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Old 08-06-2011, 14:42   #1
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Cold water survival story from Alaska

There is still a persitant myth in Alaska and elsewhere, that anyone falling into cold water will die from hypothermia in a few minutes. This is not true, if one has floatation. A recent event illustrates this.

Kenai girl credited with saving friends in Tustumena Lake accident | Alaska Dispatch

The short version:

Last Friday, a father was taking his daughters and friends to a remote public use cabin on the shore of Tustumena Lake. They were traveling in an 18 ft skiff. Conditions were good when they started across the lake. Tustumena Lake is about 25 miles long by about 6 miles wide. At its upper end it is fed by a large glacier. It is notorious for having strong winds come up suddenly off the glacier, leading to severe waves. The lake is relatively shallow in spots which makes the waves even worse. Water temperature is around 40-45 deg F.

Part way across the conditions became severe and swamped the boat, and all five people ended up in the water. The father was trying to tow one girl (according to one report she was having problems with a poorly fitting pfd). He and that girl died, apparently from hypothermia. However the other three girls were able to swim (wearing life jackets) for an estimated two hours in 40-45 F water and made it to shore. They then walked to another cabin, got a fire going, and were ultimately rescued alive.

To quote from the article: "Although it's commonly believed by many in Alaska that if you fall in water as cold as that draining off the Tustumena Glacier into Tustumena Lake you only have minutes to live, that belief is a myth. As long as people survive the sudden shock of the water, which can cause them to reflexively inhale and drown, they can survive for hours, said Jeff Johnson, the state director of Boating Safety. PFDs, he added, are vital for surviving those first few seconds or minutes. People have been known to hit the cold water in Alaska, sink out of sight, inhale water, and never come back up. A life jacket, however, will always bring them to the surface and at least give them a chance. The Tustumena accident, he said, underlines the value of PFDs."

On my boat anytime we are underway, everyone wears a pfd. With the new inflatables, you hardly notice that you are wearing it. Make your own choices.
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Old 08-06-2011, 16:13   #2
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Re: Cold water survival story from Alaska

I don't insist that people do but I do set an example. In winter I often wear a full suit. In warmer weather a good vest. Everyone should know the survival position as well.
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Old 08-06-2011, 16:37   #3
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Re: Cold water survival story from Alaska

What an astonishing story of shear will power.

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Old 08-06-2011, 17:04   #4
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Re: Cold water survival story from Alaska

Women have an extra layer of fat which makes them better able handle cold water immersion. Before wet suits, that was the reason women were the pearl divers in many areas with not so warm water.

Any clothing will help retain body heat so will increase life expectancy in cold water. Unfortunately, you need some way to hold up that heavy water logged clothing. Makes a PFD almost mandatory.

I've had the unpleasant experience of having to clear line from a prop in 50 degree water. The cold is debilitating real quick. Couldn't feel my hands within minutes which made working with a knife to cut the line a bit of a challenge. Probably was in the water for no more than a 20 minutes but I was just about at the end of my rope when I got out. Was not able to get back on board by myself. I've never been so cold after I got out of the water. Buried myself in a couple of sleeping bags and shivered uncontrollably for what seemed like an hour or more. Took several hours before I wanted to crawl out of the sleeping bags. The only good thing about it is I wasn't cold in the water. Guess all the nerve endings shut down so wasn't feeling the loss of heat. Guess it's some consolation that death by Hypothermia wouldn't be painful.

Still amazing they were able to swim so far and long to make it back to shore. Warming up after long immersion is really tricky. Many people pulled alive from the water succumb after they are rescued.

FWIW, the NAZI's used concentration camp inmates to study best ways to save pilots pulled from the drink suffering from Hypothermia. Believe they found making the pretend pilot the sandwich filling between two naked women was the best method.
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Old 08-06-2011, 17:44   #5
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Re: Cold water survival story from Alaska

Quote:
Dr Gordon Giesbrecht coined the phrase 1-10-1 to describe the three critical phases of cold water immersion. Over many years, Gordon has researched the effects of cold water immersion on hundreds of subjects and has personally experienced those effects himself over 30 times.
Quote:
1 - 10 - 1
1-10-1 is a simple way to remember the first three phases of cold water immersion and the approximate time each phase takes.


1 - Cold Shock. An initial deep and sudden Gasp followed by hyperventilation that can be as much as 600-1000% greater than normal breathing. You must keep your airway clear or run the risk of drowning. Cold Shock will pass in about 1 minute. During that time concentrate on avoiding panic and getting control of your breathing. Wearing a lifejacket during this phase is critically important to keep you afloat and breathing.



10 - Cold Incapacitation. Over approximately the next 10 minutes you will lose the effective use of your fingers, arms and legs for any meaningful movement. Concentrate on self rescue initially, and if that isn’t possible, prepare to have a way to keep your airway clear to wait for rescue. Swim failure will occur within these critical minutes and if you are in the water without a lifejacket, drowning will likely occur.


