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Swedish man found alive after two months snowbound in car

Yesterday, a Swedish man was found huddled in a sleeping bag in the backseat of his snowbound SUV, where he had been stranded since December.
Posted: February 19, 2012 - 11:20PM
Author: Don Bain

Incredibly, the man was still alive – though barely intelligible – even though he said he had nothing to eat save snow for the entire period of time.

The car was found on a forest road more than half a mile from the nearest highway. Temperatures in the area had fallen to as low as 22 degrees below zero at time during the man’s two month ordeal.

He said he was unable to proceed in a blizzard and thus stranded in his car since December 19 when he was found February 18 by snowmobilers who at first believed they had come upon a wrecked, abandoned vehicle.

After brushing some of the snow from the windows, they noticed movement, according to a story in the Vasterbotten Courier reported on BBC News Europe and attributed to Reuters.

"He was in a very poor state,” according to Constable Ebbe Nyberg. “Poor condition. He said he'd been there for a long time and had survived on a little snow. He said himself he hadn't eaten anything since December."

The 44-year-old man, Peter Skyllberg, 44 is currently under treatment at Umea University Hospital where he is reportedly doing well, considering what he has endured.

Humans, as a rule, can go a week without water and 30 days without sustenance before expiring from thirst or hunger. The man clearly owes his life to the intake of snow, which incidentally robs you of more calories than it can possibly replace, and a state of intermittent hypothermia.

Hypothermia occurs when the core body temperature falls below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. As the body’s temperature drops, internal processes are slowed – metabolic rate, pulse, respiration all are reduced. People have survived injuries thanks to hypothermia slowing the flow of blood from a wound severe enough they would have surely died under warmer conditions..

It is also likely the amount of snow around the SUV also contributed to the man’s survival, creating a sort of snow cave around him. The snowmobilers dug through over a yard of snow before they could see in, so the insulating value of three feet of snow probably kept Skyllberg from freezing solid.

Anyone who has spent a snowy night in a cabin high in the Rocky Mountains is well aware of the insulating value of a foot or two of snow. Winter survival techniques instruct anyone stranded in deep snow to dig a cave under the snow – where a constant temperature of 28 degrees can be found. That temperature is easily survivable in a sleeping bag, as long as you can keep your air vents open. We wonder how the fortunate Swede kept from suffocating under all that snow during his ordeal. An SUV doesn't hold enough air for two months unless there's an opening that lets in the cold as well as air.

It is interesting to wonder whether he would have survived in a smaller car, but to some degree a moot point. Would anyone travel into the high mountains in winter in anything but an all-wheel-drive SUV? Would you?

In any case, we salute your amazing tale of survival, Mr. Skyllberg. Live long and prosper.


Aaron Turpen    February 20, 2012 - 2:10PM

Pretty miraculous. I remember spending two nights in a snow cave we dug as a Boy Scout and later doing the same when stranded in the Uinta Mountains of Utah overnight. A dugout snow cave can actually be comfortable once you've built it and created the ice layer inside (a single candle heats the interior snow just enough to melt at which point it promptly freezes again).

But two months? And without food? That's beyond imagination.