SPANISH MAIN – Believing that a bout of scurvy during childhood can lead to a young swashbuckler who is stout of heart and strong of arm, some parents are aggressively touting the benefits of bleeding gums, fever and convulsions during early pirate development.
“It makes you wonder what they’re not telling us,” says James Anson, captain of the sloop Queen Anne’s Privilege and father of two kiddie corsairs. “Why this sudden push to flood our bodies with limes and oranges? My cousin knew a pint-sized privateer who choked on a lemon and almost died. Does that sound safe? We’re simply asking questions of the citrus establishment.”
The vast majority of professional buccaneers advocate for consumption of fresh fruits on any extended voyage, but a growing number of parents of mini-marauders are questioning the practice, often citing a now discredited study that claimed scurvy is a result of “bad air” among tissues and a hearty dose of sulphuric acid will restore balance to the humors.
Ascorbic skeptics like Anson insist that scurvy isn’t even that bad, and while a significant portion of the crew on a long voyage without fresh fruit will likely perish, the survivors are all the better for it. “A friend of mine captured a frigate after a 3 month patrol of the spice routes, and yes, half his mates died on the voyage home, but that just meant twice the booty for the chaps that made it back.”
Ships surgeons have been speaking out against these skeptics, often blaming the rise of social flag-signalling groups for spreading disinformation. “You don’t know the qualifications of the person waving those flags around,” warns Killian McGraw, ship’s surgeon and scurvy expert. “It’s usually just some clueless landlubber sharing what they overheard in a tavern.”
Members of the pirate medical community admit that fresh fruit isn’t always easy to come by on the high seas and lament that there isn’t some magical shot children could get as toddlers that would prevent horrible diseases.