As a college librarian, I often hear stressed-out students searching for primary sources say, "I'll take anything." Don't settle for just anything. There is a treasury of primary source material available electronically. Peruse my selection of 200-plus primary source sites by conducting a keyword search, exploring the tag cloud at left, or browsing by historical era. You can also visit my Delicious and Diigo sites to review my bookmarks. Here's hoping you find what you're looking for.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Cranberries Cured Those Scurvy Sailors

While driving to work in a driving rainstorm yesterday, I passed a cranberry bog. Despite the monsoon-like conditions, the bog-workers were laboring hard, harvesting the tart fruit. According to the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association, the cranberry (referred to as craneberries by the English settlers) was a staple on whaling ships as the red berries were known to fight scurvy – a disease caused by vitamin C deficiency and characterized by lethargy, anemia, gum disease and skin  hemorrhages.
 Google Books has a wealth of materials that serve as primary source references on the topic of scurvy and whaling voyages. For example, consider what William Kennedy described in The Second Voyage of the Prince Albert. That monograph, written in 1853, details the hardships endured on an Arctic expedition.
“Within the last few days we had suffered so severely from scurvy, which had rendered us morbidly sensitive to cold and bodily fatigue, that although now only a day’s journey from Whaler Point, we gladly availed ourselves of the opportunity which the accidental discovery of the depot afforded, to take a day or two’s rest before proceeding further….we remained at Whaler Point until the 27th, making a free use of the lime juice, cranberries, vegetables, and, in fact of every anti scorbutic we found…”
Some additional repositories for digitized materials related to whaling voyages are The New Bedford Whaling Museum, The National Maritime Digital Library and the Nantucket Historical Association.
The above image of the Massachusetts cranberry harvest comes from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.

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