1 - HYPOTHERMIA. Even in ice water it could take approximately 1 hour before becoming unconscious due to Hypothermia. If you understand the aspects of hypothermia, techniques of how to delay it, self rescue and calling for help, your chances of survival and rescue will be dramatically increased.
Check out Cold Water Boot Camp for more
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Old 08-06-2011, 19:22   #6
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Re: Cold water survival story from Alaska

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Originally Posted by roverhi View Post
... Warming up after long immersion is really tricky. Many people pulled alive from the water succumb after they are rescued.
The current teaching in most Wilderness Medicine courses is that if they are in mild hypothermia, that is they are still shivering and talking, one can be somewhat agressive in rewarming them. However, if they have stopped shivering, and/or become unresponsive they must be handeled very gently. In this situation it is generally best gently dry them off, bundle them up to prevent further heat loss, and gently transport to a hospital for the best chance at recovery (even if transport takes several hours). Even people with no apparent life signs have been successfully revived in a hospital setting. "They aren't dead until they are warm and dead" is a good motto.

The official Alaska EMS Cold Injuries Guidelines at http://www.ems.alaska.gov/ems/docume...oldInj2005.pdf has a wealth of information regarding treatment of hypothermia. Note that this is an extensive document and includes in-hospital guidelines. For most of us on this forum the most relevent parts are under the "General Public" and "First Responder/EMT-1" headings.

Jackdale mentioned Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht's "1/10/10" prinicple. Dr. Giesbrecht was one of the principle people who helped write the Alaska Guidelines.
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Old 08-06-2011, 22:24   #7
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Re: Cold water survival story from Alaska

I've read of people coating their bodies with grease before immersing in very cold waters; channel and great lake swimmers and solo sailors faced with the need to do work over the side in icy waters. Still, deciding you needed to take that step before going in to work on the prop would take some foresite!
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Old 09-06-2011, 02:42   #8
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Re: Cold water survival story from Alaska

About 30 years ago 5 snowmobilers went in the water off the end of the ice at night. I recall two or three made it back on the ice.

The two that did'nt make it had their boots off. The three that made it didn't take the time to remove their boots. They just went for it.
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Old 09-06-2011, 07:22   #9
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Re: Cold water survival story from Alaska

I'd be dead in about 30 SECONDS!! I like my water in the mid 80's...
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Old 09-06-2011, 07:29   #10
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Re: Cold water survival story from Alaska

Sometimes the answer is a bigger boat

On a related Hypothermia topic - would a person last longer if they were in the water (without a full immersion suit) or on a flat raft with no wind protection and soaking wet through....or no appreciable difference?
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Old 09-06-2011, 09:09   #11
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Re: Cold water survival story from Alaska

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Originally Posted by David_Old_Jersey View Post
On a related Hypothermia topic - would a person last longer if they were in the water (without a full immersion suit) or on a flat raft with no wind protection and soaking wet through....or no appreciable difference?
Dr. Giesbrecht and most other experts recommed you always try to get out of the water. They say even getting your self partway out of the water helps. It may feel colder up in the wind, but your actual heat loss to the water is much greater than to the air.
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Old 09-06-2011, 09:27   #12
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Re: Cold water survival story from Alaska

Water is a much better conductor than air, even accounting for the loss from evaporation, (which is good you are drying off and ending this heat loss factor).

A full life jacket is a good insulator, 2 inches of closed cell foam, around the chest protecting core body temp. I would wear the biggest and fluffyest lifejacket I had in cold waters. And a couple of layers of goretex underneath wouldn't hurt either.

From personal experience just having a all weather jacket on under the life vest made a big difference. I was fairly comfortable in 50 degree water, (after the initial shock). And was able to come ashore with only my legs and arms cold, the others in cotton hoodies were shaking and cold, and needed help to pull themselves out of the water after only a few minutes.
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Old 09-06-2011, 09:28   #13
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Re: Cold water survival story from Alaska

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Originally Posted by AK_sailor View Post
Dr. Giesbrecht and most other experts recommed you always try to get out of the water. They say even getting your self partway out of the water helps. It may feel colder up in the wind, but your actual heat loss to the water is much greater than to the air.
Water is a conductor of heat, air is an insulator.

Conduction is not the only cause.


Quote:
Heat loss occurs via several mechanisms, the most significant of which, under dry conditions, is radiation (55-65% of heat loss). Conduction and convection account for about 15% of additional heat loss, and respiration and evaporation account for the remainder. Conductive and convective heat loss, or direct transfer of heat to another object or circulating air, respectively, are the most common causes of accidental hypothermia. Conduction is a particularly significant mechanism of heat loss in drowning/immersion accidents as thermal conductivity of water is up to 30 times that of air.
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Old 09-06-2011, 09:37   #14
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Re: Cold water survival story from Alaska

Ok, so that seems pretty decisive. Cheers.
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Old 09-06-2011, 09:43   #15
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Re: Cold water survival story from Alaska

You forgot to print the story about the 4 commercial clammers that died before them in Cook Inlet.
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