What it was like to be a surgeon on a pirate's ship

The Pirate Surgeon's Journal is a treasure trove of history. Medical containers, the legal and operating environment and the surgical procedures themselves are detailed with flair and flourish.

At its best, a wooden ship is a damp environment, with water collecting in the hold, one level below the orlop deck, where the ship's surgeon's operating theater was usually located. Stephen Bown points out that the wood of the ship "quickly became waterlogged, creating a permanently damp and cold environment. Men lived in the damp, worked below decks in the damp, slept in the damp, and ate food that was continuously stored in the damp."2 As a result, the method of keeping container closed was crucial for keeping the medicines in and the outside environment out.

Medicines would be stowed in the sea surgeon's chests (which are actually medicine containers themselves, albeit specialized ones that have their own article). During the golden age of piracy, there would be two chests that contained medicines. The first would be the medicine chest itself, a large wooden box containing about 100 – 160 medicines in containers.3 The second would be an instrument chest where medicines such as dried herbs and seeds might be kept so that they would not be spoiled by spills of liquid medicines that could occur in the medicine chest. The surgeon also needed to be able to locate medicines quickly, so charting [such as the diagram below] and labelling of the medicines was another important element of effectively containing them

A risky and gruesome life, but from the nature of those wounds it sounds like the person treating them has easily the best job on the ship. [via the Random Web 1.0 Website Finder]