Dentures with a difference

Bull Elephant seal in water
An Elephant seal shows off his fine teeth.
A clean bill of dental health is highly recommended for all who plan to sail south with ANARE. When dental problems arise on station, the doctor must deal with them.

Dr Stefan Csordas, who spent three winters on Macquarie Island as the medical officer in the late fifties, went to great lengths one year to preserve the teeth (and the good humour ) of the all-important station chef.

The cook, who had a full upper and lower denture, reported that he had lost three front teeth from his upper denture. Stefan thought that if a stat ion cook unable to eat properly for the year was a recipe for disaster. So he improvised in true ANARE fashion.

He had recently read that the elephant seal tusk has rings every year like trees. So he cut one elephant seal tusk, which he discovered turned out to be like ivory - very solid and very hard. He thought to himself Why not try to model the missing piece from elephant seal tusk? which he proceeded to do.

As he had no proper tools - only a pedal-drill, it took him fourteen days to work on three little teeth. He finally modelled the teeth, and glued them onto the makeshift denture. However, impatient to fit the new teeth, he was a little bit too eager, tested it too early and the teeth fell out again.

He continues the story.

So I put stuck it back together and went for a four-day hike so I couldn't touch the denture. When I came back it was solid. And our cook had that elephant seal tusk throughout the whole year.

Even when we came back to Melbourne, I found out that he didn't have enough money to buy a new denture and still had the elephant seal tusk! It only had a little bit of an oily stain on it. I asked him whether he had any special sensation particularly during the breeding season, and he said no - but he had had about four or five children afterwards!

So that was my major dental or medical achievement down there.

Based on an interview with Dr Stefan Csordas and Tim Bowden, 17 June 1988, ANARE Jubilee History.

This page was last modified on 6 June 2002.