Talk like a pirate, me hearties!

100_3775 cropAhoy, Maties! It’s Talk Like a Pirate Day today, so I figured I’d blog like a pirate!

And what would a pirate blog about?

Probably about the lousy food on board pirate ships, which would invariably lead to a discussion of scurvy.

Scurvy is a condition caused by the lack of vitamin C. It shows a variety of symptoms, including spongy gums, spots on the skin, bleeding of the mucous membranes, tooth loss and fever (just to name a few). Untreated, it is fatal—victims usually bleed to death.

Scurvy is not often a problem on land—most fresh fruits, many vegetables, and even some meats contain vitamin C. But in the days before refrigeration, sailors and pirates, eating a diet of salted meat and dry grains, would often suffer from scurvy. It used to be a major limitation to the length of sea voyages, and between the years 1500 and 1800, it is estimated that at least 2 million sailors died of scurvy. Some ships lost up to 90% of their crew on long journeys, mostly to scurvy.

The cause of scurvy wasn’t discovered until 1932, but folk remedies and herbal cures have been used for thousands of years. Without understanding exactly what caused the disease, however, the cures were often of limited use.

Oddly, most animals can synthesise their own vitamin C—only the higher primates (simians and tarsiers), guinea pigs, bats, and some fish and birds can’t.

(So your dog can never be a ‘scurvy dog’, because dogs don’t get scurvy.)

And on Talk Like a Pirate Day, I say…

Eat your greens you scurvy dog, or I’ll make ya walk the plank!

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