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Advice On Dealing With Cold

November 30, 2010

Few people in history can have been more experienced in dealing with cold than Arctic whalers. This 1820 account by William Scoresby, master of the Baffin gives an insight into the conditions on board ship, and is smart advice on how to stay warm for longer in very cold conditions. Bear in mind that the temperatures he describes are in Fahrenheit, so 10 degrees, is actually -12 Celcius, and of course 60F is around 15C. At -12C, Scoresby found he could remain at the masthead “for several hours without uneasiness” if he drank tea beforehand:

It is a prevailing opinion, that sudden transitions from heat to cold, are very inimical to health. Where the heat is productive of copious perspiration, the sudden exposure to cold might operate unfavourably; but where no sensible perspiration prevails, I have never seen, in a healthy person, any ill effects resulting from the greatest transitions. For my own part, indeed, whenever I have occasion to expose myself to a severe cold, I like to get the body well warmed, finding that the more I am heated the longer I can resist the cold without inconvenience. Internal warmth, however, is clearly preferable to superficial heat, and the warmth produced by simple fluids, such as tea or soup, preferable to that occasioned by spirits. After the liberal use of tea, I have often sustained a cold of 10°, at the masthead, for several hours without uneasiness. And though I have often gone from the breakfast table, where the temperature was 50 or 60 degrees, to the mast-head, where it was 10°, and without any additional clothing excepting a cap, yet I never received any injury, and seldom much inconvenience from the uncommon transition. Hence when the sea is smooth, so that the smoke of the stove can make its escape, I generally have my cabin heated as high as 50 or 60 degrees, and sometimes upward, though I am liable to be called upon deck or even to the mast-head, at a moment’s warning.

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