Immersion and Survival in Cold Water


A SURVEY of the results of experiments performed in baths1 suggests that few men would live in water near freezing point for more than 30 min. and none for more than 1½ hr. Yet some people derive much pleasure and no harm from brief immersions in such water, and shipwrecked people are known to have survived after spending several hours in icy seas. Thus, Molnar1 has quoted a group of twenty-three people who all survived long immersion in the sea although experiments performed in baths suggested that this should have lowered their rectal temperatures to 24° C., and he was surprised to find in another report that three men who had no life-jackets could hold up their heads after 1 hr. in water at 4–7° C. Critchley2, moreover, has quoted an example of a man who survived after swimming for more than half a day in water at − 1.5°C. The following observations and calculations may explain this apparent contradiction.


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GLASER, E. Immersion and Survival in Cold Water. Nature 166, 1068 (1950).

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