Martin's Must Reads: 'Madhouse at the End of the Earth'
“In August 1897 Adrien de Gerlache set sail aboard the good ship Belgica. Her 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.”
I’m Mark Martin with "Martin’s Must Reads" and with this quote from the cover of Julian Sancton’s book Madhouse at the End of the Earth: The Belgica’s Journey into the Dark Antarctic Night a story unfolds of one man’s unchecked ego and reckless drive for fame, of an expedition almost destroyed but for the efforts of the crew who saved the day and their lives.
Totally unprepared for the harsh and unforgiving elements the crew of the Belgica would face, bad decision after bad decision left the ship icebound farther south than anyone had ever been.
This is a story of de Gerlache’s incompetence and the actions of the officers who saved the ship and the lives of the crew from the deadly Antarctic winter. The author recounts the actions of Dr Fredrick Cook, the American who later would gain infamy for his false claim of being the first man to the North Pole, and Roald Amundsen, the Norwegian who would return to Antarctica to be the first man to the South Pole and the brilliant actions that saved the ship and lives.
Written in a narrative style that is easy to read, this true story is a wonderful case study of human behavior when men are trapped on a small ship, with only endless darkness, mind numbing cold, scurvy, and starvation as their only companions.
If you are looking to read about the human condition, danger, excitement and exceptional heroics then you must read Julian Sancton’s book Madhouse at the End of the Earth.