Madhouse at the End of the Earth

von Sancton, Julian
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Sancton, Julian Madhouse at the End of the Earth
Sancton, Julian - Madhouse at the End of the Earth

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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"Deserves a place beside Alfred Lansing's immortal classic Endurance."-Nathaniel Philbrick "A riveting tale, splendidly told . . . Madhouse at the End of the Earth has it all."-Stacy Schiff "Julian Sancton has deftly rescued this forgotten saga from the deep freeze."-Hampton Sides 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 this epic tale, Julian Sancton unfolds a 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.


Sancton, Julian

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Chapter 1

Why Not Belgium?

August 16, 1897


The river Scheldt wound languidly from northern France through Belgium, taking a sharp westward turn at the port of Antwerp, where it became deep and wide enough to accommodate oceangoing ships. On this cloudless summer morning, more than twenty thousand people flocked along the city s riverfront to salute the departure of the Belgica and exult in its glory. Freshly painted steel gray, the 113-foot-long, three-masted steam whaler, fitted with a coal-powered engine, was headed to Antarctica to chart its unknown coasts and collect data on its flora, fauna, and geology. But what drew the crowds today was not the promise of scientific discovery so much as national pride: Belgium, little Belgium, a country that had declared its independence from Holland sixty-seven years earlier and was thus younger than many of its citizens, was staking a claim to the next frontier of human exploration.

At ten o clock, the vessel weighed anchor and sailed at a regal pace in the direction of the North Sea, so freighted with coal, provisions, and equipment that her deck floated just a foot and a half above the water. Escorted by a flotilla of yachts that carried government officials, well-wishers, and press, the Belgica paraded before the city. She glided past the flag-bedecked townhouses lining the waterfront, past the flamboyant Gothic cathedral that dominated the skyline, past Het Steen, the fortress that had loomed over the river since the Middle Ages. From a pontoon, a military band played La Brabançonne, Belgium s national anthem, a theme as grand as the country was small. Cannons fired in tribute, from both banks of the river. Vessels from around the world blew their foghorns and hoisted Belgium s black, yellow, and red flag. Cheers rippled across the crowd as the Belgica sailed by. The entire town seemed to vibrate.

Gazing back at this roiling sea of banners and hats and handkerchiefs from the bridge of the ship was the expedition s commandant, thirty-one-year-old Adrien de Gerlache de Gomery. His face betrayed little emotion, but behind his heavy-lidded eyes he burned with excitement. Every detail of his appearance had been meticulously attended to in preparation for this moment, down to the twist of his mustache, the crop of his beard, and the knot of his cravat. De Gerlache s dark, double-breasted greatcoat was too warm for this August morning, and not nearly warm enough for the frigid ends of the earth, but it lent him a dashing air befitting a man in the process of making history. Now and again, basking in the acclamation, he pulled off his Belgica-emblazoned cap by its patent-leather brim and waved it at the jubilant multitude. He had long hungered for these cheers. The starting point felt to him like the finish line. My state of mind, he wrote, was that of a man who has just reached his goal.

In a way, he had. That the ship was leaving at all was a personal triumph. Despite the heartfelt patriotism on display this morning, the Belgian Antarctic Expedition was less a national endeavor than the manifestation of Adrien de Gerlache s steadfast will. He had spent more than three years planning, staffing, and raising funds for the journey. His determination alone had won over skeptics, loosened purse strings, and rallied a nation behind him. Now, though he remained ten thousand miles from his destination, he was already enjoying a taste of glory. But on this euphoric day, with his countrymen hip-hip-hooraying him, it was easy for de Gerlache to forget that this glory was on credit. To earn it, he would have to survive one of the most hostile environments on earth, a continent so inimical to human life that no man had yet spent more than a few hours on its shores.

Belgium s border with Holland stretched across the Scheldt a doz
Random House LCC US
Julian Sancton is a senior features editor at Departures magazine, where he writes about culture and travel. His work has appeared in Vanity Fair, Esquire, The New Yorker, Wired, and Playboy, among other publications. He has reported from every continent, including Antarctica, which he first visited while researching this book. He lives in Larchmont, New York, with his partner, Jessica, and their two daughters.
Madhouse at the End of the Earth [is an] exquisitely researched and deeply engrossing account of the Belgica s disastrous Antarctic expedition. Sancton uses the explorers personal diaries of the expedition, which proide an extraordinary treasure trove . . . to tease out the personalities and fears and rivalries of his subjects [in] his increasingly harrowing descriptions of life on the Belgica. The New York Times

I started reading Madhouse at the End of the Earth . . . and I couldn t stop. I skipped all my weekend chores. I carved a groove into the couch, huddling under a big blanket because, I m telling you, reading this book makes you feel cold. And scared. And hungry . . . The book reads like an adventure novel [and] is so detailed you can almost smell and taste it as you read. Bon Appetit

At once a riveting survival tale and a terrifying psychological thriller, Madhouse at the End of the Earth is a mesmerizing, unputdownable read. It deserves a place beside Alfred Lansing s immortal classic Endurance. Nathaniel Philbrick, New York Times bestselling author of In the Heart of the Sea and Valiant Ambition

Madhouse is that rare nonfiction 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, New York Times bestselling author of Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs

Madhouse at the End of the Earth has it all: idealism, ingenuity, ambition, explosives, flimflammery, a colorful cast, a blank map, a three-month-long night, penguins (and medicinal penguin meat). . . . A riveting tale, splendidly told. Stacy Schiff, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Witches and Cleopatra

A generation before Shackleton s Endurance, an adventure every bit as bold and dreadful took place at the bottom of the world, led by a band of unimaginably colorful and resolute explorers. Julian Sancton has deftly rescued this forgotten saga from the deep freeze and given us the next great contribution to polar literature. A wild tale, so well told and immersively researched. Hampton Sides, nationally bestselling author of In the Kingdom of Ice

With meticulous research and a novelist s keen eye, Sancton has penned one of the most enthralling and harrowing adventure stories in years. Scott Anderson, New York Times bestselling author of Lawrence in Arabia and The Quiet Americans

Harrowing . . . Artfully constructed, written with a kind of dread-filled assurance, it grips from first sentence to last. Lawrence Osborne, author of Beautiful Animals and Only to Sleep

This detail-rich account is a sober and humane chronicle of relationships among the explorers and their struggle for survival in the long polar night. Armchair travelers will enjoy. Library Journal

Sancton s riveting history of exploration, ingenuity, and survival . . . reads like fiction and will thrill fans of Endurance and In the Kingdom of Ice. A rousing, suspenseful adventure tale. Kirkus Reviews


4. Mai 2021
0.235 x 0.157 x 0.029 m; 0.428 kg
CHF 19.55
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