“Ship Biscuit and Salted Beef”


On Thursday evening, the Hawkins Squadron hosted a presentation by Grace Tsai, a PhD student in the Nautical Archaeology Program at Texas A&M who’s doing some really interesting work on food and nutrition at sea in the 17th century, based on historical accounts and archaeological evidence (e.g., butchered animal bones found in shipwrecks). The central aspect of her research includes recreating historical shipboard victuals according to traditional methods, and then testing how well they preserve (or not) aboard ship during a long, simulated sea voyage. Fortunately for her, the research does not require actually consuming the resulting rations. One not entirely surprising finding — period sailors consumed about 30x the current recommended upper daily intake limit for sodium.

Exhibit on board

Ms. Tsai graduated with bachelor degrees in Psychology and Anthropology from the University of California, San Diego in 2011. Currently, she is a PhD student in the Nautical Archaeology Program at Texas A&M University. Her work focuses on understanding post-medieval seafaring life through analysis of diet and physical labor on sailors’ health. Her most recent field work includes the Gnaliç Project, an excavation of a sixteenth-century Venetian galley that sank off the coast of Croatia, the Burgaz Harbor Project, an excavation of Hellenistic harbors in Turkey, and the Shelburne Steamboat Project, an excavation of a steamboat graveyard in Vermont. She has also helped catalogue lead fishnet weights from Uluburun, a late Bronze Age shipwreck, in Turkey. In her free time, she works as the co-founder and CEO of Bezoar Laboratories LLC, a R&D company focusing on probiotic supplements.

Differential Media

The Texas Navy Association is a private, 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to preserving and promoting the historical legacy of the naval forces of the Republic of Texas, 1835-46. The mission of the Texas Navy Association is to preserve and promote an appreciation of the historic character and heroic acts of the Texas Navy; to promote travel by visitors to historical sites and areas in which the Texas Navy operated; to conduct, in the broadest sense, a public relations campaign to create a responsible and accurate image of Texas; and to encourage Texas communities, organizations, and individuals, as well as governmental entities, to participate with actions and money, in pursuit of these objectives. Membership in the Texas Navy Association is open to all persons age 16 and over who have an interest in Texas history and want to help support the goals of the organization.

In Galveston, the Charles E. Hawkins Squadron was organized in the fall of 2016, and meets on the first Thursday evening in odd-numbered months.