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Norman Vaughan on: Drinking on the Expedition
Norman Vaughan Q: Clearly there were reports there was a lot of drinking on the expedition. Were you aware?

NV: Well I was aware of a lot of drinking about one group. When the boat went through the Panama Canal a fifty-five gallon drum of alcohol was given to the expedition. Of course for medical purposes. The drum of alcohol was put into the warehouse and somebody got a long tube and would siphon alcohol out of the barrel. And the habit was to siphon it out into a pitcher and then take this pitcher into what was called the Norwegian House where there were eight people living. And the group that were drinking were all assembled there every night and they would drink very heavily. And one night there was some alcohol left in the pitcher and the next night when they started to drink they consumed that first before sending one of them out to get more alcohol. That man that went out to get more alcohol was pretty intoxicated because he was a lone drinker before anybody else started and he didn't know he was going out to get it but he did go out and when he inhaled through the tube he was supposed to feel the solidity of the liquid in the tube as it went by his fingers and then he would turn the tube and make the tube into a siphon and get all the alcohol he wanted but he didn't feel the alcohol in the tube. And took a great inhale for another breath and pulled this cold alcohol into his mouth and throat and the result of that was exactly the same as if he'd taken a blow torch and put it in his mouth, for the temperature of that alcohol was fifty and sixty degrees below zero. I don't know, just extremely cold because it was packed in the ice, been there all winter. And when it got into his mouth and burned every part of his mouth his mouth swelled up and he couldn't eat, couldn't swallow, couldn't do anything about it and the Doctor Coleman thought that he might lose him but he worked on it and got a passage way through to his throat and then fed liquid through it, through the throat and pulled him around out of it but that was a drastic experience.

Q: How big an issue was drinking on the expedition? Was it a big problem?

NV: Oh I don't think it was a big problem at all. I think these fellas were drinking. It was all during the winter. They had nothing more to do and they were stealing the alcohol. What could you say. Of course they were drinking but I didn't think it caused any trouble in camp. It was just jealousy more than anything else that they were getting away with it and so other people, some people didn't want to drink at all and those that did finally drank. But Byrd himself never was apart of that party that I knew nothing about.

Q: Did you see Byrd drinking a lot?

NV: I never saw Byrd drinking at any time.

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