Historical Events

Stefansson is sick with typhoid fever and getting worse and worse. After signing that he's responsible for his own death, he leaves a settlement where he was forced to eat carby liquids and instead was able to eat fish and caribou, allowing him to begin to restore his health nearly immediately, although recovery still took months. The sickness capped his time in the Artic after five full years exploring.

Discovery

Vilhjalmur Stefansson

"It was now Fry's opinion that I had had typhoid fever. When my friends thought of what they had been letting me eat, they were shocked and alarmed. During the first period of high fever I had been without appetite, but as soon as the fever dropped to 100 degrees, I had begun to eat steaks and fried potatoes or whatever else the police were having for their meals. An hour before my sudden relapse, I had eaten a large meal of macaroni and cheese. There were some who believed that this heavy food was responsible. The relapse, they felt, served me right. What eles could have been expected of a sick man who ate macaroni and cheese!"

page 208


"My convalescence was not going well. When it was decided that I must have had typhoid, I was put on the orthodox typhoid diet. Nothing but tinned and Argentitian powdered milk was available. My belief was that if I was allowed to eat the hearty foods for which I hungered I would probably have a better chance of getting well, and I used to reason elaborately and, it seemed to me, convincingly that I should be allowed a chance at a square meal. Arguments that seemed lucid to me were, unfortunately, considered the cunning of delirium."

page 209

"My condition kept growing worse. Finally, everyone agreed that I was going to die. At that point Police Inspector Phillips took the position that, if I was going to die, I might as well die as I wanted: in an effort to get to Fort Yukon. This did not meet the views of some of the others. There was at Herschel Island a very respectable graveyard where whalers and other white men had been buried with supposedly civilized pomp and circumstance. I felt sure that, if I died, there would be a thoroughly orthodox funeral. However, I preferred to die elsewhere and, if possible, later."


"It was in the first week of April, 1918, that I left Herschel Island in a sled equipped with springs from an old cot. Constable Brockie, Henry Fry, my Indian teen-ager, and two Eskimos accompanied me.


Fry, now that we were away from the settlement, was less inclined to insist on the orthodox liquid diet for a typhoid convalescent. I was allowed to eat one of my favorite foods, frozen raw fish. This seemed to do me good, and my second day out from Herschel saw me free of fever. It seemed unnecessary for Fry to continue with us. He said that, since I apparently got along better the more my conduct differed from what his medical books said it ought to be, I might as well take the entire responsibility for doing as I liked. Having come to this conclusion, he returned to his mission at Herschel Island. 


From then on, my breakfasts and suppers consisted of caribou and fish, sometimes frozen and raw, sometimes cooked. I felt better each day and regained weight until finally, when we arrived at the mouth of the Old Crow River, at the trading post of Schultz and Johnson, I was no longer in real need of the expert care that I could get from Mrs. Schultz, who before her marriage had been a trained nurse at Fort Yukon. While I did not need the care, I shall never forget the kindness of Mrs. Schultz and her husband." 

Page 210


On April 27th, when we arrived at St. Stephen's Hospital, Fort Yukon, I was so far recovered that I walked without assistance from the gate to the house. A month before, when I had been about to leave Herschel, Inspector Philips had had to guide my hand as I made the penciled cross by which I agreed that if I died on the journey the responsibility would be my own. Thus, my polar expedition came to an end." page 211





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