Page 173 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
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 An interesting letter from the Cape of 27th October 1662 mentions the importance attached to proper and provident care of the crew. O n the WATERHOEN (0970), which had taken no less than six months to reach the Cape with 34 'healthy and lively sailors', scurvy had broken out among the crew after five months. The master, praised as an 'old, kind- hearted little man', had ordered a barrel of Spanish limes in wine to be opened, had these mixed into the food and thus combated the disease successfully. According to this letter it had been a different story on board the ORANJE (0972), where of the 150 sick no less than 39 had died before the Cape. This could have been avoided, for the Zeeland chamber took great care at that time to have its ships well stocked with lime juice, powder sugar or white sugar, ginger, almonds, raisins and currants for the benefit of the sick.31 In the eighteenth century the ships were sometimes stocked with potatoes and investigations were made into the provision of longer life vegetables and (healing) herbs. Around 1790 the Zeeland chamber was still trying to introduce greater variety into the diet. Thus the packetboat D E STAR (4748) carried next to the usual fare, potatoes, pepper and mustard seed, which were distributed from time to time, and the so-called zeekraal (glasswort) was also stocked - zeekraal being a plant growing in saltmarshes outside the seadykes of the Zeeland delta and consisting of salty, fleshy, juicy bright green stems.32
The provision ofdrink produced even more problems than solid food. Only too soon the perishable beer was undrinkable. Spirits were handed out in short measure to avoid drunken scenes and served primarily, in the form of brandy and gin, to combat disease. Soon the ship was dependent on the fresh water it carried. Enough was stored for four months sailing, kept in casks of about 600 litres in the hold, which of course did little to remedy its deterioration within the standard time of four months due to pollution and heat. Efforts to win fresh water from salt water had some success: between 1702 and 1707 the placing of cauldrons on every VOC ship for the heating and evaporation of seawater was even prescribed. But several drawbacks caused this mechanical experiment to fail in the end: the cauldrons introduced fire risk within the ship, radiated an unbearable heat especially in the tropics, the storage of firewood took a lot of space and the job of stoking the cauldrons was too heavy for too small a production.33
It is certain that the range of food combined with the poor provision of drink was unattractive by contemporary standards, because of decay and lack of variety and flavour. But judged by modern standards it had moreover many deficiencies. And it was precisely the long duration of the voyages out at sea that made these disadvantages felt even more than on shorter routes in European waters. It was quite realized at the time that lack of fresh vegetables and fruit could have serious effects on health. Abdominal complaints were rife following consumption of contaminated and stale food and water. Present day calculations indicate not a shortage of kilojoules, but of fats and vitamin C and possibly proteins, which was the more serious for men who prior to embarkation had built up little resistance due to unbalanced or inadequate nutrition and perhaps came on board under- nourished.3 4
31 A R A , V O C 3997. fol. 130-135, Copiemissieve Wagenaer to D e Lavaisse 27.10.1662.
32 Cf. De Hullu, 'Voeding' in: Bruijn & Lucassen, Op de schepen der Oost-Indische Compagnie,
113-126; on the STAR: A R A , V O C 11438, Journal Star 1793; on zeekraal: Van E s, 'Zeekraal en lamsoren'.
33 Schoute, Occidental therapeutics, 1-24, De Hullu, 'Sterfte op de schepen' in: Bruijn & Lucassen, Op de schepen der Oost-Indische Compagnie, and Roessingh, 'The watersupply'.
34 Lucassen, 'Zeevarenden' 152; Mandemakers, 'Ziekten en dokters' 152 puts emphasis on shortage of proteins.

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