Pushing the Envelope
Feeling fairly excitable after having experienced the cold chamber at close to -60C, wrapped in an incredible down-filled cloud, it wasn’t long before Hugh and I struck upon a fanciful idea: to fully understand the benefit of the amazing technologies used to maintain our team on the ice at super low temperatures, we wanted to see how long we could last in normal civvy clothing. Ian Prickett had endured several hours wrapped like a feather-filled astronaut and I was feeling hopeful that my cotton shirt and jeans would at least hold up for a couple of minutes. We had to at least try.
The door hissed open, plumes of frozen moisture crystals poured around my leather shoes and down into my thin socks. We were in! Hugh’s smile said it all. It was freezing. Absolutely, nose-burningly cold. Every breath drew daggers into my nostrils. Our eyelashes began to fur with ice crystals. We laughed and chatted amiably, as though nonchalantly standing at a station waiting for a train, initially oblivious to the suffocating cold. Ian’s surprise to see two relatively naked people joining him was short lived and our jokes become less frequent. Our icy breath blinded as we laughed.
I asked Ian how the cold would be affecting us physiologically. He described how it would be forcing our bodies to shut down; our capillaries would begin to close in the surface of our skin, the blood would move from our extremities and surround our core. By the time he got to the bit about our skin beginning to freeze, blister and blood vessels burst, our teeth were chattering, our knees were trembling and it was with great relief that the door opened. We needed no further incentive to get out as fast as possible.
Conclusion: -58C is rather cold. If you want to spend any longer than a couple of minutes in those conditions, jeans, shirts and even gillets don’t quite cut it.