The man who refused to freeze to death – BBC News

After a short while deliberating, the three men decide to risk the swim. Within 10 minutes, the two others had succumbed to the cold. In all, it took Frirsson six hours to swim to land. How was he able to survive for so much longer than his compatriots?

For the fishermen, the first few minutes after hitting the water were critical. Cold water takes heat away from the body quicker than air at the same temperature. Those that succumbed quickly were probably unable to control the cold shock response. Gasping and panicking, they inhaled water. Frirsson, by contrast, managed to control his breathing.

He later described remaining clear-headed throughout his swim. He even chose to get back in the sea to swim further along the shoreline after the cliffs at his first landing spot proved too difficult to climb. The presence of mind to do this probably saved his life.

Finally, Frirsson reached a village, and around 7am on Monday morning he knocked on someones door. He was later discharged from hospital having been treated for his cuts and dehydration. There was no sign that he had suffered from hypothermia at all.

Frirsson, now 58, is a large man. He stands 63 (193cm) and weighed 19.6 stone (125kg) in his twenties. A generous layer of fat about two and a half centimetres thick wraps his abdomen. His body fat kept him insulated, but it was also a vital source of energy.

Even so, his ability to stay warm was exceptional. Researchers who conducted tests on Frirsson after his ordeal concluded that he must have been able to maintain near normal body temperature for the entirety of his swim.

Unlike other extreme survivors, Frirsson has not made his story into a money-spinner. A 2012 independent Icelandic film is the sum total of the mainstream coverage. The clothes that he wore, now on display in the Eldheimar Museum on Heimaey in a small exhibit to the islands fishing history, are a modest recognition for his remarkable story.


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The man who refused to freeze to death - BBC News

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