Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Man Survives Two Months Trapped in Snow by Hibernation?

Man Trapped In Car for Two Months in Sub-Zero Temperatures Survives By 'Hibernating Like a Bear'
Why Bears Hiberante
UMEA, Sweden - A Swedish man who was found alive after spending two months trapped in a car in freezing temperatures survived by eating snow and hibernating "like a bear," according to one theory.  The man, identified by various media as Peter Skyllberg, was recovering in Norrlands University Hospital on Monday after being rescued last week. The 44-year-old was found Friday by a man on a snowmobile who sighted Skyllberg's snow-covered vehicle on a deserted road near the northern town of Umea, just south of the Arctic Circle.

When rescuers arrived at the scene, Skyllberg was emancipated and barely speaking. He had no food or water with him, only cigarettes and comic books, the Daily Mail said. It was believed he had been eating snow. Dr. Stefan Branth, from Uppsala University, suggested that Skyllberg may have stayed alive by hibernating, The Guardian reported.  "A bit like a bear that hibernates. Humans can do that. He probably had a body temperature of around 31C [88F], which the body adjusted to. Due to the low temperature, not much energy was used up," Branth said. Normal healthy body temperature is around 99F (37C).

However, that theory was dismissed by Norrlands University Hospital's chief medical officer, Dr. Ulf Segerberg, who said that Skyllberg's car likely kept him warm by providing insulation similar to an igloo.  "Igloos usually have a temperature of a couple of degrees below 0C [32F] and if you have good clothes you would survive in those temperatures and be able to preserve your body temperature," Segerberg said.
I'm going to go with the Segerberg theory..  However, certain peasants, both in France and Siberia were reputed to wile away the dreadful winter cold and famine in a similar way:
In 1900, The British Medical Journal reported that peasants of the Pskov region in northwestern Russia “adopt the economical expedient” of spending one-half of the year in sleep: “At the first fall of snow the whole family gathers round the stove, lies down, ceases to wrestle with the problems of human existence, and quietly goes to sleep. Once a day every one wakes up to eat a piece of hard bread. ... The members of the family take it in turn to watch and keep the fire alight. After six months of this reposeful existence the family wakes up, shakes itself” and “goes out to see if the grass is growing.”
In Burgundy, after the wine harvest, the workers burned the vine stocks, repaired their tools and left the land to the wolves. A civil servant who investigated the region’s economic activity in 1844 found that he was almost the only living presence in the landscape: “These vigorous men will now spend their days in bed, packing their bodies tightly together in order to stay warm and to eat less food. They weaken themselves deliberately.”

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