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Port of Plymouth

Harbour

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It was here in the port of Plymouth that James Cook left on 26 August 1768 with 94 people and 18 months of provisions. And the kind of provisions he took was one of the most important choices that James Cook made. It would lead to his successful voyages & discoveries. At that time half of the crew would die of scurvy on long journeys. Between the 16th and the 18th century, it is estimated that more than 2 million sailors died from this disease. But they had no idea what the cause was. Public wisdom already suggested eating citrus fruits to fight the disease. James Lind set up a controlled experiment in 1747 that he applied to sailors with scurvy. One group was told to eat citrus fruits. The other group wasn't. And the first group recovered quickly. James Lind did not know what was in those citrus fruits that made the patients better. We now know that it is vitamin C. It was remarkable that the Royal Navy was not convinced of the findings of James Lind. But James Cook was convinced. He took tons of sauerkraut, citrus fruits and other fruits and vegetables. Cook did not lose any sailor to scurvy.

Source: Yuval Noah Harari, 2011, Sapiens

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