Madness At Sea – A History

April 2022

Those of you who have spent any time at sea will know how the unique conditions of being afloat can fundamentally change the way that you think and how you experience the world. It will come as no surprise that there have been occasions in history when humans have been pushed to their absolute limits and their minds have cracked; when a firm grasp on reality has catastrophically failed in a sudden a violent shock, or when doubts and anxiety have crept in like water through a tiny hole the hull of ship, unnoticeable until its weight has become too heavy to ignore and impossible to fix.

Dr Sam Willis explores the troubling history of madness at sea, a fascinating topic that allows us to range freely across the oceans of history, exploring a variety of stories that highlight different aspects of how the maritime environment has affected the mental health of sailors in the past. It’s a story of loneliness, hallucinations, psychopaths, endurance and the limits of the human mind. It takes us to the adventures of ancient mythical seafarers, to the age of exploration and global maritime empires, to world wars fought at sea, to the challenges of modern racing and the dangerous pleasures of sailing for fun…

Sam speaks with the author and sailor Nic Compton whose book ‘Off the Deep End‘ explores this theme as never before. Do NOT listen to this episode on your own on a boat, and be certain that safety at sea starts – and ends – in the mind.

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