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The Spoil of Mariners

An article on scurvy opens up with the story of the Norwegian whaling station named Smeerenburg, which was abandoned every winter during the off season. When someone got the great idea to leave seven men there all winter to guard equipment, they all died by the end of February.

Scurvy is a particularly horrible way to die, as lack of vitamin C prevents the body from producing sufficient collagen. The symptoms include pain, bleeding, and the inability to move correctly as the body falls apart at the seams. Couple these awful symptoms with the fact that no one knew why it happened, and many societies did not know how to cure it, until James Lind experimented with folk remedies in 1747, including citrus fruits. Even that did not help much, as it took decades for authorities to implement Lind's recommendations.

Read a history of scurvy at Lapham's Quarterly. -via Metafilter  

(Image credit: The National Archives, UK)


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I understand that the Royal Navy had introduced copper water storage tanks to some of it's ships and at the same time instituted testing of citrus as a scurvy remedy by adding the juice to the water stored in these copper tanks.

Apparently copper reacts with, and nullifies, the citrus as an anti scorbutic.

Delay in implementing the citrus cure resulted from the assumption that the citrus was not effective in the testing that utilized copper tanks instead of the usual oak barrels.
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