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#164913 - 01/25/09 03:35 AM Re: Ice water self-extraction [Re: bilojax]
Arney Offline

Registered: 09/15/05
Posts: 2485
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: bilojax
...two home-made "ice picks", each consisting of a stout nail or two fixed into a 2-3 foot board.

I'm having a hard time picturing exactly what this homemade set up looks like and how it would be used. Could you explain that a bit? Would the board be held on one end and stretched out or would it be held "sideways" along the lip of the ice, perhaps spreading out your weight along the edge? And where would the nail be along this board?

A knife seems less than ideal for this particular purpose, particularly if it's a folder. Considering the diminished dexterity from the cold water and having gloves on plus the force a person would be trying to exert on that knife to pull themselves out, seems very easy to cut up your hand. Of course, you may not feel it at all at the time, but still...

Didn't Bear do a similar experiment one time? Or was that the Les Stroud episode that someone else mentioned? One thing I remember that I had never thought of was that if you're having a lot of trouble getting onto the ice, one last ditch thing to do is splash some water onto the ice and let your arms freeze to the ice. That way, if you pass out from hypothermia, your head is still above the water. Kind of morbid to think about, but an interesting tactic.

#164914 - 01/25/09 03:40 AM Re: Ice water self-extraction [Re: Arney]

Originally Posted By: Arney
Originally Posted By: bilojax
...two home-made "ice picks", each consisting of a stout nail or two fixed into a 2-3 foot board.

I'm having a hard time picturing exactly what this homemade set up looks like and how it would be used. Could you explain that a bit? Would the board be held on one end and stretched out or would it be held "sideways" along the lip of the ice, perhaps spreading out your weight along the edge? And where would the nail be along this board?

I agree...I cannot picture this at all. It would be very cumbersome swinging 2-3 foot boards around while in the water and with bulky winter clothes on. I have only seen the small handpicks that were mentioned in another post.

#164929 - 01/25/09 06:53 AM Re: Ice water self-extraction [Re: ]
Art_in_FL Offline

Registered: 09/01/07
Posts: 2432
If you make picks out of broomstick and nails a few notes on their construction:

The portion of the nails sticking out needn't be very long. Too long and they are more difficult to use. About 3/4", plus or minus a bit, is plenty.

Whatever portion is outside the wood you need about twice that inside the wood. It won't do to have the nail pull or break out sideways. Pre-drilling the holes for the nails is good because it makes placement more exact and easier, can help reduce splitting. The hole should be roughly one-third the nail diameter in softwood and two-thirds in hardwood. Small barbs pinched into the steel near the non-working end with dykes are an option that will help keep the nail in place.

The portion of the wood rod holding the nail should be firmly wrapped to reinforce the wood and prevent splitting. Remember your hauling your body weight and waterlogged clothing out on a thin bit of steel shoved into the end grain of the wood. Wood that is going to want to split at the worse possible moment. Wire or stout fishing line are good.

Self recovery picks are a good, simple and quick woodworking project. With a few basic skills and a couple of hand tools it is pretty easy to produce a very workmanlike pair in about an hour. Less per unit if you produce them three or four pairs at a time. It is a nice evening project that you can work on with spouse or kids. But remember that those picks your building are life saving devices. So build them like your life depends on them.

As an aside they also have a small roll in self-defense. A friend of a friend's daughter was accosted and only got away from the attacker when she pulled out her pick and drove it into the back of the man's hand several times. Police were able to arrest him when he showed up at the ER. They made the case on that but a detective noted that his blood was also on the nail so DNA evidence was an option.

#164938 - 01/25/09 02:07 PM Re: Ice water self-extraction [Re: Arney]
bilojax Offline

Registered: 01/18/09
Posts: 36
Originally Posted By: Arney
I'm having a hard time picturing exactly what this homemade set up looks like and how it would be used.

As I pictured the suggestion, the resulting tool would be an elongated L-shape with the board forming the long part and the spike or nail forming the short part, except that the nail would not be set in the extreme end of the board, but rather an inch or two away from the end. The end would then be wrapped or treated some way to strengthen the spike and keep it from pulling out under stress. A piece of plastic or minicel foam would be a sacrificial cap for the sharp point of the spike, and a line would be attached by which two such tools would be secured to the boat.

After reading the replies above, I think I personally would prefer the “dowel-type” or screwdriver-shaped implement that scafool tells how to make, and that seems to be represented by the ebay link. In fact, being a big fan of multi-use tools, I think it’d be cool to have actual screwdrivers with long handles and short blades – say 6-inch handles and 3 inch long, 1/4-in-diam blades, one Phillips and one regular. I especially like the idea of keeping them in your sleeves, as one of my objections to the other type was the extra time required to get them after capsize and before swimming to shore.

