Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Would you take shelter inside an animal?

Sleeping bag
"This may smell bad, kid, but it'll keep you warm until I get the shelter up... Ugh. And I thought they smelled bad on the outside."
-Han Solo, The Empire Strike Back
Continuing the topic of off-beat ways to stay warm, was recently asked, "What’s the best animal to slice open and crawl inside to stay warm?" In Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Luke is put inside a freshly killed tauntaun to avoid freezing on the ice planet Hoth. Would this work in real life?

Cecil Adams first offers some silly answers,
"taking shelter inside dead animals can’t really be considered an affordable housing option ... Many large warm-blooded critters would do, such as a bear, water buffalo, or rhinoceros. Historically, however, the emergency refuge of choice was a horse. ... Slice one open even in case of dire necessity and you’re likely to hear from one PO’d little girl or dressage buff. Cows are less of an issue, but you still take the chance of having PETA come over and picket your house."
Then he gets serious,
"I could find only one case where someone had actually climbed into an animal to survive the cold as opposed to trying to get on TV, namely an intrepid pioneer priest named Father Goiffon. [He became lost in North Dakota in a snowy November]  When his horse finally died, the enterprising priest cut open its belly and crawled inside the carcass. He was mostly successful — his equine sleeping bag saved his life, but he lost his leg due to frostbite."
Bottom Line

Cecil concludes with an example that also sheds some light on my question from a few days ago, when does cold weather became too dangerous to endure?
How much time would sheltering in a deceased animal buy you? Assuming a bitterly cold day (9 degrees Fahrenheit), a stiff wind (12 miles per hour) [about -5 wind chill], and a 500-kilogram cow with half its insides scooped out, and factoring in the heat produced by the resident human, my assistant Una estimates the cow’s body would lose about 3 degrees per hour. She concludes you’d have right around 15 hours, best case, before hypothermia set in.

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