Madhouse at the End of the Earth: The Belgica's Journey into the Dark Antarctic Night (Paperback)Julian Sancton (author)
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A true tale of Antarctic misadventure that shaded into psychological horror, Sancton’s chilling account of the tragic Belgica expedition to the South Pole reads like a harrowing historical thriller.
Waterstones Non-Fiction Book of the Month for February 2022
The harrowing, survival story of an early polar expedition that went terribly wrong, with the ship frozen in ice and the crew trapped inside for the entire sunless, Antarctic winter
August 1897: The Belgica set sail, eager to become the first scientific expedition to reach the white wilderness of the South Pole. But the ship soon became stuck fast in the ice of the Bellinghausen sea, condemning the ship's crew to overwintering in Antarctica and months of endless polar night. In the darkness, plagued by a mysterious illness, their minds ravaged by the sound of dozens of rats teeming in the hold, they descended into madness.
In this epic tale, Julian Sancton unfolds a story of adventure gone horribly awry. As the crew teetered on the brink, the Captain increasingly relied on two young officers whose friendship had blossomed in captivity - Dr. Frederick Cook, the wild American whose later infamy would overshadow his brilliance on the Belgica; and the ship's first mate, soon-to-be legendary Roald Amundsen, who later raced Captain Scott to the South Pole. Together, Cook and Amundsen would plan a last-ditch, desperate escape from the ice-one that would either etch their names into history or doom them to a terrible fate in the frozen ocean.
Drawing on first-hand crew diaries and journals, and exclusive access to the ship's logbook, the result is equal parts maritime thriller and gothic horror. This is an unforgettable journey into the deep.
Publisher: Ebury Publishing
Number of pages: 368
Weight: 261 g
Dimensions: 198 x 126 x 23 mm
'... exquisitely researched and deeply engrossing' - The New York Times
'Polar exploration was the space travel of its day. Julian Sancton reminds us why, while sending us on an extraordinary expedition, one that left its crew in the deadly grip of the Antarctic pack for more than a year. He sets us down directly amid the polychromatic ice; when a man goes overboard, so do we. Madhouse at the End of the Earth has it all: Idealism, ingenuity, ambition, explosives, flimflammery, a colourful cast, a blank map, a three-month-long night, penguins (and medicinal penguin meat). A riveting tale, splendidly told.' - Stacy Schiff
'Sancton has given us a riveting true-life horror story, the tale of an ambitious crew of sailors who chased glory but wound up trapped in an icy hellscape with slim chance of survival. Madhouse is that rare non-fiction gem -- an obscure but important history transformed by deep research and note-perfect storytelling into a classic thriller. Reading this book is as much an adventure as the very story it tells' - Walter Isaacson
'At once a riveting survival tale and terrifying psychological thriller, Madhouse at the End of the Earth is a mesmerizing, unputdownable read. Julian Sancton has crafted an epic of Antarctic exploration that deserves a place beside Alfred Lansing's immortal classic Endurance' - Nathaniel Philbrick
'Sancton's mix of reportage and novelistic reconstruction keeps the story rolling, even in the frozen doldrums of months-long polar night. The savage beauty of the antarctic landscape grips. The writing is exacting, compelling and compassionate. For all the farce, the facts and human cost of the expedition hit home and the shadows cast on the survivors are long and lasting' - The Literary Review
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“A sensational account of the fated Belgian Antarctic Expedition.”
Early chapters establish the socio-political context and the leading actors: the cool-headed, charismatic daredevil, Dr Frederick Cook; pre-South Pole conqueror, Roald Amundsen; and Commandant Adrien de Gerlache, a... More
“History...but reads like a thriller”
Madhouse at the end of the World is the story of the 1897-1899 Belgian expedition to the Antarctic region, featuring De Gerlach the Belgian responsible for conceiving the idea and obtaining funding for his voyage. We... More
“A superb piece of history”
"Madhouse at the End of the Earth" tells the story of the Belgica and its crew. I knew a little about the story before I picked up this book, but Julian Sancton brings it to life and solidifies the people... More
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