In Wetumpka, AL.

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Copyright 2003 Edit Saturday October 25, 2014

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Mass insanity aboard the Belgica on the Belgian Polar Expedition of 1897/99


The Belgica, a converted sealer, was custom fitted for the Antarctic polar expedition.  Each man was measured so his bunk could be the exact size thus saving  space.

The shape of the  hull was changed to a  "V" rather than the normal rounded configuration so that it would be pushed up by pack ice freezing under it rather than being crushed.


With the exception of Fredrick Cook, ship's doctor, the entire crew began to go insane when the ship was trapped in pack ice for thirteen months. Only one man was permanently insane.  He was escorted back to Norway by Raul Amundsen on a mail boat.



Cook first blamed the constant darkness. The symptoms got worse when the sun returned. Then he blamed constant sunlight.    ("Through the First Antarctic Night" by Fredrick Cook)






One man became a deaf mute. Another hid in small spaces to sleep believing the others were plotting to kill him  Cook described the general conditions of the men sitting around with nothing to do. Only Cook maintained his normal duties of ship's doctor.     Once the ship was stationary, trapped in ice, all the sailors in the  ship's crew had little to do. They were not scientists with duties to perform for the scientific expedition.

The scientists had limited space. A shelter had been constructed on the bridge. But it had only space for a single man between the work surface and outer wall. That meant that when two or more scientists worked at the same time they stood either close to together or side by side in each other's peripheral vision. Each  would have Subliminal Distraction exposure while they concentrated to perform duties from subliminally detecting the movement of the person working beside them.

Mental breaks have happened on scientific expeditions for over a hundred years. Admiral Byrd took a dozen straight jackets on his expeditions but only one casket. This has been blamed on the poor mental quality of men with the expertise to survive in harsh conditions on the expeditions. But now the mental breaks have happened to well trained and educated cosmonauts and astronauts. There was a full psychotic break on Soyuz-21. Buzz Aldrin, in his book "Return to Earth" said his mental problems began after confinement in the Houston quarantine center after his walk on the moon.




     Adrien de Gerlache on the bridge of the Belgica.













   Unaware of Subliminal Distraction, events such as mass insanity on the Belgica, have been blamed on mass hysteria.

Small tight living arrangements on these Arctic and Antarctic expeditions set up the first element for the "special circumstances for Subliminal Distraction.

Subliminal Distraction as a normal feature of everyone's physiology of sight would have begun causing psychiatric symptoms when early man stopped roosting in trees for night time safety and started building too-small single-room shelters.

Evidence of this lies in Culture Bound Syndromes. They are small mental events that happen around the world. Each ethnic or cultural group experiences them in terms of local beliefs.


Other books about the "Psychology of Isolation" have proposed psychosocial psychobabble explanations of these mental events. But they do serve as a source of information  about mental events in isolated conditions.