Julian Sancton Talks About His Book

If you missed our June 10, 2022 event highlighted by a talk with author Julian Sancton you can still see the exhibition of over 50 photographs taken by Dr. Frederick Cook, between the years 1891-1908, during his expeditions to Greenland, Tierra del Fuego, Antarctica, Mount Denali and the North Pole. The exhibition will include photos of sailing ships, polar landscapes, and a large collection of rare photographs of the Inuit and indigenous people.

Mr. Sancton inspired the audience with his expressed appreciation of Dr. Cook who he saw as an incredibly complex hero with enormous gifts, as well as deep flaws.

In this YouTube video,  Mr. Sancton talks about what inspired him to write about the voyage of the Belgica and what drew him to study the life and times of Dr. Cook in great depth.

Julian Sancton

Photo: © Justin Bishop

About the Author & Speaker

Julian Sancton is the former senior features editor at Departures magazine, where he wrote 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.

About Madhouse at the End of the Earth

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. It was to become “a madhouse at the end of the earth”. Read more about the journey of the Belgica below. Better yet…


Madhouse at the End of the Earth

The Voyage of The Belgica (1897 – 1899)

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.


Read about Dr. Cook’s other expeditions.

We are grateful to the following benefactors for their help on The Frederick A. Cook Polar project:
Julian Sancton, Author, Madhouse at the End of the Earth • DesignLab Scanning and Printing Services by Nick Clemente  designlabny.comFine and Applied Art Services  Archival Framing  rpseehausen@gmail.comMyron Gittell, Sullivan County Historical Society, Board Member • Roger Dowd, Website & Graphic Design

For more information contact Carol Smith, Frederick Cook Society, Executive Director, at 845 671-9548 or email: carol@frederickcookpolar.org

You may also call the Sullivan County Museum at 845 434-8044.

© The Frederick Cook Society | 2022
Sullivan County Museum P.O. Box 247. Hurleyville, NY 12747

Site design by Roger Dowd Design