Madhouse at the End of the Earth Madhouse at the End of the Earth

Madhouse at the End of the Earth

The Belgica's Journey into the Dark Antarctic Night

    • 4.3 • 176 Ratings
    • $13.99
    • $13.99

Publisher Description

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The “exquisitely researched and deeply engrossing” (The New York Times) true survival story of an early polar expedition that went terribly awry—with the ship frozen in ice and the crew trapped inside for the entire sunless, Antarctic winter

“The energy of the narrative never flags. . . . Sancton has produced a thriller.”—The Wall Street Journal

In August 1897, the young Belgian commandant Adrien de Gerlache set sail for a three-year expedition aboard the good ship Belgica with dreams of glory. His destination was the uncharted end of the earth: the icy continent of Antarctica.

But de Gerlache’s plans to be first to the magnetic South Pole would swiftly go awry. After a series of costly setbacks, the commandant faced two bad options: turn back in defeat and spare his men the devastating Antarctic winter, or recklessly chase fame by sailing deeper into the freezing waters. De Gerlache sailed on, and soon the Belgica was stuck fast in the icy hold of the Bellingshausen Sea. When the sun set on the magnificent polar landscape one last time, the ship’s occupants were condemned to months of endless night. In the darkness, plagued by a mysterious illness and besieged by monotony, they descended into madness.

In Madhouse at the End of the Earth, Julian Sancton unfolds an epic story of adventure and horror for the ages. As the Belgica’s men teetered on the brink, de Gerlache relied increasingly on two young officers whose friendship had blossomed in captivity: the expedition’s lone American, Dr. Frederick Cook—half genius, half con man—whose later infamy would overshadow his brilliance on the Belgica; and the ship’s first mate, soon-to-be legendary Roald Amundsen, even in his youth the storybook picture of a sailor. Together, they would plan a last-ditch, nearly certain-to-fail escape from the ice—one that would either etch their names in history or doom them to a terrible fate at the ocean’s bottom.

Drawing on the diaries and journals of the Belgica’s crew and with exclusive access to the ship’s logbook, Sancton brings novelistic flair to a story of human extremes, one so remarkable that even today NASA studies it for research on isolation for future missions to Mars. Equal parts maritime thriller and gothic horror, Madhouse at the End of the Earth is an unforgettable journey into the deep.

Biographies & Memoirs
May 4
Penguin Random House LLC

Customer Reviews

R.F. Shook ,


Awesome story of courage and determination. Could not put it down. A must read!

DueToCopyrightIssues ,

Loved it

A superbly written book!

The customer! ,

From the Gerlache strait

Just came back from a tour of the southern part of South America and the tip of the Antarctic peninsula. We navigated the Gerlache strait, been through the Drake passage, Cape Horn, Magellan Strait, Punta Arenas etc. and have seen many of the places named by the Belgica crew. Of course, we had an easy enjoyable cruise. This book is a page turner, extremely well written, as if the author is part of the crew himself. The rich information which was available to him makes is more of a documentary than a novel. The unimaginable hardship and heroism of the Belgica crew, the huge amount of scientific work which was done onboard - are of use to this day. A must read.

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