Till the end of the year, I want to write more about the everyday food of the sailors in the 17th century and illustrate why there was so high mortality rate on a fleet.
We are starting from the largest fleet in the 17th century, the Spanish. Here is a fragment from the sailor diary: “Hunger, thirst, nausea, cold, impossibility to stay alone and pitching. The ship is full of small rodents, which are feeding by cookies and biscuits and reproducing so fast, that very soon the rodents will run not only in cabins, beds and plates (from which people eat) but also on the people themselves. Flies are falling in the plates with soup, where flow worms of all kinds. On “fish” days we eat rotten fish, boiled in the seawater. At the dinner, we eat soup with beans containing so many maggots that they are floating on the surface.”
Sounds delicious, yer? Let’s turn to England. The situation in the Royal Fleet was better, they had corned beef and lemon juice, but I would love to see the foodies exist on this diet for at least one week. The one who will do it is ready for serving in the Royal Fleet.
The French - the nation of the scientists and philosophers decided to do it their own way: on the military and trade ships they were making «fazendas». Some cabins have been given for growing onion, garlic, salad, dill, even lemons and oranges representing the vitamins and diversity. However, it is great only from one side, as «fazendas» became a breeding ground for insects, worms, maggots who caused many diseases, such as fever, diarrhoea, dysentery, etc.
Besides all this, you have to keep in mind the climate in the colonies. Just try to visit Cuba without vaccination today. Taking into account our full inadaptabilities of the organism to the climate conditions - the probability of death is really high.
And some illustrations-examples for this data. In 1701 the French fleet of Admiral Alain Emmanuel de Coëtlogon arrived on Martinika, but it had to move back, because of the losses in the crews (nearly 450 people died from diseases). Also, they lost 200 people on the way back.
Or even more grandiose example from Royal Navy: the fleet of Admiral John Leake after providing support to the army near Barcelona went back to Cadiz (app 800 km). It took 13 weeks and 3 days! From the memories of Steven Martin (the Captain of “Prince George”): “For this time all we had was only one cracker a day without any bread. We had a real shortage of water most of the time, so for survivals, it was hard to watch when some of their crewmates were getting mad. They were falling on the deck and tried to eat themselves. On “Prince George” 50 people have died during this trip and nearly 300 people counting from the departure date.
Now you can see how hard it was. Was it informative? If it was, please like the post and share feedback with us!