Queries About the Scurvy and the Gazette

August 27, 2009

posted by Caroline Picard

I got this email the other day, a query about the press release I’d sent out about the Gazette:

Hey! Hope all is well in your world. I wanted to being annoying for a moment an question what plays and paper publication had to do with warding off Scuvy which if memory serves is a degenerative disease resulting from a vitamin c defficiency? I’m done being annoying now, sorry.

I thought it was a point worth mentioning, so I posted it here, along with my response-

not annoying at all-
i think that’s part of what is so funny about the whole thing. captain parry believed that scurvy was caused by indolence. so, in a very british way (it strikes me as british anyway), parry made the sailors do all kinds of things to keep themselves occupied when there wasn’t much for anyone to do besides some scientific observations about ice. from what i understand he had all the sailors wake up at six a.m. and scrub the deck with stones. then they kept this newspaper with only happy news (which means its full of weird poems, reviews of the weekly plays they put on, some fake news (it wasn’t exactly fake, but it would include for instance a piece about the capture of a “spy” (in reality an arctic fox) and how the “spy” eventually escaped) and some wanted/missing ads (i.e. the theater needs some backstage hands to help with the female characters costumes, or a letter from a beloved went missing on deck–that sort of thing). sometimes they talk about how everything froze, or there are weather reports about how it was a balmy negative 20 degrees.

what is really awesome is that the captain brought a trunk of costomes (including women’s corsets) from england–presumably in the event that they got stuck in the ice.

what is also awesome is that only one person died on the whole voyage which, from what i gather (in contrast to other expeditions) is an astounding survival rate.

and really just fuels my larger, general life-theory, that people make meaning in order to survive ordeals…..

thanks for asking by the way…

Come to The Whistler on September 1st and/or 57th Street Books on the 3rd of September for a series of readings/performances and Q&A’s!

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