Anorak News | Catlin Arctic Survey Researchers Contract Urban Hypothermia

Catlin Arctic Survey Researchers Contract Urban Hypothermia

by | 8th, April 2009

WHAT news from The Catlin Arctic Survey – “the international collaboration between polar explorers and some of the world’s foremost scientific bodies. It seeks to resolve one of the most important environmental questions of our time” – ?

The mission: “How long will the Arctic Ocean’s sea ice cover remain a permanent feature of our planet?

Take a pew.

The report:

In disadvantaged inner cities it’s known in medical circles as Urban Hypothermia. GPs adopted the term after seeing an increase, during winter, of elderly patients who have switched off their heating, fearful of the cost, and become ill as a result because of the cold.

It’s c-c-c-cold.

Chronic, as opposed to acute, hypothermia is the official term.

The Catlin Arctic Survey Team have now been working in temperatures of below -40 degrees centigrade for more than 30 days. When the three (Pen Hadow, Ann Daniels and Martin Hartley) leave messages on the TVM – a machine that records the messages they phone into London HQ – their voices often sound slurred and they occasionally muddle their words.

C-c-c-c-could you repeat the question?

Extreme cold affects the senses and everyday skills we usually take for granted, like speaking. According to CAS medical adviser Doc Martin, the team are constantly battling chronic hypothermia, which was to be expected. (Pen Hadow has described it as an ‘occupational hazard’).

“Chronic hypothermia affects people who are under-nourished, physically and mentally tired and not sleeping well”, says Doc. “You can see the connection between vulnerable elderly people and the physical and mental condition that Pen, Ann and Martin are in”.

In contrast, acute hypothermia is sudden – occurring, for example, when a healthy person falls off a boat into very cold water.

“The explorers’ bodies will be battling to stay at 37 degrees centigrade”, Doc continues. “They need to take on sufficient calories – the fuel that the body burns during exercise – in order to produce heat as a by-product”.

Burn, baby, burn.

The team are pulling heavy sledges of 110 kilos each an average of 6 nautical miles a day. They have the best kit available in terms of warmth and layers, but Doc says clothing alone won’t keep them warm.

“All clothing can do is slow down the process of losing heat”, he explains. “The only way they can keep the hypothermia at bay is to keep moving and to keep eating”.

On a brighter note – it’s a warmer than usual down there…

Posted: 8th, April 2009 | In: Reviews Comment (1) | TrackBack | Permalink