Historic Healing Power of the Beach – Atlantic Mobile

Interesting read on history of the sea as medicinal. Excerpt from Atlantic Monthly:

“In the Judeo-Christian biblical tradition, the boiling sea is where great awful beasts come from,” says Dr. Robert Ritchie a senior research associate at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, who is researching a book on the history of beach-going and seaside resorts. “The fear of the sea has biblical origins with the great flood destroying all creatures. As it retreats, it rips away the land leaving all kinds of detritus behind.”

In fact, no one thought of the sea as a particularly friendly place. And, as the gateway to the sea, the beach wasn’t so appealing either. In modern Europe, only peasants sought refuge from the heat in the cool seawater. And so the beach remained mostly empty until the English looked around and began to consider the medicinal potential of their chilly national shoreline.

Eighteenth century British high society suffered from a mess of maladies. Fevers, digestive complaints, melancholia, nervous tics, tremors, and even stupidity were the epidemics of the day. The pressures of urban life, pollution, and the general deterioration of society were obviously to blame. Enlightenment physicians began to consider new remedies for old ailments spurred by the new emphasis on science and experimentation. Their new wonder drug was… water. Cold sea water, specifically.

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