Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 26.djvu/228
2i6 THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY,
of a penny journal called the " Falkirk Liberal." A diary was found in his possession containing entries of his condition from February 8th to 25th, from which it appeared that during the seventeen days he had twice tasted a piece of bread, but that for the last thirteen days he had been entirely without food. During the first ten days of the thirteen he was able to obtain water, but on the eleventh day he found his legs were useless, and he lost all motive power in his lower extremities, so that half his body appeared to be dead.
There is also the well-known case of the fat pig that was buried in its sty under thirty feet of the chalk of Dover Cliff for one hundred and sixty days, and which was dug out alive at the end of that time, reduced in weight from one hundred and sixty pounds to forty pounds, or no less than seventy-five per cent (" Transactions of the Linnsean Society," vol. xi, p. 411). The extraordinary prolongation of life in this case may be attributed to the retention of the heat of the body by the non-conducting power of the chalk, and to the retention of its moisture by the saturation of the air in its immediate vicinity, and restriction of its movements.
As might be expected, the old can live longer without food than the young. In youth, the growth of the body causes more rapid con- sumption of nourishment, and the supply and the waste are more quickly got rid of ; further than this, the nervous system, though more buoy- ant in youth, is less stable, so that the young perish quickly when the supply of food is cut off, from the want of sustaining power in the nervous system. This was illustrated in the recent case of cannibal- ism, the boy being in a dying state, when the men, so far as their muscular power was concerned, were strong enough to accomplish the terrible deed they did.
In the case of the Welsh fasting girl, death took place after depri- vation of food for eight days. During the first few days she was cheerful, but later on it was found she could not be kept warm ; she then lapsed into a state of torpor, from which she could not be roused, and died.
Four men and a boy were imprisoned in a mine from April 11th to April 19th ; they had access to water, but no food, between those dates. When liberated, they all recovered ; the damp atmosphere and their access to water being powerful factors in their aid.
Another curious fact to be observed in those who recover after prolonged starvation is their unwillingness to be questioned on the subject, and their inability to give any coherent version of their suffer- ings and feelings, showing plainly that the mental power was too tor- pid to take impressions at the time. In the recent case of cannibal- ism, their suffering was aggravated by intense thirst, but they seem to have been able to give a graphic account of the horrors of their situation, which is not usually the case.
The history of starvation points to this fact, that the moral sense