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Why did the Inuit not suffer from scurvy?

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1804.  Fri Nov 21, 2003 8:02 am Reply with quote

Not a lot of citrus fruit in the Arctic, after all...

The answer is a B - the Beluga whale.

qilalugaq (qaulutaq)

The Beluga whale is an important food item in many Inuit communities. Maktaaq, (the thick skin and thin layer of blubber of whales) is a traditional delicacy in the arctic. It contains zinc, retinol and other essential nutrients but is especially rich in Vitamin C which is why Inuit never suffered from scurvy. European whalers, by contrast, suffered from this affliction because they did not include maktaaq in their diet while in the north. The dark red meat of whales is eaten as nikkuk (dried), frozen, raw or cooked. Beluga was also a traditional source of dog food. The blubber of the beluga was often rendered into oil for cooking and lamp fuel. Misirak (rendered oil), which has been anaerobically fermented, continues to be a highly prized Inuit delicacy and is eaten as a condiment with dried, frozen or cooked meats. A large beluga can yield up to 200kg (441lbs) of meat and 50 kg (110 lbs) of maktaaq. 300 litres (66 gal) of oil can be produced from beluga blubber. The skin of beluga produces strong yet soft and supple leather when tanned. Inuit have used the abundant resources provided by the beluga for making boat covers, footwear and dog whips.

Frederick The Monk
1869.  Fri Nov 21, 2003 6:34 pm Reply with quote

Marvelous animal the Beluga Whale - one of the only whales that can nod (most having fused neck vertebrae that prevent this). They are also the only whale that molts (others losing and replacing skin continuously). And they have no sense of smell. And no dorsal fin. And of course they're white (or at least they are when they're all grown up) hence the name, which is Russian and usefully brings my vocabulary in that language up to 5 words.

1870.  Fri Nov 21, 2003 6:44 pm Reply with quote

Amazing - it not only saves the Inuit from scurvy but gives them a friendly nod in passing!

So was Moby Dick a Beluga whale, do you think? I do hope so - there must be a way of getting that into a question.

Frederick The Monk
1876.  Sat Nov 22, 2003 3:59 am Reply with quote

Belugas are a bit small for Moby Dick - he was a sperm whale - a specied hunted heavily in the 19th century for the spermaceti oil which is found in a structure in the head called the 'melon' (Belugas also have melons by the way). It is thought this oil filled cavity help the whales to produce the infrsound calls which they use to communicate. Spermaceti is very clear and pure and was prized for use in lamps, soap and cosmetics.

The incident on which melville based Moby Dick was the attack by a Sperm Whale on the Nantucket Whaler 'Essex' commanded by George Pollard, and which subsequently sunk in the 'Off shore Ground' - the most remote whaling ground on earth (in the middle of the Pacific). Pollard survived for over 90 days in a open boat before being picked up on theSouth American coast. When he returned to Nantucket he faced some tricky scenes with his neighbours as they had entrusted their son to him for his first sea voyage and the Captain - admittedly in extremis - had eaten him whilst adrift int he open boat.

1939.  Sun Nov 23, 2003 5:16 am Reply with quote


Errrrrmmmm....I shall be watching you like a hawk at our lunch tomorrow. One false move and you'll feel the weight of my krenging hook on your shoulder, I assure you

help, help

1951.  Sun Nov 23, 2003 7:19 am Reply with quote

Moby Dick is a lot more than a rivetting yarn about Ishmael and Queequeg. It is also a grand treatise on whaling theory and practice. One of the stranger examples of the latter is that of skinning out the whale penis and using the skin as a convenient butchers apron while flensing the blubber. Cut two arm-holes....

I'll have to check chapter and verse.

1963.  Sun Nov 23, 2003 1:11 pm Reply with quote

Found it. Thank you Project Gutenberg:

Being 19th century there are certain words that require elaborate circumlocutions (capitalisation in first line provides clue):

Chapter 95:
"Had you stepped on board the PEquod at a certaiN juncture of thIS
post-mortemizing of the whale; and had you strolled forward nigh the
windlass, pretty sure am I that you would have scanned with no small
curiosity a very strange, enigmatical object, which you would have
seen there, lying along lengthwise in the lee scuppers. Not the
wondrous cistern in the whale's huge head; not the prodigy of his
unhinged lower jaw; not the miracle of his symmetrical tail; none of
these would so surprise you, as half a glimpse of that unaccountable
cone,--longer than a Kentuckian is tall, nigh a foot in diameter at
the base, and jet-black as Yojo, the ebony idol of Queequeg. And an
idol, indeed, it is; or, rather, in old times, its likeness was.
Such an idol as that found in the secret groves of Queen Maachah in
Judea; and for worshipping which, King Asa, her son, did depose her,
and destroyed the idol, and burnt it for an abomination at the brook
Kedron, as darkly set forth in the 15th chapter of the First Book of

...and certain objects in the next paragraph require elaborate circumcisions:

"Look at the sailor, called the mincer, who now comes along, and
assisted by two allies, heavily backs the grandissimus, as the
mariners call it, and with bowed shoulders, staggers off with it as
if he were a grenadier carrying a dead comrade from the field.
Extending it upon the forecastle deck, he now proceeds cylindrically
to remove its dark pelt, as an African hunter the pelt of a boa.
This done he turns the pelt inside out, like a pantaloon leg; gives
it a good stretching, so as almost to double its diameter; and at
last hangs it, well spread, in the rigging, to dry. Ere long, it is
taken down; when removing some three feet of it, towards the pointed
extremity, and then cutting two slits for arm-holes at the other end,
he lengthwise slips himself bodily into it. The mincer now stands
before you invested in the full canonicals of his calling.
Immemorial to all his order, this investiture alone will adequately
protect him, while employed in the peculiar functions of his office."

Forget mobilephone covers and brandname T-shirts, this a fashion accessory folks will really want.

1971.  Sun Nov 23, 2003 4:34 pm Reply with quote


That is marvellous

2016.  Mon Nov 24, 2003 8:26 am Reply with quote

It's also a QUESTION.

What is " very strange, enigmatical object, which .... chapter of the First Book of Kings." ?

...and what use was made of it by mincers?

Begob but there is an obvious answer.

Mr Grue
12179.  Mon Dec 13, 2004 7:55 am Reply with quote

According to a chap[1] interviewed on a Kevin Smith's Roadside Attractions segment of the Jay Leno show, the coffeeshop chain Starbucks was at one time going to be called Pequod instead, but they suddenly realised that no-one would trust a drink by that name.

[1] I'll check tonight, but I believe he works at the first Starbucks coffeshop there ever was, one as alien to the chain as is the first McDonalds to the golden arches.

439950.  Fri Nov 14, 2008 10:58 am Reply with quote

Further to the whale penis as a smock thing from years ago is this 1598 report of the stranding of a sperm whale:

“One of the men leans toward the whale and uses his staff, apparently to measure the organ’s size. The other man’s left arm is draped around the woman’s back, drawing her near, while his other arm is outstretched, palm upward toward it, as if to say ‘behold!’ Yet another man, finding the protruding penis less interesting than useful, uses it as a ladder to get on top of the whale.”

453665.  Tue Dec 09, 2008 12:42 pm Reply with quote


Used to transport the parts of the Airbus from where there are manufactured to the assembly plant in Toulouse. It's a sight to behold when coming in to land. To paraphrase Douglas Adams, it seems to hang in the air just like bricks don't.


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