Pirates have been back in the news over the last ten years thanks largely to surprise mega-hit Pirates of the Caribbean. Now what most people don’t mention is that this film series is, on the whole, very poor indeed. They’re not good films. The first one is half decent, but that’s only because of Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow. And even his character has been overhyped until your eyes bleed sulphuric mustard. It appears many people’s rational though has been warped in some bizarre lust for Mr. Depp’s charasmatic lead. So we can expect yet more films in this tedious series until, hopefully, Hollywood implodes under the strain of its gargantuan supply of pieces of eight!
This is all good news for ancient pirates, of course, who have been gifted a big boosting of their shackles. The popular stereotypes, somewhat perpetuated by the mentioned film series, is of swashbuckling, charasmatic anti-heroes with dashing good looks and a lust for life. In reality life at sea 500+ years back consisted of scurvy, horror, devastation, death, and the very occasional lucky break. If anyone needs proof of this they should read the excellent Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe by Laurence Bergreen.
But enough of that, when and where are you going to tell us about pirate practices, Professional Moron’s chief writer Mr. Wapojif? Well, what ho Jeeves, right now!
Scurvy. You don’t think about it much, but it’s got something to do with Vitamin C? Correct. Without this stuff your gums will swell up, your teeth drop out, old wounds open and fester, and your body in general fall apart. It is, apparently, total agony. Of course sailors back in the Pirate heyday were still expected to work in this condition. Those of you who read yesterday’s post on excuses for work couldn’t get away with that here. Tom Cruise wasn’t around back then, anyway. And no one knew why they were getting scurvy to begin with:
Pirate: “Yahaarrr, shiver me timbers! What be this horrifying illness, my talking parrot companion? Is it the bad air in the ship?”
Parrot: “Squawk! Pieces of eight! It’s actually due to the lack of intake of Vitamin C. Asorbic acid helps to create an enzyme called poly hydroxylase, which synthesises a protein – collagen. This is used by the body for connective tissues such as skin, ligaments and tendons. They give our body the tensile stength we need to live. A deficiency in this leads to the collapse of collagen fibres and, subsequently, a breakdown of your connective tissues. Collagen binds your body together, so without it capillaries begin to haemorrhage. Your teeth bid your farewell and eventually you snuff it. Squawk!
Pirate: “What the hell have you been ingesting, Parrot? Just keep your trap shut from now on and let us humans do the brain work!”
So as you can see the concept of Vitamin C just wasn’t about back then. It wasn’t until 1932 that science made the big breakthrough and discovered just what exactly was going on. Good for science, eh?
So was being a pirate all about scurvy? Pretty much. Remember, kids, all you need is one spoonful of lime or lemon juice a day to fight off scurvy. We think even the most fussy eater can manage that.
So, all hail Vitamin C! Huzzah!