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The food on the expeditions

17 Mar

Jackie Gould has written to enquire if it would have been better to eat fresh meat on the expedition, an interesting question which is often worried about.

In fact, after the outbreak of scurvy on the ‘Discovery’ expedition, the men did eat fresh meat when they were at Base Camp (except on Tuesday which was the cook’s night off and which they called ‘scurvy Tuesday’)!  The problem lay wiith the meat that they took on the sledges; to reduce weight they boiled it, thus reducing the vitamin content.

The real problem with Scott’s manhauling expedition was the amount of food they ate. They ate approximately 4,600 calories per day, which they thought would be sufficient (Amundsen took a similar amount) but manhauling as Scott did, as apposed to riding on sledges requires much more. Mike Stroud, of the Biochemical Research Unit in Nutrition at Southampton, has estimated the daily requirement as being over 7,ooo calories and more for pulling up the glacier. This means by the time that Scott’s party died they had lost about 40% of their body weight.

In relation to the proportion of fats, protein, carbohydrate, modern theory suggests that Scott took too much protein and too little fat on his final expedition. Scott took a daily protein intake of 29% and a fat intake of 24% (carbohydrate 24%). Modern manhauling expeditions in Antarctica have  taken a daily intake containing 57% fat  and only 8% protein. The modern rations are more ‘energy dense’, but Scott, of course, like everyone else at the time, knew nothing of this.