Death from Scurvy on Vasco da Gama's First Journey to India (1497-1499)]

Stefania Elena Carnemolla

Abstract


Alvaro Velho's account of Vasco da Gama's first journey to India (1497-1499), describing, among other things, the anguish and pains suffered by the crew because of scurvy, represents, with the striking vividness of its images, one of the oldest references to a terrifying disease to which seamen then began to be exposed, as well as to the use of fresh fruit, and vegetables as a successful method to rescue them, and in a certain degree, from this distemper at sea. This paper analyzes Alvaro Velho's statements from a scientific point of view, whereas it stresses the accent on what contemporary Portuguese historians, and chroniclers, as well as foreign travellers, and merchants, thought about it, often misinterpretating its causes, just like Alvaro Velho did.


Keywords: Scurvy - Portuguese voyages - Naval medicine


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