November 16th, 2009

Keeping character hydrated in a frontier setting

In an 1870s American frontier situation, a character’s wound gets infected – I’ve tried to make the sepsis mild enough for him to plausibly pull through, since I just need to keep my doctor character busy till the wee hours looking after him. My question is this – as I understand it, in a modern hospital the main treatment for this would be an iv line to keep him hydrated – obviously my characters haven’t got that, so I assume they’ll be giving him liquids by mouth – what would they most likely give him? My gut says *very* watered-down whiskey/brandy (more like water with a few drops of whiskey in it) – I’m always afraid to give anyone plain water in a historical setting, and most of the period novels I’ve read have the doctors giving patients small doses of alcohol as “a stimulant,” but I don’t want to mess up. For what it’s worth, the water used by the doctor to soak the wound and re-clean it after drainage was boiled and had a bit of iodine added, but I doubt the patient would be willing to drink that.

If this is too difficult, I can give the character a different illness, I really just need him in order to keep the doctor on the spot.


Thanks!

Steamboats and airships

I'm working on a vaguely steampunkish story set in a sci-fi/fantasy world with technology from the mid to late 1800s (approximately). At the moment, I'm looking for information on steamboats and airships. I've tried researching them (Wikipedia-ing, checking Wikipedia's external links, Googling, etc.), but I've only found information on their history, and precious little information on how they actually work.

The steamboat in the story is a teeny little thing (really, really small, actually; consider the size of Steamboat Willie and cut that in half, and that might be a bit bigger than this boat). The steamboat needs to land on a small island that doesn't have any kind of dock. What it does have is a beach on one side, and on the other, there's a short little cliff that drops off to the sea, probably only three or four feet high. The ship doesn't need to stay in one place; it only needs to be at the island long enough for two people to get off and three people to get on, and then the ship will take off again. How would an experienced sailor want to get off his ship? Would he climb onto the shore on the cliff side, or get as close to the beach side as he could, or what? Bear in mind that the ship has no dinghy; it's too small, and anyway there aren't any laws requiring lifeboats. Also, as long as I'm posting, are there any important controls other than the wheel that I should bear in mind? Oh, and I just remembered: Would foghorns of the time be the same weird honk they are today, or would they use a whistle, or what?

As for the airship, I don't really have any particulars laid out as to the type except that it's on the small side. I'm picturing it as having a control room, a room for passengers behind that, and a small room behind it for storage, but these are fairly loose ideas, since I only have a vague idea of what an airship requires. My main questions are: What kind of controls does an airship have? I'm fairly certain it has a wheel like a ship, but what else? Would it be capable of telegraphy? And where is an airship capable of landing? A big, flat plain? A mountaintop? In a large, man-made clearing in a forest? I've read that they can dock at a mooring mast on a tower, but I'm having trouble figuring out exactly how that works, if there's a way to dock an airship on a tower without a mooring mast, if mooring masts can work as a permanent docking place for an airship or if a hangar is required, etc. Also, what kind of routine maintenance does an airship require, and what kind of tools and equipment would an airship hangar need?

Oh my God this is so long I'm sorry Any information you have would be helpful.