Our microbial siblings huddle beneath ice and drink deep of the iron at Blood Falls. Could they tell us if red tastes the same on Mars?

The McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica are one of the most inhospitable places on Earth. Yet, below these glaciers lies an ecosystem that is somehow thriving. The Blood Falls of Antarctica are iron-rich and inhabited by microbial lifeforms closely related to Proteobacteria. Inspired by this ecosystem and the panspermia theory that speculates life could have originated on Mars, Bex Shea contemplates if they could tell us more abut Mars. This story was awarded 1st Place in our ANTARCTIC FLASH FICTION CONTEST.

//Bex Shea is a writer, roleplaying game enthusiast, and monster sympathizer with a particularly weak spot for Earth’s most cunning predator, the housecat. They are on Twitter at @bexshea and online at www.bexshea.com.//


They spent months cold & starwoven, ice on their tongues. First they dreamt of the moon, but no: there are many things lurking in the dark.

When you think of research being performed in Antarctica, it’s rare that space exploration comes to mind. Yet this is the very expedition that inspired Hester J. Rook’s tale of starwoven explorers. According to the European Space Agency, the extreme conditions of Antarctica, including darkness, harsh cold and isolation, are a “unique testing ground” for what humans will experience on missions to the moon or Mars. This story was awarded 2nd Place in our ANTARCTIC FLASH FICTION CONTEST.

// Hester J. Rook writes poems, stories & starsongs, & edits @TwistedMoonMag. Say hi @kitemonster & read her work at hesterjrook.wordpress.com//


Word was spreading, the heartless empress’ firstborn had perished. The colony knew a child would soon go missing, but didn’t dare speak out.

The emperor penguin is often perceived as stately and dignified, mating for life, and being sweet parental figures. In reality, studies have shown that kidnapping the offspring of other penguins is a common behaviour for penguins who have recently lost their own chicks. Liz Duck-Chong takes this concept, and combines it with the familiar construct of a tyrannical empress, to create a fantastical view of Antarctica that you may have never considered. This story was awarded 3rd Place in our ANTARCTIC FLASH FICTION CONTEST.

//Liz Duck-Chong is a writer, guitarist and photographer. She can be found @lizduckchong, or occasionally behind unsuspecting large rocks.//

Winners | 48 Hour Flash Fiction Contest

On June 7th 2016, Story Seed Vault celebrated our first month on Earth by checking our stats. I was truly astonished to see that we had managed to reach almost every continent on Earth!

Without you, our readers, we could not have done this. Not content with half measures, we decided to see if our site could be read from Antarctica. We reached out to @AusAntarctic and they agreed to pass on our request to their Antarctic colleagues. Less than a week later, success!


Story Seed Vault has now been read on every continent on Earth. Congrats to all our authors!

The Contest

To thank the Australian Antarctic Division for their contribution to science and to celebrate virtually reaching Antarctica, Story Seed Vault held our first 48 Hour Flash Fiction Contest. We were honoured to receive several submissions and are so grateful to all the respondents for conducting their own research on Antarctica and providing fascinating stories.

We can now reveal to you that your stories were not only about Antarctica – they were also judged by two Antarctic expeditioners from the Australian Antarctic Division! I’m so grateful for Eliza Grey for passing on our request to the expeditioners. Once we removed all identifying details, your stories were passed onto our judges for their consideration.

Our Judges

Robert Bonney  is a Communications Technical Officer based at Davis research station. He enjoys reading about all things related to Antarctica but especially science.

Leon Hamilton is the Engineering Technical Officer working for the Bureau of Meteorology. He is based at Mawson research station.  3 winters on ice so far and looking forward to the next mad idea.


First Place: Bex Shea @bexshea, Blood Falls

Second Place: Hester J. Rook @kitemonster, Training for Space in Antarctica

Third Place: Liz Duck-Chong @lizduckchong, Kidnapping Emperor Penguin Chicks

Honourable Mentions: Kit Beard @thebeardlessone, The Colour of Snow; Bex Shea @bexshea, BICEP Telescope; Ada Quinn, Covert Polar Bears

Each of our judges were asked to list their top three choices and given one honourable mention each. One honorable mention was awarded by selected Story Seed Vault readers. The final results were moderated by our editor Alex Massey.


Congrats to all our winners and thank you to all those who submitted! The winning stories will be published next Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

We plan on doing more 48 hour competitions in future, so make sure to subscribe to our Twitter feed and stay tuned for future updates!