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Samuel de Champlain's Voyages
Volume II, Part XXIII, Chapter VI
The Voyages to the great river St. Lawrence...

The Journals of the intrepid French explorer who was the first European to discover Lake Champlain
 

This is the twenty-third in a continuing series of entries from the Voyages of Samuel de Champlain, first published in 1613. To view Part I, click here. For Champlain's account of the discovery of the lake that bears his name, click here...

Original translation from the French by Charles Pomeroy Otis, Ph.D. Republished by the Prince Society, Boston: 1878.

The voyages to the great river St. Lawrence, 
made by Sieur de Champlain,
Captain in ordinary to the King in the Marine, 
from the year 1608 to that of 1612

CHAPTER VI.

THE SCURVY AT QUEBEC. HOW THE WINTER PASSED. DESCRIPTION OF THE PLACE. ARRIVAL AT QUEBEC OF SIEUR DES MARAIS, SON-IN-LAW OF PONT GRAVÉ.

The scurvy began very late; namely, in February, and continued until the middle of April. Eighteen were attacked, and ten died; five others dying of the dysentery. I had some opened, to see whether they were tainted, like those I had seen in our other settlements. They were found the same. Some time after, our surgeon died. [323] All this troubled us very much, on account of the difficulty we had in attending to the sick. The nature of this disease I have described before.

It is my opinion that this disease proceeds only from eating excessively of salt food and vegetables, which heat the blood and corrupt the internal parts. The winter is also, in part, its cause; since it checks the natural warmth, causing a still greater corruption of the blood. There rise also from the earth, when first cleared up, certain vapors which infect the air: this has been observed in the case of those who have lived at other settlements; after the first year when the sun had been let in upon what was not before cleared up, as well in our abode as in other places, the air was much better, and the diseases not so violent as before. But the country is fine and pleasant, and brings to maturity all kinds of grains and feeds, there being found all the various kinds of trees, which we have here in our forests, and many fruits, although they are naturally wild; as, nut-trees, cherry-trees, plum-trees, vines, raspberries, strawberries, currants, both green and red, and several other small fruits, which are very good. There are also several kinds of excellent plants and roots. Fishing is abundant in the rivers; and game without limit on the numerous meadows bordering them. From the month of April to the 15th of December, the air is so pure and healthy that one does not experience the slightest indisposition. But January, February, and March are dangerous, on account of the sicknesses prevailing at this time, rather than in summer, for the reasons before given; for, as to treatment, all of my company were well clothed, provided with good beds, and well warmed and fed, that is, with the salt meats we had, which, in my opinion, injured them greatly, as I have already stated. As far as I have been able to see, the sickness attacks one who is delicate in his living and takes particular care of himself as readily as one whose condition is as wretched as possible. We supposed at first that the workmen only would be attacked with this disease; but this we found was not the case. Those sailing to the East Indies and various other regions, as Germany and England, are attacked with it as well as in New France. Some time ago, the Flemish, being attacked with this malady in their voyages to the Indies, found a very strange remedy, which might be of service to us; but we have never ascertained the character of it. Yet I am confident that, with good bread and fresh meat, a person would not be liable to it.

On the 8th of April, the snow had all melted; and yet the air was still very cold until April, [324] when the trees begin to leaf out.

Some of those sick with the scurvy were cured when Spring came, which is the season for recovery. I had a savage of the country wintering with me, who was attacked with this disease from having changed his diet to salt meat; and he died from its effects, which clearly shows that salt food is not nourishing, but quite the contrary in this disease.

On the 5th of June, a shallop arrived at our settlement with Sieur des Marais, a son-in-law of Pont Gravé, bringing us the tidings that his father-in-law had arrived at Tadoussac on the 28th of May. This intelligence gave me much satisfaction, as we entertained hopes of assistance from him. Only eight out of the twenty-eight at first forming our company were remaining, and half of these were ailing.

On the 7th of June, I set out from Quebec for Tadoussac on some matters of business, and asked Sieur des Marais to stay in my place until my return, which he did.

Immediately upon my arrival, Pont Gravé and I had a conference in regard to some explorations which I was to make in the interior, where the savages had promised to guide us. We determined that I should go in a Shallop with twenty men, and that Pont Gravé should stay at Tadoussac to arrange the affairs of our settlement; and this determination was carried out, he spending the winter there. This arrangement was especially desirable, since I was to return to France, according to the orders sent out by Sieur de Monts, in order to inform him of what I had done and the explorations I had made in the country.

After this decision, I, set out at once from Tadoussac, and returned to Quebec, where I had a shallop fitted out with all that was necessary for making explorations in the country of the Iroquois, where I was to go with our allies, the Montagnais.


ENDNOTES:

323. His name was Bonnerme.--_Vide antea_, p. 180.

324. Read May instead of April.

This is the conclusion of Volume II, Part XXIII, Chapter 6 of Voyages
1608-1612
Click here for Voyages, Volume II, Part XXIV, Chapter 7

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Sources/Notes:

Samuel de Champlain. 1567-1635. "Voyages of Samuel de Champlain" Edited by Edmund F. Slafter, (Boston: Prince Society 1878)

Samuel de Champlain image: Warwick Stevens Carpenter. The Summer Paradise in History. Albany: General Passenger Department, The Delaware and Hudson Company. 1914. Courtesy of John and Barbara Gallagher.

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