of the world. — The Editors


Bouvet Island1
South Atlantic Ocean

24 Feb 2005

Dear Bouvet,

You don't know me, but I saw you in Alien vs. Predator.2 That scene with you & all the lasers was incredibly cool. You were like, solid ice.

I had to ask around 'cause I wasn't sure if you were "connected," or, you know, an island.3 Then I found out that some Brits and some Norwegians were fighting over you, and I was like, yes.4 Plus, the fact that you're rarely visited by man seems to work in my favor.

Look, I know all about the Vela Incident.5 It's just a they-said, they-said thing. What's important is, you're stronger because of it. I think if you're a little bit radioactive, that's a little bit sexy.

Please write back!

Your pal,

1 Norwegian Bouvetøya means Bouvet Island.
2 Bouvet, redundantly called Bouvetøya Island, was the setting of the 2004 movie.
3 French explorer Jean-Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier discovered Bouvet in 1739. Since he did not circumnavigate his discovery, he could not be certain whether it was an island or part of a continent.
4 The United Kingdom waived its claim to Bouvet in favor of Norway in 1928.
5 On September 22, 1979, a satellite recorded a flash of light, possibly the result of a nuclear bomb detonation, near Bouvet Island. The detonation, dubbed the Vela Incident, scattered radioactive debris over a wide area. No country has ever admitted responsibility for the test.


Marion Island1
Prince Edward Islands
South Indian Ocean

8 Apr 2005

Dear Marion,

I discovered you by accident. I was lost... lost at sea. Just a lonely hunter looking for something to kill. Then you appeared on my horizon. You were so dark and brooding, I knew, then and there, we were meant for each other. But you were hard to reach. I spent five days just trying to touch you (remember? that time with Jules?).2 You were perfect, and I wanted to lie with you in your bed of kelp.

Okay, you didn't spend much time in the sun. So your place was infested with mice, so what? The cats took care of that, anyway. Too bad they multiplied so quickly. I didn't think poisoning all of them was the right thing to do, but whatever.3

The thing is, Marion, my love for you was real. But — how do I say this — I think I've discovered someone else. Actually, it's your brother the prince.4 I guess I'm attracted to royalty. Plus, he's less prone to "eruptions." I hope you can understand.

Yours truly,

1 Marion Island and Prince Edward Island are together known as Prince Edward Islands.
2 Dutch explorers Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne and his second-in-command, Jules Crozet, discovered the islands by accident in 1663, and spent five days trying to land. They initially thought they had found the then only conjectured Antarctica.
3 In 1949 five domestic cats were brought onto Marion Island to deal with a mice problem. The cats multiplied quickly, and by 1977 they threatened to drive the birds on the island to extinction. As part of a "cat eradication program," a few cats were infected with a highly specific disease called feline panleucopenia, which reduced the number of cats dramatically. It is believed that there are no cats left anymore on Marion Island today.
4 Prince Edward Island lies about 12 miles to the northeaest.


Heroine Breakers
Crozet Islands
South Indian Ocean

30 May 2005

Dear H.B.,1

You rock.2
I want to wreck my ship on your shore.3
Tell your sister I want her.4
No, not Cochons!5

Your honey-lovin',

1 French: Brisants de l'Héroïne
2 Heroine Breakers, while considered an island in the Crozet archipelago, is actually a pair of large rocks.
3 Shipwrecks occur so frequently at the Crozet Islands that the British Royal Navy used to send a ship there every few years to look for stranded survivors.
4 Possession Island (Île de la Possession)
5 Pig Island (Île aux Cochons)


Kerguelen Islands1
South Indian Ocean

8 Jun 2005

Dear Kergie,

I just found out they used to call you Desolation.2 That's funny, because desolate is how I feel when I'm away from you.

I know you probably don't think of me too often. It's okay. I'm sure you're occupied with all of those science teams and feral cats. It seems like you're always surrounded by a hundred other things. Your own little archipelago.

