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I felt as if I were both freer than ever before and more constrained, I felt as if I could do anything as long as I did not mind being watched
—a First expedition member in Annihilation.

Area X is a region of coastline in an undisclosed part of the United States. It is the setting of the first and third books in the Southern Reach Trilogy, Annihilation and Acceptance.


Several decades before the events of Annihilation, the region that now comprises Area X underwent a transformation, the nature of which has never been fully determined. The region became separated from the outside world by an invisible border, and all communication with the inhabitants behind the border was lost. Any objects, whether vehicles, animals or people, that passed through the border from the outside world inexplicably vanished and could not be recovered. Following the appearance of the border, a government agency known as the Southern Reach was established to study Area X and its anomalous properties.

We learn in the book there is a map of Area X although it appears that some places are not documented such as the tower/tunnel that the 12th expedition explored. Some of the places in Area X that are visited in Annihilation included a lighthouse, the marshes, and a base camp. There is also a border that separates Area X from the rest of the world. When the psychologist is dying, she confesses that the border is moving north. In other words, Area X is expanding.

Real-world background[]

St. Marks Lighthouse.

According to author Jeff VanderMeer, Area X is, "more or less, a transformed version of the fourteen-mile hike [he did] for almost twenty years at the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge in North Florida."[1] Many of the animals and vegetation that VanderMeer has seen on this hike appear in the novel. In March 2014, as part of a piece on VanderMeer and Annihilation, he visited the St. Marks Lighthouse that inspired one of the settings in the book.