This relevant point was faced by Robert Fitz Roy from a very practical point of view, and he obviously knew about the properties of fresh food. So he prioritized the hunting and catching of fish and other food nature provided. Anyway, he took other measures that nowadays nobody would object to; for instance, he decided to ration although there was no urgent necessity. On two occasions, he rationed his crew: “... salt provisions were entirely withheld from the crew for three days, and instead of them, preserved meat, shell-fish, and a large pig, brought from Monte Video, were substituted (...) My reason for entirely stopping the use of salt-meat, for a few days, was the belief that, at least, two or three days’ change of diet is necessary to cause any real alteration in the system; and that it is better to give fresh provisions for three days in succession, and salt-meat during the remainder of three weeks, than to give fresh-meat at three separate intervals in the same period.” (Volume I, p. 221).
One day “... he rationed everybody to a
2/3 ration... [as cutting down the ration seemed to be better now that
everybody was healthy and in high spirits and that they could get also
fish and birds] than doing it later when we might be in another situation.”
A singular detail is that Fitz Roy ordered to keep a “Hunting journal” to record what was hunted, the hunter, and who the preys were assigned to.
It is worth mentioning that, before the 800s, nutrition on board was very deficient and was based on the famous “hardtack.” Ships carried cattle, hens, and any live animal they could transport. This was not the case with voyages around the south of the continent given that storms and cold made animals die one after the other. Between the late 700s and the early 800s, explorers had become used to reducing the consumption of salted meat and replacing it for penguin, sea lion or any other meat. If they were not sure, at least they guessed that it was necessary to refit with fresh food.
The English Pilot of the late 800s suggested that seamen should make land at San Juan de Salvamento to collect water, wild celery, and to replenish with meat from penguin and sea lion hunting; the said handbook even informs that, if one makes land in October, it is possible to collect penguin eggs.
Translator’s note: Some of the quotations from the book on the voyages of the Adventure and the Beagle have been translated from Spanish as the original edition in English was not available
(Extracted from the book “Naufragios en el Cabo de Hornos, Isla de los Estados, Magallanes, Península Mitre, Malvinas y Georgias del Sud “ del Lic. Carlos Pedro Vairo.Editado por el Museo Marítimo y Zagier & Urruty Publications).