February 14, 1879
Lieutenant Schwatka "I found a great deal of scurvy prevailing among the ships and the large number of crews. The greater variety of animal life in the frigid zones over the vegetable (the latter having hardly an edible representative in the whole arctic flora) makes it the main dependence on which the polar voyager must rely to secure exemption from that disease."
Last Visit with Whalemen - Preparation for Departure
Leaving Camp Daly on the 10th of February I arrived at Marble Island on the 14th. I shall not dwell long on the various commonplace incidents encountered, the kindnesses of the officers of the whaling ships, the wonderful but pleasant change to a civilized abode once more. However, it was a suffocating feeling which first accompanied that change, as I had left the temperature of the igloo for that of the ships, generally kept at about 77 * F. I found a great deal of scurvy, that bane of the Arctic sailor, prevailing among the ships and the large number of crews.
The greater variety of animal life in the frigid zones over the vegetable (the latter having hardly an edible representative in the whole arctic flora) makes it the main dependence on which the polar voyager must rely to secure exemption from that disease. Every exertion should be made to make the procurement of game as certain as possible by being well provided with the very best of arms, ammunition, and hunting implements and above all good native hunters.
Sir John Ross thought scurvy was produced by the want of fresh bread, yet my party was without fresh bread for two years, and nearly a year without bread of any kind, certainly a fair enough test to exclude it from any of the essential causes. Still the use of fresh bread as an auxiliary prophylactic can not be too strongly dwelt upon. Sir Edward Perry believed that scurvy's principal cause was in the clammy moisture of the ships' quarters, especially when the crew were compelled to sleep in damp bedding. Yet I found no dampness whatever in most of the whaleships suffering with the disease. Innumerable cases where large parties of men have been long subjected to this inconvenience without incurring it makes it a mooted question whether such value can be attributed to it as was by such eminent authority as Sir Edward.
In the employment of a fresh animal food in the Polar zones a great obstacle is the antipathy with which such a diet of fish- eating animals is received. The flesh of the reindeer and musk-ox is at once acceptable, but the walrus, seal and polar bear, have peculiar flavors which with some people it is almost impossible to overcome. The most tenacious epicures are to be found in the forecastle. The educated officer, whose mess table in the past may have been a animated market report, can, with an honorable incentive ahead of him, more readily relinquish his bill of fare than can the foremast hand with his hard tack, salt junk and bitter coffee, to which he is so firmly wedded.