18. Freezing Weather

Your best insurance against exposure and frostbite is a life suit. If you are wearing heavy underclothing, a life suit will keep you warm in the coldest weather. Ten persons died from exposure in a City of New York lifeboat. Life suits undoubtedly would have saved several of them, and perhaps the entire ten.

The seamen from the torpedoed Norwegian motor tanker Alexandra Hoegh were rescued after 38 hours in open boats during midwinter in the North Atlantic. They reached shore well and healthy. All of them would have been frostbitten, and some of them would have died -- if they had not worn life suits.

FROSTBITE. -- Frostbite is a mild term for a very serious and painful affliction. Robert N. Peck, who survived the City of New York torpedoing, suffered second degree frostbite, characterized by blisters and a deeply reddened skin. For weeks he was unable to get a night's sleep, and he was incapacitated for three months.

Frostbite is caused by the action of cold on


the body tissues. This action blocks the circulation and deprives the affected area of its blood supply.

DEGREES OF FROSTBITE. -- 1st: skin dark-red; affected area painful. 2nd: skin bright red or livid blue; blisters. 3rd: affected area white, stiff, brittle; danger of gangrene.

CONTRIBUTING CAUSES. -- Fatigue is foremost among the contributing causes to frostbite, due to the vitality being lowered and the circulation slowed. Hunger, malnutrition, vitamin deficiency increase one's susceptibility to frostbite.

WIND. -- Wind increases the danger of frostbite. In a lifeboat a windbreak should be rigged, and everyone should be kept under the boat cover as much as possible.

MOISTURE. -- Chilling through wet clothing will cause frostbite more quickly than if the cold reaches the body through dry garments.

PERSPIRATION. -- Though waterproof shoes should be worn, they retain the perspiration, which will hasten frostbite.

GREASE. -- Grease spread over the body will not protect you from the cold. Grease will make your clothes less protective by filling the air pockets, which are the real source of warmth. In a high wind, grease on the face will prove helpful, but it is useless in still cold. A small amount of oil may be applied tot he feet, and


rubbed in until the surface is dry. A large quantity will prove harmful.

CLOTHING. -- Warmth from your clothing is supplied by the air pockets between the fibers and the air layers between the layers of clothing. These air layers prevent too much heat from getting out and too much cold from getting in. Clothing should not constrict. Avoid tight garters and tight shoes. Loosen the shoe strings. Wear two or more pairs of socks -- woolen over cotton.

WOOL AND FUR. -- Woolens and furs offer excellent protection against the cold because non-conducting air pockets are formed in the meshes, and these air pockets provide insulation between the skin and the outer temperature.

HAIR. -- Excellent protection against cold is provided by the hair on your head.

BEARD. -- Moisture from the breath will congeal on the beard, forming a face mask separated from the skin by one-eight of an inch of air space. If your face begins to freeze, you may not know it. The ice mask will make it difficult to get to the cheek to warm it with your hand. Keep clean-shaven.

TOBACCO. -- Tobacco tightens the blood vessels and increases the susceptibility to frostbite by decreasing the circulation.

COFFEE. -- Coffee also tightens the blood


Vessels, and will further reduce the lowered temperature of the affected part.

SYMPTOMS. -- By making grimaces, you can detect any stiff spot on your face. Those in a lifeboat should watch one another for signs of frostbite. Be on the alert for these signs:

1. Drop in circulation. If the skin does not whiten when you press it with your finger, the blood supply is below normal.

2. Loss of heat. Determine this by touching an exposed part and a protected area. If the affected part feels colder, frostbite has set in.

3. Numbness. The loss of sensation is extremely dangerous, because the frostbite may eat into the flesh to the bone without you knowing it.

4. Lessened function of the part, or the inability to use them.

5. Color changes. A red and purple mottled appearance is evidence of frostbite. In an advanced stage, the part becomes gray-white.

TREATMENT. -- Restoring circulation to injured tissues should be done in gradual stages. Warm the frostbitten area against a part of your own body.

Face: Warm with your hand.

Wrist: Grasp wrist with the other hand.

Hand: Place on naked chest or under the armpit.


