One of the most popular stories on HuffPost this week concerns Peter Skyllberg, who, trapped in his snow-bound car for two months, reportedly survived with no food in freezing temperatures. He reportedly drove off the road and ended up stranded deep within the forest in Umea, Sweden. Apparently, he was lucky enough to have a sleeping bag in the car with him. In addition, authorities claim that Skyllberg hadn't eaten anything since December 19th, a full two months prior to being discovered by a passerby.
Despite the freezing temperatures, the snow actually offered two crucial ingredients for Skyllberg's survival. First, he maintained necessary hydration by eating the melted snow. Second, the snow provided a protective layer of insulation on all sides of Skyllberg's car.
Dr. Bert Yankielun, an expert on igloos and the author of How To Build An Igloo And Other Snow Shelters, says the term "igloo effect" was thought up by the media to give us a mental picture of the science that saved the man's life. He says that "Snow consists of ice crystals and air, and the air is trapped in little tiny microscopic pockets between the ice crystals. And it's the air that provides an insulating factor. It's much like, i tell people, look at your fluffy ski jacket full of fibers with all the little pockets of air between the fibers." He continues, "I think it would have been impossible for this gentleman to survive without the insulating effect of snow."
Some reports have claimed that the man went into a hibernation-like state. But hibernation expert Hannah Carey at the University of Wisconsin-Madison says that if we fully understood the science of how animals hibernate, "We could induce humans and other animals into a mild dormant state," but until then, "of course, humans don't actually hibernate."
A normal human body can live up to a month without food, but throw in a little extra body fat and a cozy blanket of cold air and ice around you, it seems almost anything is possible!
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