Listen free for 30 days

  • Madhouse at the End of the Earth

  • The Belgica’s Journey into the Dark Antarctic Night
  • By: Julian Sancton
  • Narrated by: Vikas Adam
  • Length: 13 hrs and 28 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, World
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (145 ratings)

Listen with a free trial

One credit a month, good for any title to download and keep.
Unlimited listening to the Plus Catalogue - thousands of select Audible Originals, podcasts and audiobooks.
Exclusive member-only deals.
No commitment - cancel anytime.
Buy Now for £25.99

Buy Now for £25.99

Pay using card ending in
By completing your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and authorise Audible to charge your designated card or any other card on file. Please see our Privacy Notice, Cookies Notice and Interest-based Ads Notice.

Summary

Brought to you by Penguin. 

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.

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 firsthand 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.

©2021 Julian Sancton (P)2021 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

"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)

What listeners say about Madhouse at the End of the Earth

Average customer ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    97
  • 4 Stars
    36
  • 3 Stars
    8
  • 2 Stars
    2
  • 1 Stars
    2
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    76
  • 4 Stars
    35
  • 3 Stars
    9
  • 2 Stars
    3
  • 1 Stars
    4
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    87
  • 4 Stars
    31
  • 3 Stars
    7
  • 2 Stars
    2
  • 1 Stars
    1

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

awful awful narration

Seriously what were they thinking? The voice sounds like an insincere American Youth Pastor asking you if, like, everything is all right at home l'il buddy?. It's manifestly unsuitable for this ferocious story about crazy Europeans and derring do in the Antarctic. I have no idea how they thought this would work- but it really really doesn't. It's a shame- it's a great story, but I will have to read it on paper now and I was really looking forward to it accompanying me on my dog walks. Honestly, I have rarely heard a worse mismatch between subject and reader.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • J
  • 03-11-21

A true adventure story

This is an incredible story, as exciting and gripping as any fictional adventure story. The story of the Belgian Antartic Expedition encompasses breathtaking incompetence, amazing heroism, appalling hardship and larger than life characters - including some well known in the history of polar exploration. I cannot understand why the story isn't better known. It would make an amazing film. Only two quibbles. The first is that the narrator has a very idiosyncratic way of pronouncing certain proper names and place names, which grated and confused me a little. The second is the lack of maps and illustrations. This is of course always a problem with audio books, but some do come with pdfs with this information. I assume that the print edition of the book has maps and I would have found these really helpful to understand the route of the Belgica

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Want to listen again!

I heard about this book by accident and did a quick check on Goodreads to get a synopsis.
When I heard it's Antarctic theme, I purchased straight away.
3 days and finished, didnt want it to end.
The author makes a story of real life derring do into an unputdownable thriller like roller coaster ride.
I loved it, and would heartily recommend to anyone with an interest in Antarctic/Marine exploration, but also a brilliant study of the big personalities of the crew of the eponymous Belgica, their back stories and more.
Wonderful!

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Just brilliant

An astonishing story that I had never come across before, and a wonderful redemption of a man (Frederick Cook) whose actions on the Belgica were visionary but whose reputation was subsequently trashed. Beautifully researched and grippingly told. Not convinced this was the right choice of narrator: he reads very nicely but (for want or a better expression) I could have done with a more “muscular” read, or perhaps I just expect tales of derring do to be told in a plummy British accent. Anyhow - that’s a small quibble. I just loved this and heartily recommend it.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating

An excellent listen. Very well written and very well narrated. I recommend it without reservation.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Not a bad listen

Well-read by the narrator and not a bad book. However, I have read/listened to better ones of a similar ilk e.g. the books about Shackleton, Scott and the Erebus journeys were, for me, more engaging.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Gripping read

‘Madhouse at the end of the world’ is story of The Belgica’s, a ship that was the first to journey into the Antarctic that ended up getting caught up an ice pack and became standard through the obsession of the Captain Adrien de Gerlache de Gomery with the intention of either finding the magnetic south pole or getting the ship to go as far south as possible. The story also tells of its crew, including the doctor on board, Cook, who would come up with a range of approaches, some still valid, whilst trying to stop the mum from scurvy and destitution from going insane and dieing. We know at the beginning of the book he and Armudson will survive as Armudson meets him in a Kansas prison where Cook is incarcerated. This is the same Armudson who beat Scott to the North Pole. He was already obsessed by the cold and exploration in a similar way to Cook and the captain. As all I have ever known prior to this book is that Armudson is that he beat Scott to the North Pole, it was interesting to learn more about the man. He would learn a lot from Cook and his experiences of being trapped for in the sea ice, are what probably helped him to beat Scott. It all started on this journey. As the trapped med learn to eat penguins and survive an incredible hardship until they eventually make a plan to escape, whilst also going mad and some of the men dying - it is a gripping and brilliantly told and enthralling tale. A fantastic tale really well told.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Should have been good

DNF bought as a dd. Could have been reduced by a couple of hours but it just dragged on. Will look for another book on this subject or buy the paperback and skip the filler. Narration was ok.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Hard going!

In the end I felt as exhausted as the crew .
I just hoped that they would escape or go to an icy death!
Personally I think that"A voyage for madmen" about the first single handed race around the world far superior.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Beyond excellent!

I’ve loved everything about this fantastic book.. so well written.
I was there in the peril and terror of that frozen world with the men.
I recommend it if you have an adventurous mind …

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Robyn(Amazon)
  • Robyn(Amazon)
  • 29-06-21

Exceptional

Excellent. I compulsively listened to the entire book and ave started from the beginning again. Narration is good, well researched. Gripping