I am currently midway through this book, The Company: The Rise And Fall of the Hudson's Bay Empire. It is really good.
One thing that keeps coming up is the amount of rations needed for each explorer, depending on the expedition.
For example, in the 1700s, a guy hires a bunch of rowers to row small canoes, each with about 5,000 pounds of trading material, through Hudson bay tributaries in the Canadian winter ice lands. These rowers each required a ration of "9 pounds of meat" per day! Taking ground beef as an example, this is around 10,000 calories! But, they're rowers... and rowers burn a lot of calories, right? And yet... are they stopping every few days to hunt Seals or whatever? (Seals would probably have even more calories than that because I presume they are mostly fat). If not, this weight could be entirely in dried meat. Which would be almost double the calories!
Later on page 270, an explorer named Thompson in the 1800s is exploring a bit more westward. They are going through an icy forest where there are no animals to hunt. They are chopping down trees every day, to make room for their horses - certainly burning a lot of calories that way. He writes about a companion, "[he is] very gluttonous, requiring a full ten pounds of meat a day". But again here, it specifically says that no animals are available, and they are nearly dying of hunger. So if this dude is eating dried meat or smoked, it could be even more calories! Again, 10 pounds of beef jerky is almost 20,000 calories!!!
What I am wondering is if there is some kind of "translation error" going? Perhaps, right after slaughter, there is more water in the meat than when we buy them at the supermarket today. Therefore, these frontiersmen could be eating fresh meat with a higher water content (and lower calorie metrics) than what the USDA gives for beef. On the other hand, it seems just as likely to me that the meat could almost always be dried? So depending on which way we want to estimate, it seems like they could be consuming anywhere between 5,000 to 20,000 calories! A huge discrepancy! Certainly not the best we can do...
I am thinking is that there are better historical records for other time periods and activities among groups of people. Somewhere along the course of history, there is a log of all the average rations of each soldier, laborer, slave, or prisoner. I'm wondering what the highest averages were for particular groups of people at particular times, if anyone can make an educated guess that can add to my knowledge...
(It is obviously interesting as well to note the type of food they were eating too... Practically all their calories came from meat??)