Why History’s Harrowing Polar Expeditions Get Julian Sancton’s Blood Pumping
Julian Sancton knows a thing or two about bone-chilling temperatures. “For a while, I’ve been visiting a friend’s uncle’s lake house in New Hampshire each winter, when it’s typically around zero degrees,” says Sancton, a New York–based author who grew up in France and served as senior features editor at the recently-folded Departures magazine for nearly a decade. Despite the getaway’s frigid conditions, he continues, “It’s just so beautiful, and gave me a taste for the cold.” Perhaps that’s a reason why he was so drawn to the harrowing account of a Belgian polar expedition that took place at the end of the 19th century, in which a ship named the Belgica spent a sunless winter frozen in the Antarctic ice. Sancton traces the historic voyage, which wasn’t exactly smooth sailing, in his first book, Madhouse at the End of the Earth: The Belgica’s Journey Into the Dark Antarctic Night (Penguin Random House), out this week. We recently spoke with Sancton about what he read during his research, and the news sources, podcasts, and TV shows he’s taking in now.
Tell us about some of your favorite books on polar expeditions.