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From our library of things you should know about the Arctic

Water! Water! Gimme Water!

It may seem unusual, but early Arctic explorers (as well as indigenous people) experienced continual thirst - raging thirst that was as common in the Arctic as it was in the African deserts.

They couldn't drink the sea (salt) water that was under the ice, so the only way to get drinking water when the temperature was below freezing was by melting ice or snow. This was not any easy task given the crude heating methods of the day, limited fuel, and -40 (C or F) weather - which soon turned any water supply back to ice.

Water is essential to life. One dies quickly of thirst, but only slowly by starvation. Fuel was therefore as precious as food, and water was obtained at its expense.

Eating snow could lead to hypothermia - with such a thin line between survival and death, even a small loss of body heat could have fatal consequences. As well, the difference in temperature between the stomach and the snow or the winter air caused cramps and the sensation of unbearable burning.

Similarily, lost or drifting sailors were surrounded by water (salty), but were dying of thirst, as expressed in Coleridge's famous poem - "Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink." In the Arctic, this might be "Water, water everywhere, but much to hard to drink."

Among one polar explorer's last diary entries was: "We have the last half fill of oil in our primus (stove) and a very small quantity of spirit - this alone between us and thirst."

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Double-click any unlinked word DICTIONARY: Just "double-click" any unlinked word on this page for the definition from Merriam-Webster's Student Electronic Dictionary at Word Central.
Arctic Library ARCTIC LIBRARY & GLOSSARY: Check this section for an index of the rest of the things you really need to know about the Arctic.
All sorts of Arctic Maps ARCTIC MAPS & WEATHER REPORTS: Maps of the Northwest Passage, explorers' routes, iceberg sources, Nunavut, the Arctic by treeline, temperature...
Links to related sites. ARCTIC LINKS: Even more information! Links to sites related to the Arctic and "Iceberg: the Story of the Throps and the Squallhoots".
A Guide to Arctic Sunrise and Sunset GUIDE TO ARCTIC SUNRISE & SUNSET: How much sunlight or darkness is there in the Arctic on each day of the year?

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