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The Mysterious Case of Peter Skyllberg, the Snowed-in Swede Who Survived in an ‘igloo’ Car, Hibernated Or is Lying

Posted on the 21 February 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
The mysterious case of Peter Skyllberg, the snowed-in Swede who survived in an ‘igloo’ car, hibernated or is lying

A snowed in car. Photo credit: xuenay

The strange case of Peter Skyllberg, a Swedish 44 year-old loner who apparently survived for over two months of freezing winter in his snow-covered car with no food, has fired the imagination of survivalists and occupied the thoughts of the commentariat.

The Telegraph and other newspapers reported that Skyllberg was said by doctors to have endured temperatures of -30C (-22F) as he stayed inside the car through most of December, January and February after it was covered by heavy snow in a forest near the town of Umea in northern Sweden. He was eventually found, emaciated and barely able to move or speak, by a man on a snowmobile who sighted Skyllberg’s snow-covered vehicle on a deserted road just south of the Arctic Circle. The newspaper reported that Skyllberg survived on nothing but snow “but investigators believe that he also ate a ‘salve or ointment’ that was found in the car in order to survive.” Police are unsure why he did not attempt to leave his car. A friend of Skyllberg’s told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet that Skyllberg had suffered a series of personal setbacks and disappeared last May with debt collectors on his heels and had not been heard from since. Little more is known as Skyllberg, who is recovering in Umea’s Norrlands hospital, is refusing to talk to the press.

Skyllberg was initially believed to be a nature lover who got snowed in while on a wilderness expedition. But a local petrol station owner, Andreas Östensson, told Aftonbladet that, prior to December, Skyllberg had been living in the forest and sleeping in his car since last summer and that he had regularly come into his store to buy “hot dogs, bread, cigarettes and coffee.” “Of course I thought it was odd that he lived in the forest. I was wondering what he was doing all day. But on the other hand he was good looking, used camping clothes, shaved himself and had good hygiene. I knew he was a loner but that he could live in the car for such a long time is difficult to understand,” added Östensson.

Did he hibernate? Dr. Stefan Branth, from Uppsala University, suggested that Skyllberg may have stayed alive by hibernating, The Guardian reported. “A bit like a bear that hibernates. Humans can do that. He probably had a body temperature of around 31C [88F], which the body adjusted to. Due to the low temperature, not much energy was used up,” Branth said. Normal healthy body temperature is around 99F (37C).

Or did he survive thanks to an igloo effect? Branth’s theory was dismissed by Norrlands University Hospital’s chief medical officer, Dr. Ulf Segerberg, who said that Skyllberg’s car likely kept him warm by providing insulation similar to an igloo. “Igloos usually have a temperature of a couple of degrees below 0C [32F] and if you have good clothes you would survive in those temperatures and be able to preserve your body temperature,” Segerberg said.

“The two hypotheses put forward for Skyllberg’s survival have both been questioned. One is that he curled up in his sleeping bag, like Yogi Bear, and went into hibernation. The other is that, like Nanook of the North, the snow encasing his car created ‘an igloo effect’ creating a snug-as-a-bug-in-a rug effect. Neither is plausible. There were a lot of sweet wrappers visible in photographs of the car – perhaps he had a case full of Twinkies. More plausible,” suggested party po0per John Sutherland at The Guardian.

True or false it touches on a deep primal fear. At The Guardian’s comment is free. John Sutherland drilled down into why people are so fascinated by the story of the “snowed-in Swede.” He said that “if true – and the local police hospital staff seem to think it is – the endurance of Skyllberg makes us feel better about our own capacity to survive the bad things we know are coming. Global warming? We’ll sweat our way through it, cheerfully humming Gloria Gaynor’s anthem.” “At a very deep level, the story of Skyllberg (true of false) touches a deep primal fear. Freezing or starving to death? I can live, so to speak, with that. But what Edgar Allan Poe described in The Premature Burial (whether in a wooden box, under earth, or a metal box, under snow) is my Room 101.”

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