Ever notice how wrinkly your hands get after a few minutes in the tub? Just imagine how'd they look after 10 days underwater.
Tim Yarrow doesn't have to imagine it. He experienced it in November 2002, when he was submerged n a small pool located in a South African mall.
In the process, he set a world record for most time spent underwater. He was underwater for 240 hours, beating out the previous record, 212 hours and 30 minutes, set in 1986 by Michael Stephens of Britain.
Yarrow also won an unofficial (and dubious) honor as one of the greatest human guinea pigs of all time by “Outrageous Acts Of Science," a Science Channel series airing Saturday nights that analyzes the science behind various strange acts.
Yarrow, was 30 when he dropped into the water for a week and a half. To stay under for so long, he faced many challenges including nothing less than breathing, eating and excreting. He dealt with the food issue by eating a low-fiber diet through a tube, attached a catheter so he could eliminate waste from his body and used scuba gear to maintain oxygen.
The most amazing change to his body was how the water turned Yarrow's hands into what looked like wrinkled sausages, an effect that happens because of the excessive skin tissue on hands and feet, according to biologist Carin Bondar.
"Skin on our hands and our feet tends to get coarse. We have extra layers of dead skin because our hands and our feet are so well used," she said in the episode.
British ecologist, Ellie Harrison, said the dead cells work as a sponge.
"The reason that you get such wrinkly hands and feet is because the surface of the skin is covered in dead keratin cells and they absorb water faster than any other cells," she said. "Because they’re attached to the live keratin cells beneath, they just puff up and end up having to wrinkle. There’s nowhere else for them to go."
A quick dip in the tub isn't a problem, but Harrison said 10 days in the drink could be potentially dangerous.
"I should think in the long term, if he stayed under water for an extraordinarily long time, the skin would break down," she said in the show. "It would probably blister and that would leave him really open to infection, particularly in that water, he could get really quite ill."
Despite the risks, Yarrow reported no serious injuries from the incident.