Rough Medicine

drs-tools-old1Coming right after my last post, you might wonder if this is goth, too. But it’s not. The book is titled Rough Medicine: Surgeons at Sea in the Age of Sail. It is about the doctors who plied the waves on whalers from 1647 to 1840.

Did you know that in May 1747 a whaler surgeon carried out what may be the first clinical trial in history?

…Lind selected twelve men with scurvy for special treatement. All twelve were given sweetened water-gruel for breakfast, mutton soup or “duff” (a flour-and-water pudding) for dinner, and barley, rice or sago with currants and raisins for supper. Additionally, two were given a quart of cider to drink, while two others had elixir of vitriol. Two more drank vinegar, and two were given seawater, while another two were dosed with an elixir of garlic, mustard seed, horseradish, balsam of Peru, and myrrh. The last coulple were given oranges and lemons, and these were the men who were up and about and nursing the others six days later. (Druett 145)

Betel nut, areca, and lime paste, while an interesting mix and highly chewable, makes you look as if your moouth is full of blood. And while it starts off helping concentration, it eventually makes you depressed (169)

And the logs discussed describe a Western man getting tattooed. (It was certainly preferable to death and being the main course for the next meal.)

There were two “tatoo-men” with two assistants who bore the instruments, which were pieces of flat bone in all different sizes, each with a cane handle and serrated at one edge for incising the skin and inserting the pigment. After stabbing patterns into the skin wiht these combline tools, wads of fine bark cloth were used to wipe off the blood, “in order to see if the impression is perfect,” and then the dye was beaten in with the rapid hitting of a stick on the slanted handle of the tattooing tool. The process was just as uncomfortable as it sounds. “The constant hammering at the skin, or into it, with considerable violence, irritates the whole frame, and the constant wiping off the blood with the tappa[bark cloth] is worse. However, as the work proceeds, the flesh swells up, which gradually benumbs the parts.”
for four hours the first day and three hours the second. Then he was rubbed all over with coconut oil… (175)

It was interesting and I now know how to describe, if I want to, tattooing in the days of Dielli.