One thing I’m not clear on is what type of ice is possible at the point you are trying to climb out. Based on a video I saw and one poster’s comment above about “punk ice”, it seems possible that the ice within reach could be too rotten to hold the small blade. In that case, the L-shaped tool would give you a few feet extra reach, which might be a decisive advantage.

#164943 - 01/25/09 02:30 PM Re: Ice water self-extraction [Re: Art_in_FL]

These I am aware and have seen plenty of times. The OP's suggestions were to use boards 2-3' long and that was where my question was directed to.

#164945 - 01/25/09 02:49 PM Re: Ice water self-extraction [Re: ]
comms Offline

Registered: 07/23/08
Posts: 1502
Loc: Mesa, AZ
Wow. Great thread.
Don't just survive. Thrive.

#164957 - 01/25/09 04:19 PM Re: Ice water self-extraction [Re: bilojax]
bilojax Offline

Registered: 01/18/09
Posts: 36
Okay, so it seems like the screwdriver-shaped ice pick worn inside the sleeve is the way to go, for the properly prepared. If I may, let me expand my question a little - what if you don’t have the ice picks, for whatever reason (lost them, forgot them, had them confiscated on the airline flight to Alaska and after landing all the stores were sold out), but otherwise you’re properly prepared. You capsize in a river with ice shelves along both banks, and you find yourself unable to pull yourself up out of the water. Is there any way to make use of your other gear to effect a rescue?

Here’s your gear list:
- You’re wearing a dry suit with neoprene cap
- your boat is a 15-foot long canoe that weighs 50 pounds empty (right now it is swamped after the capsize, and all the following gear is tied to it or attached in some way)
- two 9-foot long carbon-graphite kayak (double-bladed) paddles (main and backup)
- 5-foot wood or plastic spare canoe paddle (single blade)
- 50-foot tow rope attached to the boat
- rescue rope with “throw bag” (rope coiled inside a weighed container, designed to be thrown up to 30-40 feet and to pay out rope behind it)
- two large dry bags filled with camping gear and clothes
- a basic first aid/rescue bag tied to canoe seat.

Surely with all that junk at hand there must be half a dozen ways to rescue yourself. What’s the best way? (Feel free to hypothecate different common circumstances, such as shallow water, wooded banks, etc., but you also need to deal with the cases where these features do not exist.)

#164959 - 01/25/09 04:29 PM Re: Ice water self-extraction [Re: bilojax]
Desperado Offline

Registered: 11/01/08
Posts: 1530
Loc: DFW, Texas
It was shown on "Survive Alaska" I think.....

Stop long enough to calm down and control breathing.
Use your legs to kick and provide lift and propulsion.
Use your arms to guide/push up and pull a little onto the ice.

I have ZERO practical experience with this other than falling into a frozen pool in the shallow end. That was more than enough for me.
I do the things that I must, and really regret, are unfortunately necessary.


#164966 - 01/25/09 05:19 PM Re: Ice water self-extraction [Re: Desperado]
aeaas Offline

Registered: 01/06/08
Posts: 22
Loc: Boulder, CO
Here's a more information on the Canadian professor that specializes in hypothermia/falling through ice.

There is also a video on falling through the ice on a snow mobile, its interesting because he compares the different type of coats you can wear and how they affect your flotation (one absorbs like 50 lbs of water if I remember).

#164976 - 01/25/09 07:47 PM Re: Ice water self-extraction [Re: bilojax]
scafool Offline

Registered: 12/18/08
Posts: 1534
Loc: Muskoka
Hi again Bilojax.

With the dry suit and other gear I would get back into the canoe and bail it out.
Then if you want onto the ice just sit in the stern, pull your gear to you so your bow rides high and run the canoe up onto the ice.

Have you ever heard of the canoe races they run across the St Lawrence river during the winter?



One danger with falling through the ice or approaching it from the water is getting carried under the ice by the current.

It might make sense to tie yourself to the canoe just in case, but that depends very much on the situation.

edot 2:
One river I used to go on would build up walls on the edge of the ice pans and ledges. If you were to fall in along that stretch of the river you might be trying to climb out over ice faces 3 feet or more high, and the water was fast.

Edited by scafool (01/25/09 08:38 PM)
May set off to explore without any sense of direction or how to return.

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