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The Curse of the Arctic Regions

Early Arctic expeditions, lacking fresh meat, fruit and vegetables for years at a time, suffered from scurvy - a disease caused by the lack of vitamin C (ascorbic acid).

Scurvy was referred to as "the curse of the Arctic regions", and its root name "skarve" translates as "disgusting" or "contemptible". The name "ascorbic acid" comes from the New Latin "scorbutus" meaning scurvy.

Click for more information. This was a particularly ugly disease and the onset was quick (6-8 weeks). The symptoms were brutal - blood vessels ruptured and blood wept from hair follicles. Blotches appeared all over the body and any bruise or exertion could result in internal bleeding. Arms and legs would swell up, and wounds, even small scratches, would not heal. Skin became doughlike and the gums reddened, receded, and blackened until teeth loosened and fell out, and if unchecked, it was fatal. Yikes!

Vitamins were not discovered until 1912, but it took a considerable length of time for Arctic explorers to recognize the knowledge and common sense methods of the Inuit, who lived healthily (and scurvy free) in the same environment.

Nobody connected their diet with the state of their health. Raw meat and blubber are effective antiscorbutics (something that cures or prevents scurvy), and "nerooka" (the half-digested contents of the entrials and stomacks of caribou) provided a healthy vegetable "delicacy".

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Click pictures for more information and credits.
Library: Exploration, Animals, Arctic
Health / Safety, Franklin Expedition Inuit
Links: Animals, Franklin Expedition, Arctic
Inuit, Exploration and Scurvy
Arctic Maps & Weather Reports


Double-click any unlinked word DICTIONARY: Just "double-click" any unlinked word on this page for the definition from Merriam-Webster's Student Electronic Dictionary at Word Central.
Arctic Library ARCTIC LIBRARY & GLOSSARY: Check this section for an index of the rest of the things you really need to know about the Arctic.
All sorts of Arctic Maps ARCTIC MAPS & WEATHER REPORTS: Maps of the Northwest Passage, explorers' routes, iceberg sources, Nunavut, the Arctic by treeline, temperature...
Links to related sites. ARCTIC LINKS: Even more information! Links to sites related to the Arctic and "Iceberg: the Story of the Throps and the Squallhoots".
A Guide to Arctic Sunrise and Sunset GUIDE TO ARCTIC SUNRISE & SUNSET: How much sunlight or darkness is there in the Arctic on each day of the year?

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