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Saturday, 24 August, 2002, 00:43 GMT 01:43 UK
Medical adventures on the high seas
The ship was a replica of Captain Cook's Endeavour
Surgeon Claire Edwards expected to turn her hand to all sorts of medical needs during her time on the "The Ship", the new BBC documentary series.

But during the voyage - which replicated Captain Cook's 18th Century voyage to discover Australia and the South Seas - she had to develop veterinary and dental skills as well.

Dr Edwards talks to BBC News Online about her ocean adventure.

Claire Edwards was working as an orthopaedic surgeon attempting to get research funding when she spotted an advert in the British Medical Journal for a doctor to work on "The Ship".

Dr Claire Edwards
Claire Edwards: voyage gave her a taste for adventure
The BBC documentary follows Claire and her fellow volunteers as they recreate Captain Cook's 1768 journey on a replica of his ship The Endeavour.

But luckily, she did not have to stick to 18th Century remedies.

The six-week trip covered 3,500 miles up the coast of Australia and across the Timor Sea to Jakarta in Indonesia.

Dr Edwards had to deal with a range of medical crises, from two crew members who had to be airlifted to hospital, to a sick goat.

One of the main causes of ill-health was the ship's biscuits, which resulted in a number of dental problems, including a broken tooth.

Dr Edwards said: "These hard tack biscuits made of flour and water were properly hard. They had been baked by Australian prisoners - with malice I think.

"Consequently, anyone who attempted to eat them ran the risk of damaging their teeth."

One crew member broke his bridge while eating the biscuits. Dr Edwards said: "I tried to fix it back up, but he was toothless by the end of the voyage.


She had to turn her attention from human to animal health when the ship's goat became ill after guzzling food from the slops bucket.

"She got a tummy upset. Her guts stopped working because she'd had too much rich food, so we had to give her things like cardboard."

I can't wait to get involved in more adventures

Dr Claire Edwards
Dr Edwards also had to deal with more mundane problems.

"At the start of the voyage, someone brought a cold on board. Some people were really poorly and had to take to their beds for a couple of days.

"I went through Strepsils like they were going out of fashion."

But there were more serious incidents too.

Crew member Ivan Whittaker split his foot open after slipping on the deck.

But Dr Edwards did not stitch the wound herself, instead she gave the job to the ship's cook.

"She had been practising on pig skin. I talked her through it, and she did a really good job."

Adventure bug

Other incidents included crew member Andrew Lambert, a professor of naval history, having to be airlifted off the ship by the Australian flying doctor service after developing a fever.

Replica of Captain Cook's ship, Endeavour
The crew enjoyed an 18th Century diet
The other person to be airlifted off was Shane Carr, who collapsed with chest pains after hauling up the anchor chain.

Dr Edwards diagnosed a potentially fatal pulmonary embolism, where a blood clot, which tends to form in the lower leg, travels to the lung.

When it came to the end of the voyage, Dr Edwards said: "I really didn't want to get off the ship."

And it has given her a taste for more: "I can't wait to get involved in more adventures."

See also:

20 Aug 02 | Entertainment
20 Aug 02 | Entertainment
20 Aug 02 | Entertainment
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