Hypothermia, a silent threat

With the colder time of the year approaching fast, we should familiarize ourself with the possible threat of Hypothermia. Besides shoulder or back injuries, Hypothermia is probably the greatest kayaking safety hazard, and responsible for more paddle related deaths (directly or indirectly) than any other hazard. Often hypothermia is not taken seriously and is treated lightly. It shouldn't be! Hypothermia can kill, and does so regularly.

I grew up in Europe close to the Alps, and went climbing and mountaineering all year round. For years I was unable to fathom people who died 100m away from a mountain hut, or Amundsen the polar explorer, who after such a long march died a mile away of his fuel & food depot. I always thought ha- if I have to, I always can walk another 100 meters, especially when my life depends on it! Wrong- you can't. What I didn't understand was how Hypothermia affects your thinking process and your ability to  make judgements or rational decisions. Then it happened to me: We (= me and 2 friends, both qualified as mountain guides) went on a 2 day hike through the snow in the upper German/Austrian Alps.

To cut a long story short, the conditions changed and we ended up on a 45° slope, about 100 meters high, covered in 2meters of powder snow. On the ridge above was the safety & warmth of a hut. We could see the lights, but had already been struggling with the weather conditions for about 10 hours. We had to get up to the hut, but for every step forward, we slipped 2 back. We were cold. We were hungry & totally exhausted. It was blowing a gale. We had only 100 steep meters to go. Uli and I made it about half way up, Robert 10m further, then we just collapsed in the snow. We could hear voices from the hut, and smell the fire. But we couldn't move. We were too exhausted and, ( although we were not aware of it) suffering from worsening Hypothermia. We just sat there, getting colder, but it didn't bother us in the least. The colder we got, the less we cared.

I got a bit tired but didn't feel that cold any more. We were totally lethargic, awaiting our fates,  sort of aware that we might die that night- but we couldn't have cared less! We giggled and laughed a lot. We actually sat there, laughing about the fact that we would die and not see the sun again, and found it funny. Suddenly after maybe one or one and a half hours Robert had sort of a “bright moment”,  got rid of his backpack, and started to crawl on all four up the hill, screaming “I'm not going to die today!”, and later for “Help!” He made it half way up the remaining slope, when somebody from the hut having a leak outside heard his fading screams, got his friends, and found him / us on the slope below.

They came to our rescue and dragged us into the hut to the fire, warmed & fed us. I was a very lucky H that evening!! They saved our lives! Today I find it hard again to understand how it could have come that far. But Hypothermia creeps up slowly. And the more it affects you, the more vulnerable you become, because you often don't realize it yourself. Hypothermia totally jeopardises your ability to make a proper, clear and logical decision. It's like being drunk ( in a bad way ).

Don't be fooled now and think: OK,  he was sitting in snow, and I live in Australia, the hottest continent in the world. Cool winter water and wind(chill) can easily create conditions, which can put paddlers in Australia at risk. What I'm saying is take hypothermia seriously, and check on your mates as well-  they might not be right. The typical victim is wet, hungry, cold and exhausted. If somebody shows early signs of hypothermia get him back to land, NOW- Right away!

The early signs are things like:
-Erratic paddling and a inability to maintain course or speed
-Lack of coordination, balance or articulation
-Uncontrollable shivering, blue lips, pale appearance as well as blurred vision
-Acting spacey or “slow” and being unable to perform even simple tasks.
More serious signs:
-Apparent inability to get warm
-Muscle rigidity, replacing previous shivering
-Incoherence or collapse, weak pulse and breathing
-Unconsciousness, and finally death

Get a hat on the victim ( one third of warmth is lost via the head alone), dry & dress him warmly , and make sure he doesn't loose any more heat. Pack the victim in a sleeping bag, blanket or what ever is available. When the victim can eat & drink give him some warm drink and energy food. A mate acting as a “warming bottle” by stripping most clothes off and cuddling up in the sleeping bag is of great value. Otherwise heat packs can be applied to the neck, the sides of the chest, or the groin area only. Never supply any form of alcohol.

A strongly hypothermic or even unconscious person is strictly a stretcher patient. Stop heat loss. Avoid any unnecessary movement or rubbing, as well as food or warm drinks. Avoid anything which might start the circulation in the patient's extremities. The cold blood of the extremities could run back into the body and drop the core temperature even further, causing heart failure. Never try to warm up a critically hypothermic person yourself. Get professional help as soon as possible!
Also keep in mind that it doesn't help anybody if you give the patient all your clothes, and as a result you become hypothermic yourself.