You're a French possession, but I wish you were mine.


1 The Kerguelen Islands are an archipelago of some three hundred islands and islets.
2 The main island, Grande Terre, was originally called Desolation Island.


Heard Island
Southern Ocean

29 Jun 2005

Dear H.,

Heard you were lonely. Heard you were feeling bleak and mountainous. Heard you lost all of your seals.1

Don't despair. I heard that, until recently, nobody had even heard of you.2 Today, you have friends in faraway places who think about you often. And you live in your very own special ocean.3 Plus, you're Australian, so that's neat.

Call me if you need somebody to talk to. But don't forget the time difference, I go to bed early.


1 By 1880, most of the seal population had been wiped out by hunters. Since hunting was banned, the seal population has rebounded.
2 Captain John Heard, an American sealer, sighted the island in 1853. It is probable that no human had ever seen the island until this time.
3 The Southern Ocean is the body of water encircling Antarctica. It is the world's fourth largest ocean and the latest defined, having been accepted by a decision of the International Hydrographic Organization in 2000.


Amsterdam Island
South Indian Ocean

19 Aug 2005

Dear Ammie,

Sometimes you're just so... remote.1

Why? It is me? Did I say something? I really happen to admire your broadly oval shape. And who among us doesn't have a few craters.

Listen, Amster: please let me in. I want to inhabit you. It's not like I'd be your first, anyway. Or even your thirty-first.2 Just because I'm not a doctor or a meteorologist or a physicochemist like all the others — does that mean we aren't meant to be together?

When was the last time you invited me to Camp Heurtin?3 Um, never? Now it's me who's heurtin.

Don't give me that line about preferring your solitude. I've noticed you've been pretty tight with What's-His-Name lately — Paul.4 You two are quite the pair, wouldn't you say?

Call me,


1 Amsterdam Island, together with neighboring St. Paul Island, are among the most isolated land masses in the world. They are located more than 1,800 miles from any continent, approximately halfway between South Africa and Australia.
2 The island has about 30 inhabitants, who include administrative staff, a doctor, technical personnel, and scientists, who study the weather, ornithology, physicochemistry of the atmosphere, and geomagnetism.
3 The first base on the island, erected in 1949, was originally called Camp Heurtin.
4 St. Paul Island is fifty miles to the south.


Posted in: History, Social Good

Comments [9]

I hope Eric will share some of the responses. Even if he gets the cold shoulder. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr ...

Joe Moran

Having just recently visited Aitcho Island, Deception Island, Cuverville Island, Neko Harbour and Half Moon Island, I too have fallen in love with these sub antarctic islands. It's something that even the roughest seas and biting cold won't cool.
Everyday since, I've longed for my return to their shores of beauty.

i think these are just brilliant. any pics of the booklet itself? i want to have a copy of this piece!

makes me think a lot about the poetic histories and tensions between the diomedes islands in the bering strait (big diomedes is controlled by russia and little diomedes is controlled by the US, separated only by the international date line.


again, brilliant (and good to know where aliens vs predator was filmed - cool).
Gong Szeto

Sorry, I think this is silly. The childish tone is not endearing but grating. The topic of sub-Antarctic islands could be both fascinating and enlightening, without the love letters spin.

I'm sure the booklet is beautifully designed but the content as with many vanity projects leaves a lot to be desired.

I like it.

Brilliant. Though your presentation of it came across more as a history assignment rather than a design project...I'd love to have seen the finished piece.

Taking this to the next level I'd weave all the letters into a tale, love lost in Antartica or something along those lines. And work in the postmarks needed to get letters to and from the islands.

Dear Eric Nevin:

I'm in love with footnotes. Is that wrong?

matt kirkland

Dear Sabine,

I know where I want to meet you. And annoy the crap out of Ronan.



I like it. I would like a personal copy of it actually. :)

Jobs | June 16