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CLUE: Doctor's Journal

8 Oct 1833. With much distress I write of the decline of coxswain Vittet. Drooling constantly and wasting from lack of liquid, he will not touch grog nor water. The other men stop up their ears around him, believing that his babbling carries contagion.

12 Oct 1833. It becoming clear that the madness was deeply held in the coxswain, we undertook the water cure recommended by van Helmont. A hole was chopped in the ice, but the very sight of water sent the man into slavering fits of rage, and it was only the utmost exhortations of Cpt Torvey that persuaded the crew to lash him to the ducking chair.

We attempted to submerge him the prescribed four times, but upon raising him up the second time, the Surgeon's Mate observed the man was dead. At the request of his mates he was quickly laid to rest in the black deeps under the ice. This horrible brain fever has laid a heavy pall upon the expedition.

15 Oct 1833. Disaster has befallen our dear ship today. Around 11 o'clock in the morning, without warning of any kind, a mountain of ice sheared off the ice cliff to windward and plunged or rather settled massively into the bay. Although it fell 3 full cables astern of the barky, the shock transmitted through the ice completely shattered the ship's hull. Thirteen luckless men were below decks and instantly...


...the dry and cold and endless dark conspire against even the vis medicatrix so potent in British men of the sea.

6 Jan 1834. Miasma has struck again. Harper shows a high fever, same as I observed in the Bancairn brothers yesterday. The yellow jack being almost completely shredded by the wind, Cpt Torvey ordered another one made and sent aloft above our tent. It is his opinion the natives of this area know the meaning and will stay away.

7 Jan 1834. Now we are down to twenty-eight. We buried Tabot today, or rather, encased him in ice, for such is the nature of this cursed country that its cold heart will not even receive its dead. None of the men can now bear to look upon Harper and the Bancairn brothers, all of whom clearly exhibit the same dry raging fever. I have determined to bleed these new cases double the 12 oz I measured from Tabot. Harper, in a confusion of fear, has stated his determination not to be bled at all.

9 Jan 1834. The phlebotomy ritual and sometimes the entire day can pass without a spoken word. One by one (except for Harper) I lance open the veins; the Surgeon's Mate measures the corrupting life-fluid as it flows steaming into the bowl; he ventures out to empty it onto an ever-widening crimson spot on the ice. I am convinced that this is a disease borne of these parts and never before encountered by civilized man.

10 Jan 1834. A very dark day. Early in the forenoon watch, the younger Bancairn, who seemed the most responsive to the phlebotomy, died. It was a most quiet and calm event, quite unlike the irrepressibly ribald young man in life. The Surgeon's Mate brought to my attention a coughing ague in our last remaining pigs. I immediately ordered them brought back out of the men's tent, and everything opened to a cleansing wind, but too late. The cook Setterly already exhibits similar respiratory ailings and soon complained of aches and fever.

11 Jan 1834. I myself seem to have succumbed to Setterly's wet affliction. Now that I feel intimately the hot friction in my own blood, it is clearer than ever that sufficient phlebotomy is our only hope to counteract this fiery imbalance. Setterly in particular urges me to let more blood and I suspect bleeds himself in his enthusiasm for a cure.

13 Jan 1834. We awoke this morning to find Setterly and the elder Bancairn had succumbed in their sleep. The others tell me that despite fire and triple blankets, it was especially cold. But all I feel is the raging friction of blood in my veins.

Jan 15. This is Surgeon's Mate Samuel Jakkelson regretting to write that Surgeon Davis Thromby dies yesterday buried today. It is now three months to the day that H.M.S. Arctica went down and with the passing of the doctor our hopes too are frozen in the ice. Wylie and Addams also come down with the wet fever. They clamour for bleeding but I find I have not the skill so I have begun doses of James's Powder.

Jan 18. The doctor would be pleased to see the improvement of Wylie and Addams. Harper's fever broken yesterday and it is our hope and belief that the diabolical scourge has passed at last

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