Anson's Voyage Round the World eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 182 pages of information about Anson's Voyage Round the World.

CHAPTER 7.  OUTBREAK OF SCURVY*—­DANGER OF SHIPWRECK.

(Note.  ‘Scurvy.’  The nature of the disease and the proper method of treatment were not fully understood in Anson’s day.  It is caused by improper diet and particularly by the want of fresh vegetables.  Lemon and lime juice are the best protectives against it and they were made an essential element in nautical diet in 1795.  The disease which used to cause dreadful mortality on long voyages has since that time gradually disappeared and is now very rarely met with.)

THE PACIFIC.

Soon after our passing Straits le Maire the scurvy began to make its appearance amongst us; and our long continuance at sea, the fatigue we underwent, and the various disappointments we met with, had occasion its spreading to such a degree, that at the latter end of April there were but few on board who were not in some degree afflicted with it; and in that month no less than forty-three died of it on board the Centurion.  But though we thought that the distemper had then risen to an extraordinary height, and were willing to hope that as we advanced to the northward its malignant would abate, yet we found, on the contrary, that in the month of May we lost nearly double that number.  And as we did not get to land till the middle of June, the mortality went on increasing, and the disease extended itself so prodigiously that after the loss of above two hundred men we could not at last muster more than six foremast men in a watch capable of duty.

This disease, so frequently attending all long voyages, and so particularly destructive to us, is usually attended with a strange dejection of the spirits, and with shiverings, tremblings, and a disposition to be seized with the most dreadful terrors on the slightest accident.  Indeed, it was most remarkable, in all our reiterated experience of this malady, that whatever discouraged our people, or at any time damped their hopes, never failed to add new vigour to the distemper, for it usually killed those who were in the last stage of it, and confined those to their hammocks who were before capable of some kind of duty; so that it seemed as if alacrity of mind and sanguine thoughts were no contemptible preservatives from its fatal malignity.

A most extraordinary circumstance, and what would be scarcely credible upon any single evidence, is, that the scars of wounds which had been for many years healed were forced open again by this virulent distemper.  Of this there was a remarkable instance in one of the invalids on board the Centurion, who had been wounded above fifty years before at the battle of the Boyne;* for though he was cured soon after, and had continued well for a great number of years past, yet, on his being attacked by the scurvy, his wounds, in the progress of his disease, broke out afresh, and appeared as if they had never been healed.  Nay, what is still more astonishing, the callous of a broken

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