Thursday, 10 November 2016

"The Ship Captain's Medical Guide" and Carrot Sticks

Once again, the goodship James Clark Ross is at sea! We left the Falklands this morning after refuelling at Mare Harbour and I have to admit that it’s a pleasure to feel the ship moving under my feet again. She feels very subdued when we’re in port, and whilst it’s very nice to get off the ship and go for long walks, it feels rather strange after six weeks of the ship rocking and rolling.

One of the best things about having been at the Falklands is that, for now at least, the ship has a stock of fresh fruit and vegetables. I’m relatively healthy (but not zealously so) at home so I really didn’t realise how I would crave the crunch of fresh vegetables in my diet. Eating cucumber and salad today was almost a religious experience! The cook definitely gave me funny looks after I raved at him. I think he imagined that I was mocking him rather than genuinely excited by carrot sticks!

I have an entirely new set of crew and officers now which means an entirely new set of medicals. Something to fill the time and I know that they look forward to it too! I have a series of increasingly menacing posters that I will put up around the ship encouraging people to attend. Next week I move into lines from the film Taken- “I will find you and I” Too much? Impossible.

I’ve been lent an utterly fantastic book by the ship’s new purser called “The Ship Captain’s Medical Guide” published in 1918. This thing is absolute gold; subjects such as fireman’s cramp, dropsy, dribbling of urine and malingering are covered in great detail. Most intriguing is the chapter titled “Rupture”. Rupture of what is unclear and I look forward to sharing the various things that Charles Burland MD, FRGS thought might sputter and go “ping” whilst at sea. I thought starting the discussion with a brief foray into the chapter on “Venereal Disease” (subtitled pox or clap) might whet the appetite. Old Charles seems to have thought these diseases were the bane of the merchant navy and has a host of advice for such. Apparently a “certain continental military authority” issued instructions to its soldiers suggesting that they applied calomel ointment to their genitalia prior to...ahem...extreme socialising “by which means the danger of contracting syphilis is greatly lessened.” The US Navy apparently went one step further and offered every man returning from shore leave the option of a genital toileting “of which Mercurial inunction of the glans forms an important part.” I don’t know what inunction is, but I’m fairly confident that sounds unpleasant.

We’re due to arrive at Signy on Saturday which should mean a lot of hard work for everyone. Signy station isn’t occupied over the winter so a lot has to be done to make it habitable for the team of 7-8 people who inhabit it over the summer months. Snow has to shovelled away from outside of the buildings, ice may need to be removed from the insides if there has been water ingress, fresh water needs to be plumbed in and the generator needs to be started up. In addition to all of this, there’s the entirety of the summer’s supplies to be delivered, either by our cargo tender boat or across the sea ice if Signy’s harbour is still iced over. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a speedy relief though, with plenty of time for exploring!
Kerri and I exploring in South Georgia

More South Georgia fun


  1. Hi Dr Helen

    I remember the Ship's Medical Guide from when I was a Meteorologist seconded to The Royal Society of London's Expedition to Aldabra Atoll, in the Indian Ocean, from the UK Met Office. Although no medic, I found it strangely fascinating reading castaway on a remote island - lol. Wishing you well and loving following your adventures :-)

    1. Thank you so much! Hah, yes it's (the guide) fascinating and disturbing in equal measures, isn't it? Helen

    2. Yes! ;-)

      Kind Regards

      Willie Whitelock

  2. What a beautiful bunch we are teehee