Earth’s north and south extremities are among the most inhospitable places on the planet. Even in summer months, temperatures are near freezing and winds reach up to 200 miles an hour, so you can imagine the cold is the biggest killer here. What would one have to do in order to survive in these unwelcoming places? How would you stay alive if you’re freezing to death?
If you’re walking across snowy wastes, you better have packed the proper clothing. Bet your money on multiple layers of breathable fleeces and keep them dry. In these places any water will instantly freeze and so goes for your exposed flesh. Covering up is essential as your nose hairs and eyelashes can start icing in minutes. The body‘s response to heat loss will happen rather fast by tightening blood vessels near your skin. This is why we look paler when we are cold and our fingers and toes become numb. If you don’t manage to heat up, your muscles will start moving involuntarily causing you to shiver. This will cause a boost in heat production, but it will use a lot of your energy and you will have to compensate by eating and drinking a lot more than usual. The water ratio recommended in an extreme cold environment is eight liters per day and the food ration should provide you with 6000 calories intake (more than 3 times the daily recommended allowance). Polar explorers are known to use butter or seal fat over their food rations in order to increase the calories of their meals.
The basic gear for being able to travel in these regions must include:
- A hat with ear flaps that should cover your head and neck, which are vital areas. One with a strap to secure it would be ideal, as you will not have problems during high winds.
- Goggles with a photochromic lens to help ward off the glare from ice and make sure you see the dangers which lie hidden in the ice (cracks and holes).
- A balaclava (ski mask) is a must as it will help cover up as much skin from your face as possible and keep the heat in. A woolen one should do wonders.
- A thermal shirt as your base layer, it should be a thin insulating top that wicks any sweat away from your body.
- A pair of waterproof and windproof trousers made from a breathable material in order to avoid getting your legs sweaty and lose vital fluid.
- A pair of boots with a firm grip and a fleece coating that will keep your feet warm. You can use a pair that has straps as long as you don’t fasten them too tight as this may cause a cut of blood supply to your feet.
- A well-built jacket that needs to be both wind and waterproof to keep you warm and dry. There are jackets available with GPS trackers and sensors that will help rescue teams locate you, in case of need.
- A pair of sturdy gloves or a pair of mittens if you don’t have to do any labor that requires dexterity and the use of your fingers.
Once you have a proper gear you will be able to travel around without the fear of becoming an ice block. And usually it is safe to walk on white ice, but grey ice is only four to six inches thick and prone to cracking and black ice is a sure no as it will have only just formed.
If the night comes you will have to build an igloo for protection and the first thing to do is to find the right spot to start building it.
The first trick to making your igloo is to build it on the side of a slope as it will mean less building for you. Dig a trench in the snow around 2 feet deep. Get in and slice out blocks of packed ice from either side of the trench to ensure they are nice and uniform. Dig another trench into the side of the hill about 1.6 feet wide that will serve as an entrance. Leave a gap and dig another hole, but don’t make it as deep as the entrance trench. This will be your sleeping chamber so make sure you will fit in it.
Now it’s time to build the walls and for this you will have to stack up the ice blocks in a circle around the sleeping trench, leaving a gap around the entrance trench. Over the entrance trench stack the ice blocks in a semicircle. Make the entrance tunnel as small as possible to minimize the heat loss and to prevent animals from getting in. Rub water or snow over the blocks to fuse them together and you will be done with the construction of your night shelter.
Another problem you will have to deal with is procuring food and this means only one thing: Ice fishing.
You will have to make a hole with a 1.5 diameter, in grey ice with a manual drill. Set up your chair three feet away from the hole and hold your rod over the top of it, with the line dangling in the water. The rod should be only three feet long and made of a sturdy material. Drop the baited line seven feet down and wait for a bite.
And the last but not least, you have to pay attention to predators, your biggest problem being the polar bears, which are known to be masters of disguise and have a short temper when being hungry.
If you end up in the polar regions keep in mind all the above and make good use of this knowledge.
Stay Safe out there!
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