Dress right, wear a hat if it is cool, watch the wind if you're wet.
Put something on before you feel cold and start to shiver.
Eat and drink enough to feed your metabolism, and keep active; stop, and you cool down.
Always dress for submersion, not air temperature, it's easier to cool off (dip in), than to keep warm in the water. Remember, you can paddle yourself warm, but you can't swim yourself warm. If you are submerged in water (away from your kayak), move as little as possible, otherwise you'll loose your body temperature quicker, and burn important energy.
Survival Times in cold water:
Water has a 20times higher heat conduction ability than air. In water-temperatures over 20° Celsius you should be right for a while. Below that your survival times are:
-less than 12 hours at 15°-20°C
-less than 6 hours at 10°-15°C
-1 to  3 hours at 3°-10°C

Below 2° you've go less than 45 minutes. These are survival times with a lifevest keeping you and your head over water. Unconsciousness or inability to move will come much, much sooner, in water under 5°C actually within minutes.

In cold water (below 10°C) you've got an even deadlier cousin of Hypothermia: the Cold Water Shock, a physiological reaction to sudden submersion in cold water. It often kills within a couple of minutes to a maximum of half an hour, and leaves you unable to swim just 3meters to safety, or hold on to something. You can somewhat train your body to accept the cold water, but that is no guarantee that it won't happen to you, it just increases your chances.
So: Dress right and you'll be right!

By Holger Goehr

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DB: catch up later
Josh: heya DB, how goes it?
Carl: hey Db's back...did you get parole or early release for good behaviour?
DB: Hey guys. Haven't been able to access the site for ages for some bizarre reason. Just re registered with a different email.
We just had our local exchange out of order too and no phone but that seems ok now.
Haven't done much fishing of late but I am a member of a local fish stocking group which stocks two small dams locally.
Planning on getting off shore again soon but I am fatter than ever an more unfit so I'll be taking it easy and sticking close to shore. Chat soon :D
DB: Morning Carl.
XDCAMMER: Hey DB, good to see ya still alive,. I was talking to Tas yesterday (Fri) and he said to pass on his best to all you guys. He has bought a PA 12 and is fitting it out. All the best mate, power walking is a good slimmer. WHATS WITH BALLS? Cheers to Kate. xD .
XDCAMMER: Imagine what would happen to an AI mast if it were hit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCRguPMjXLw&feature=player_embedded Lucky boys. I hate lightening.
DB: Anyone home?
DB: Later folks. :D
Guest_3610: Salmon fishing from the yak in WA....video
Jenkins: Hi Josh
Jenkins: what size rods do you use on your adventure
Josh: Jenkins, I have 6 rods, all of them Nitro. 2 x Godzilla for trolling, Viper for jigging, just got a Magnum Butt Distance Spin for casting lures into frenzied fish. Voodoo for plastics for small to medium species and a ultra bream for finesse fishing/squid, etc. Taking a Godzila, Viper and Magnum But to Fraser Isl next month
Jenkins: Thanks Josh
Josh: You're welcome
XDCAMMER: If I get asked for another "Hobie canoe" I'm going to SCREAM!
Jenkins: This might sound like a dumb question but what would you consider and moderate wind speed to go fishing and what size swell?
Carl: i think 8 - 12 knots is a good wind speed for trolling on an AI...i don't get swell too much here only get chop from wind up to 1.5 m when i get wind v current...washing machine conditions...
Guest_9733: With regards to swell, it depends very much on wind conditions at the time, and whether or not there are white caps. Trolling at wind speeds Carl suggested is great for pelagics, slower for reef fish is usually a bit better
Jenkins: Thanks for that, cheers.
XDCAMMER: I wouldn't be eating that cod. I wonder if Rapala will bring out a new shaped CD Mag, not sure where you'd put the hooks tho.
Gard: Just got my Lovig dry pants. Think they will be much better than the neoprene waders I've been using, but I need some kind of shoe/boot to wear over them. I want to be able to walk on oysters (tough sole) and ramps (good grip) and boulders / rocks (some support) and mud (good fastening system) while being lightweight, fast draining and drying, and not rotting from use in salt water. Any suggestions?

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