Jamestown Fort, Winter,1610
A colonist named Daniel Tucker, perhaps when Jamestown’s allotments of half-can of meal a day per person run out, builds a boat with his own hands, an occupation which, says George Percy, serves to “keep us from killing one of an other To eate.”
How long does it take to starve to death? A modern medical study estimates that “Complete starvation in adults leads to death within eight to 12 weeks.”
Inside the palisaded fort, people are literally starving. In a cruel paradox, the more they starve, the less they can digest food. Their stomachs cramp. Their digestive acids dry up. They grow paler and thinner by the day. They are listless. They are too tired even to chop firewood, and they are always cold. They begin pulling down the wood frames of once-occupied houses and burning them to keep warm. People’s skin dries and cracks and hangs in ugly folds. Slight scratches turn into running sores that will not heal. Their ankles are often swollen, though their legs are pitifully thin. Besides, it is still winter. Bone-chilling cold, on bones that have little flesh left on them.
How long does it take to starve to death? A modern medical study estimates that “Complete starvation in adults leads to death within eight to 12 weeks.” Death can come in a variety of guises: Hypothermia. Pneumonia. Anemia. Chronic diarrhea. Madness.
Of more than two hundred people alive at Jamestown in October, only sixty survived until May.