"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

How did the polar explorers of the 1901 Discovery Expedition stay healthy during their Antarctic journey?

Antarctica is essentially the most inhospitable continent on Earth. It is dry, cold and completely dark for months of the yr. The Edwardian explorers were among the first to brave the Antarctic winter, which remains to be being developed by scientists today.

The Discovery Expedition (1901–4) played a key role within the history of polar exploration. It was led by the Commander of the Royal Navy. Robert Falcon Scott, a very important polar explorer who died in 1912 after attempting to succeed in the South Pole. He was the third lieutenant of this campaign. Ernest ShackletonWhich led to a few more trips to the continent.

Both men would turn into household names, and it was the Discovery expedition that launched their careers. Together, they set a record in December 1902, coming closer to the South Pole than anyone before.

The trip also shaped how each men considered health, particularly the right way to prevent and treat scurvy. My research Examines how expedition officers, doctors, and administrators tried to maintain explorers healthy in Antarctica, especially throughout the polar winter. Because of this work, nobody on the expedition died of ailing health (although two men were killed in accidents).


For polar explorers, food was a matter of life or death. It is widely believed that problems with tinned foods contributed to its demise. The Franklin Expeditionwho went missing within the Arctic within the late 1840s.

Concerns about food were also driven by this concept. Poorly preserved meat Caused by scurvy (although we now realize it is as a consequence of an absence of dietary vitamin C).

Like health experts today, Edwardian explorers were concerned about each the range of food and its quality. Norwegian Arctic Explorer “Give the men good healthy food and I guarantee you will have no disease.” Fredtjof Nensen advises. Discovery expedition doctors before departure.

Campaign organizers tested food samples to research their dietary content. All canned foods were also inspected before the campaign to envision for signs of spoilage. Despite these precautions, the explorers found that much of their tinned food had rotted by the point they reached Antarctica. It was due to Poor quality of canned foods They were provided.

To prevent the boys from eating contaminated food, expedition doctors checked each tin before eating. But, because their canned food didn't contain much vitamin C, the expedition still suffered from scurvy. The attack only ended after they began eating more fresh seal meat.

Scott and Shackleton now saw fresh food as the perfect solution to prevent and treat scurvy. Although both did not understand why?. We now know that it's because evenly cooked meats contain vitamin C.

Researchers found processed foods to be more dangerous than fresh foods. Such debates are as notable as recent debates in regards to the health risks of highly processed foods. Explorers all the time insisted on getting access to fresh meat.

There was much discussion about ventilation on board.
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the wind

Explorers were also concerned in regards to the air quality on board.

Scientists now understand that air pollution is Adverse health effects. But in Edwardian times, poor air quality was perceived in a different way.

Bad air was considered a danger as a consequence of old medical theories which argued that air was brought on by poor health. “Miasmas” – Decomposition gases produced by the decomposition of matter. Cold, drafty and damp It was also considered dangerous..

A specially designed ventilation system was installed within the ship. system Installed two stoves To ventilate the living quarters of the explorers with warm air. But once in Antarctica, the system proved unreliable and consumed an excessive amount of fuel. Their ship was also less aerodynamic than expected, meaning it was ventilated without using specially designed systems.

But not everyone agreed on the importance of ventilation. Scott commented on this. “The question of fresh air and ventilation was one which gave us a constant field of argument.” Even the 2 physicians of the expeditions had different views.

One believed that it was more necessary to ventilate the living quarters by opening the windows every morning. Others argued that it was higher to maintain warm, even when the air was not so fresh.

They never resolved the disagreement, but did agree on how often the windows ought to be opened.


There was high agreement amongst explorers on the importance of exercise. The 1900s also saw exercise. It is an important way to stay healthy.able to resist the perceived negative effects of contemporary, urban life.

In the Antarctic summer, explorers spent most of their time sledding. It was backbreaking work, pushing explorers to their physical limits.

But in winter, the explorers can be on or near their ship. He used to walk every day to remain healthy. As is the campaign. The second in command commented., “No doubt one felt better after a brisk walk on ice.” Such walks were psychologically necessary, providing temporary opportunities for privacy and reflection. Scott noted.: “During the winter most of the officers preferred their daily walks alone.”

Explorers also played team sports, reminiscent of soccer and hockey, and went bowling. Junior Medicine of the Expedition Claimed that “Air and exercise” were the keys to sleeping well and maintaining an appetite throughout the polar winter.

On an Antarctic expedition, staying physically and mentally healthy was an issue of survival, so it's no wonder the explorers spent a lot time fascinated by such details.

Many of the health measures utilized in Scott and Shackleton's first expedition are just like those used today. Diet, air quality and exercise are still considered necessary to good health. But in comparison with those Edwardian polar explorers, we now have a significantly better reason.