Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Ship's Medicine Chest

The other day I was looking through a few items I saved after my father died. He was born on Ocracoke, and worked on boats his entire life. In 1939 he purchased a book for $1.00, "The Ship's Medicine Chest and First Aid at Sea" (published, 1929).

In 1952, when I was 7 years old, he wrote this note inside the front cover, "This book has been a big help to us when any one of the family was sick. Hope to pass this book down to my boys. It has been worth the cost I paid for it."

Of course much of the information in the book is now outdated. Scurvy is a disease seldom encountered in the 21st century. And few of us today are prepared to surgically treat family or friends stricken with various venereal diseases.

Some of the book's information might be useful during a catastrophic emergency (e.g. "How to Tie an Artery"), although most of us today gladly defer to health care professionals.

I found the following entry of interest: "One of the great menaces to health aboard ship is vermin. Of these, the most prevalent is the cockroach, a filthy insect which can be gotten rid of by frequent fumigations and scrupulous cleanliness."

I was reminded of an account mentioned in a book, "Batavia's Graveyard," that I read several years ago: "The captain of one Danish East Indiaman was so maddened by the plague of scuttling vermin on board his ship that he offered his sailors a tot of brandy for every thousand cockroaches they killed. Within days the crushed bodies of 38, 250 insects had been presented to him for his inspection."

I believe I'll keep "The Ship's Medicine Chest" both to preserve a bit of history...and also just in case I might need it following a hurricane or other disaster. But let's hope I don't.

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[Ocracoke residents: Don't forget to get your re-entry stickers at the Community Center!
  • Thursday, May 20, 1pm - 4pm
  • Friday, May 21, 9am - 12pm]

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter celebrates colorful islander Don Wood (1936-1998). You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news042610.htm.

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