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from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The the process of deterioration afflicting a ship that is iron-sick.


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  • "Whale oil seems to have acted as a preservative, providing most whaleships with lives much longer than that of a typical merchant vessel. Still, there were limits. Rot, teredo worms, and a condition called iron sickness, in which the ship's rusted iron fastenings weakened the oak, were all potential problems."
    --Nathaniel Philbrick, In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, 19

    Some conservators I know call this inherent vice--when the materials that make up an object hasten its deterioration, such as brass fittings on leather.

    May 1, 2008