In books about the Great geographical discoveries, we often read: the sailors of the same Fernand Magellan, making the first trip around the world in history, often preferred to burst even their own shoes in the open ocean. But for some reason they didn’t catch and eat fish, which, it seems, should have been around in abundance around?
What is the secret here? Why in the old days sailors of sailing ships often starved, ate leather belts, but refrained from eating freshly caught fish?
In 1960, the heroic sailors of a Soviet barge taken into the ocean ate for 50 days only what they had with them: shoes, belts, leather from an accordion …
There are several explanations here. I’ll bring it next.
Firstly, the same Spanish and Portuguese sailors traveled to waters that were generally unknown to them, where none of the Europeans had ever been before. It is today that biologists distinguish over 40 thousand species of oceanic fish. And the sailors of the past had no idea what kind of fish is found there: edible, inedible, poisonous, non-poisonous.
A very terrible nightmare for sailors to this day remains ciguatera, a severe deadly disease caused by the poison ciguatoxin contained in tropical fish. Fortunately, today we know which fish are most often its carrier.
The famous traveler of the 20th century, Thor Heyerdahl, was already well versed in sea fish
And not a single captain had the right to risk the crew thousands of miles from the coast. Therefore, he introduced a ban on the consumption of ocean fish.
The same Spaniards, as very zealous Catholics, if they already caught ocean fish, they put a silver cross on it – they say, this way it will become “edible”. Well, what, silver disinfects well, if anything … The poisonousness of fish was also checked by throwing its pieces to seagulls or leaving flies on the deck: but where in the open ocean can you find seagulls or flies?
Sailors have known since ancient times that eating fish in large quantities can lead a person to malaise. As scientists later found out – due to an excess of trace elements (the same phosphorus), as well as vitamin A.
Remembering that cooking fish on a wooden caravel is not an easy task. It will not work to fry it – there are no firewood and stoves. Also very inconvenient. Cutting and cooking sea fish also requires a considerable amount of fresh water, which is precious on the ship.
If you want to eat well – wait for the earth …
Plus, the consumption of unusual food in the form of exotic fish can easily lead to an upset stomach. Even if the fish itself is perfectly edible. This, too, did not fall to the captain of the ship nafik among his crew.
There were also specific maritime superstitions regarding the consumption of aquatic creatures. For example, sailors did not eat a shark, considering it an unpleasant scavenger, an ocean hyena. Dolphins were not caught – the same sea talisman!
We do not forget, and that often the sea routes of the times of the Great geographical discoveries ran through the so-called “horse” (30-40th southern and northern) latitudes, i.e. dead zones where there is either no fish at all, or it is extremely rare.
Those famous horse latitudes
In general, in the open ocean, fish often go to great depths – to get it with gear of the 15th-17th centuries, with a fast sailing ship, there are relatively few chances. The sailors had no desire to lower the sails for a purposeful stop – it was better to get to their destination faster and eat plenty there. Chasing a fish school tied to fair winds is also inconvenient for a sailing ship, you yourself understand.
Well, such a moment – there were simply no fishermen on a typical sailing ship from the time of the great geographical discoveries. Crews were minimal. Each sailor was constantly busy with business and had no time to be distracted by fishing.
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