Survival in the Canadian Arctic: recommended clothing and equipment to survive exposure

  1. Available on October 1, 2017
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ConferenceArctic Technology Conference, 24-26 October 2016, St. John's, NL
AbstractThe reduction in sea ice in the Arctic has produced new routes for shipping, thereby increasing the amount of marine traffic that can transit through the area. Additionally, the Arctic has become a popular destination for cruise ships some of which are increasingly large capacity ships that are operating a great distance from search and rescue assets and other assistance. If a marine accident were to occur in the Arctic and people became exposed to the elements then the clothing they could use may not provide sufficient thermal protection while waiting for rescue. This paper contains the results from two studies. The first measured the amount of thermal protection provided by various clothing ensembles that could be used in a mass Arctic evacuation, which were then used to calculate predicted survival time (PST). The second study evaluated the length of time a person may be exposed to the environment if they were forced to abandon a vessel or installation at one of eight different locations in the Arctic. These exposure times are based on the range of times search and rescue assets would take to reach the individual. The results from these two previous studies were combined to provide recommendations for clothing ensembles for different locations in the Canadian Arctic while awaiting rescue. The estimated exposure time while awaiting rescue varied considerably, ranging from a minimum of 14 hours to a maximum of 261 hours. In certain conditions, the thermal protection provided by eight of the ten clothing ensembles tested was sufficient to delay death from hypothermia. However, it should be noted that if PST is greater than 36 hours then factors other than hypothermia are likely to result in death (e.g. drowning or dehydration). The majority of the ensembles did not provide a sufficient level of thermal protection to prevent death from hypothermia in less than 36 hours when wetted and exposed to wind. It is concluded that certain clothing ensembles that could be used during a marine accident in the Arctic would not provide sufficient thermal protection to survive exposure to the environment while awaiting rescue. This finding is particularly important given the relatively recent increase in marine traffic through the Arctic and the subsequent increase in the likelihood of a marine accident that may require abandonment and result in direct exposure to the environment.
Publication date
AffiliationAutomotive and Surface Transportation; National Research Council Canada; Ocean, Coastal and River Engineering
Peer reviewedYes
NRC numberOCRE-PR-2016-004
NPARC number23000848
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Record identifier8894ced9-e760-4d10-a634-61c131cf6faf
Record created2016-10-18
Record modified2016-10-19
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