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Nat’l Post: ‘There was no great shock or anything’: How a baker survived the Titanic disaster by getting really drunk

February 23, 2017 — 

As the National Post reports:

….Charles Joughin, the chief baker of the RMS Titanic and one of the most remarkable survival stories of that fateful night.

The baker had nonchalantly stepped off the stern of the sinking liner. Then, as 1,500 screaming, panicked souls drowned and froze to death around him, Joughin calmly paddled around until dawn. After being fished out by a lifeboat, he was back at work within days….

In a survival situation, having all that warm blood away from the vital organs means that the drinker is at greater risk of hypothermia.

However, Canadian hypothermia expert Gordon Giesbrecht figures that in the -2 C temperature of the North Atlantic, the water was cold enough to quickly tighten Joughin’s blood vessels and cancel out any effect of the alcohol.

“At low to moderate doses of alcohol, cold will win out,” said Giesbrecht, a University of Manitoba professor who has performed hundreds of cold-water immersion studies….

“In an ER, cold patients who are really drunk can walk in and they’re conscious at a temperature that they shouldn’t be,” said Giesbrecht….

In reality, the cold shock ends after 90 seconds. Even in the winter waters of the North Atlantic, an average-sized adult still has 10 minutes before going numb, and at least an hour before the heart stops.

“The average adult is a big chunk of meat and it takes a lot of energy to cool it off,” said Giesbrecht….

Given the circumstances, Giesbrecht said that the only step Joughin missed was to put on more clothing. Extra layers — even wet layers — slow down the loss of body heat.

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