Join us as bookseller Jon Grand talks with journalist and author Julian Sancton about his new nonfiction title, Madhouse at the End of the Earth: The Belgica's Journey Into the Dark Antarctic Night. Nathaniel Philbrick, New York Times bestselling author of In the Heart of the Sea, says of this book, "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." This program is free and open to the public. Register HERE.
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About the Book: 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.
"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
About the Author: 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.
Conversation partner Jon Grand is The Book Stall's resident non-fiction guru, and frequently serves as our guest interviewer/moderator.
The harrowing 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