BlitzLift is a website that collects “info pills” about history, science, and curiosities.  We could spend hours discovering everything on offer on this New York-based web page. 

And we’re bringing it up today because Samuel Reason has just penned an article for them discussing the key role cider played in the success Basque seamen had in their fishing and whaling expeditions over the centuries. 

The writer tells us how, during the Age of Discovery when transatlantic voyages were done on sailing ships, many sailors suffered from scurvy.  This disease is caused by a lack of vitamin C, and it has a high death rate. 

The Basque sailors who, as we’ve said on more than one occasion, made the North Atlantic “their sea”, and who dominated whale hunting for centuries, quite singularly didn’t suffer from scurvy and its terrible consequences. 

As Samuel Reason explains in this very interesting article, the reason why was the consumption of a large amount of cider, which guaranteed enough vitamin C to keep scurvy at bay.  He also talks about interesting habits, like how the profits were shared among the sailors, guaranteeing that everyone tried their hardest to get the best results, since that meant more profit for everyone. 

BlitzLift – 5/8/2019 – USA

Basque Sailors Never Died From Scurvy

Sailing has always been a major industry and passion throughout the history of humanity, civilizations have been shaped and fallen because of their ability to open up shipping routes or discover new lands. Known as the Age of Sail, which is usually dated from around 1571 to 1862, it was a period during which international trade and naval warfare were primarily made up of sailing ships.

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Basque galleons ride at anchor in Red Bay, Labrador (historymuseum.ca)
Basque galleons ride at anchor in Red Bay, Labrador (historymuseum.ca)
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