Foot: Place against naked part of a companion's body.

In first degree frostbite, the part may be rubbed gently. There must be no rubbing in more severe frostbite. If possible, apply cold cloths, raising the temperature a degree or two every few minutes.

After circulation has been restored, apply boracic acid ointment, or an ointment composed of vaseline one ounce, camphor six grains. The blisters should be pricked with a needle, but do not remove the skin. Cover with cotton or flannel cloths.

If gangrene has set in, wet cloths with alcohol and place over the affected part to prevent infection.

BOAT COVER. -- In freezing weather the cover must not be taken off the boat. Rain or snow, freezing in the bottom of the boat, will make it difficult or impossible to put in the plug, and will freeze fast other gear so as to hinder you.

WATER BREAKER. -- To keep the water in the breaker from freezing, remove the plug. Insert a stick in the breaker. The lower end of the stick should be weighted, and the upper end should protrude a foot or more. The movement of the ship will keep the stick in motion so that ice will not be able to from.


An overloaded lifeboat
An example of overloading, which in this case was unavoidable. Ninety of their shipmates perished from the cold.
Life suits would have saved most of them. (Acme)


In port, put the breakers in the fidley to keep the water from freezing.

FROZEN FOOD. -- If you are in freezing weather, it is advisable to have certain foods prepared and stored in the reefer, ready to be transferred to the lifeboat.

Potatoes, eggs, and apples may be kept frozen, but they must be used as soon as they are thawed.

Milk is convenient to handle if frozen in bricks or cubes.

Cut meat into steaks or small roasts before freezing. Frozen meat may be cut with an ax or a saw. Save the meat splinters and sawdust.

Bacon fat is delicious, and in extreme cold it will freeze clean so that your mittens will be no more than slightly stained in handling it. At zero butter is clean to handle, while at 30 below lard may be handled in chunks.

Baked beans may be frozen in bricks, but beans will be easier to heat if you bake them dry and freeze them in separate kernels. Put a little water or grease in your can, pot, or cup, and warm them over a canned heat fire. Beans baked with pork will keep for several months, though the pork may have a slightly rancid taste.

MEAT. -- For one year Stefansson lived entirely on meat and water. He found that 11/3


lbs. of lean and ½ lb. of fat daily were sufficient.

FAT. -- Fat is the top heat-producer because it is quickly absorbed into the tissues, and has more calories per unit of weight than any other food. If you are deprived of sugar and starch, you will soon develop a taste for fat, unless you are the one person in a hundred who cannot eat it. You can die from continued overeating of lean, but your digestive system will prevent you from overeating fat.

PROTEIN POISONING. -- Many men in the Arctic have died of starvation, despite a plentiful supply of meat. A diet of rabbit alone, for instance, will leave you hungry no matter how much you eat. In a few weeks a person trying to subsist on such a diet will die of protein poisoning.

You cannot live on lean meat alone. You must have fat. Cranes, owls, ravens, and ptarmigan have insufficient fat.

POLAR BEAR. -- If you are in the Arctic regions armed with a high-powered gun, you may find it possible to shoot a polar bear. The bear will not be able to see you at a distance greater than 300 yards. You should use soft-nosed bullets, and your aim should be for a place just behind the shoulder, so that the bullet will pierce the heart. Do not shoot a polar bear while it is in the water. You will not be able to haul it out.


It is advisable to eat bear meat raw and frozen, or half frozen, Bear meat becomes stringy when it is cooked. It will get between the teeth and make the gums sore. Avoid polar bear liver. Sometimes it is slightly poisonous, and will cause vomiting and give you a bad headache.

CARIBOU. -- The choice part of a caribou is the head. The ribs, neck, shoulders, heart and kidneys are eaten. The natives feed the liver and sweetbreads to the dogs. The fats may be dried, and the marrow is eaten raw.

SEAL. -- Seals are to be found under sea ice, on top of it, and in open water between floes. Most seals shot in the head will float. With body wounds, three out of ten will be lost.

All parts of the seal, except the entrails, may be eaten. The heart and kidneys are choice. The liver may be boiled or eaten raw.


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