ABOUT THE BOOK
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
‘An unforgettable tale brilliantly told’ — Scott Anderson
‘It grips from first sentence to last’ — Lawrence Osborne
‘The next great contribution to polar literature’ — Hampton Sides
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.
What a tremendous true story this is. The research that this author has pulled together is admirable, from the crews’ diaries and journals to the access of the ships detailed logbook. At the beginning of the journey, it felt like it was the lull before the storm. It was a time to get familiar with these historical figures before the making of a historical event, and it felt exhilarating to be on board the Belgica. There was little understanding of the consequences of long haul sailing expeditions and the effect that they would have on the crew.
The ship had set sail for Antarctica and was vastly underprepared for the journey and the winter that just wouldn’t let them go. The captain relied heavily on his officers, especially Dr Freddrick Cook the doctor on board the ship and Roald Amundsen First Mate. Besides the savage bitterness of the winter, there was endless darkness. It was not just detrimental to their mental health but also their physical health. The sailors were listless, confused and giving up on life. It was the doctor that came up with the solution.
The crew were encountering new animals and cataloguing them, but the landscape was a different matter. The land was constantly moving and reforming into unrecognisable landscapes, meaning leaving the ship and losing sight of it could be a fatal error. The story that is told is fascinating with great detail to the heath of the men, and everything that they encountered. Even now, the descriptions are truly breathtaking.
What I also liked about this book was how the story of the primary characters was carried on once the expedition was over, so I know what happened to them. I feel nothing ever matched their time in Antarctica, no matter what thrill they reached for, A fascinating, inspiring story of first footers and heroes.
I wish to thank the publisher and Net Galley for an e-copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Julian Sancton has written for Vanity Fair, Departures, Esquire, The New Yorker, Wired, and Playboy, among other publications. He spent most of his childhood in France and attended Harvard University, where he studied European history. He lives in Larchmont, New York, with his partner, Jessica, and their two daughters.