Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht, the world's leading authority on freezing to death, believes the best way to study the effects of cold on the human body is to get intimate with the elements. Along the way to claiming numerous research firsts, the 45-year-old physiologist and director of the University of Manitoba's Laboratory for Exercise and Environmental Medicine has lowered his body below 95 degrees, the threshold for hypothermia, a mind- and body-numbing 33 times.
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Photograph by Dan Winters
"I'm the scientist who does things for real," he says, "to make sure I really know what I'm talking about."
Findings from Giesbrecht's studies have reached rescuers and trauma doctors and already helped save lives. His latest goal is to teach Joe Snowshoe about what to do, and what not to do, when the blizzard hits. As part of his education effort, Giesbrecht colloborated with Discovery Channel Canada this past March to produce a three-part series of short segments that aim to do just that. In accordance with his reputation, the charismatic King of Chill balances information with entertainment, going so far as to leap with gusto repeatedly into a frigid lake and drive a snowmobile at night off the edge of the ice and into the icy drink. Hey, it's all in the name of science.
(All clips courtesy Discovery Channel Canada. Videos will open and play in new window.)
CLIP 1: Cold Comfort
Strategies for survival if you fall through ice.
CLIP 2: Getting That Sinking Feeling
The importance of proper outerwear to keep you afloat and alive
CLIP 3: Icy IQ
So what have we learned from my pain? Dr. Giesbrecht sums up how our bodies react to cold.