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How to survive in the Arctic and Antarctic polar circle


Arctic and Antarctica are the coldest and most inhospitable places on Earth.
Surviving in these areas requires great willpower but also good knowledge.

Frosty temperatures did not allow the development of cities in these areas.

The populations that populate the Arctic are only two: the INUIT and the YUPIK, while the Antarctica is uninhabited (with the exception of the approximately 5,000 people who live in over 80 scientific bases, and which are reduced to 1,000 during the winter months).

However, both areas are visited by thousands of people each year for sporting, scientific and tourist purposes.





The Arctic includes the Arctic Ocean, the lands at the extreme north of Russia, Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Norway and the islands facing them, including the Svalbard islands, the Francesco Giuseppe, Novaja Zemlja, Severnaja Zemlja, the islands of New Siberia, the island of Wrangel, the islands along the coast of Alaska and the Canadian Arctic archipelago.



It includes all the lands and seas that surround the South Pole. Antarctica is considered a desert, 98% of its territory is covered by a thick layer of ice.



In the winter period at the North Pole temperatures range between -25 ° C and -40 ° C and in the innermost parts can even reach minus 60 ° C while at the South Pole temperatures range between -40 ° C and -80 ° C depending on the areas.

CURIOSITY: on July 21st 1983 in the Russian Antarctic base of Vostock the lowest temperature ever recorded in nature on earth was recorded -89.2 ° C.

In the summer period at the North Pole temperatures are between -10 ° C and 10 ° C in some areas are also touching 30 ° C, while at the South Pole rarely temperatures rise above -20 ° C.




Vegetation composed of small creeping shrubs, herbaceous plants, lichens and mosses.

Numerous animals, both marine and terrestrial, have adapted to these glacial areas. We find mammals like the polar bear, the arctic fox, the caribou, the musk ox, the ermine and the arctic hare; Among the sea creatures there are seals (Greenland seal, banded seal, ringed seal), walrus and other cetaceans including the Greenland whale, the narwhal and the beluga. In addition, the skies from the Arctic are flown over by a large number of bird species.


At sea we find a very rich fauna consisting of crustaceans, krill, salpe, jellyfish, seals, cetaceans, whales, sea lions, sea urchins and many other fish.

On the ice floe we find penguins and seabirds like the albatross.

While within the continent the only forms of life found there are bacteria, micro-organisms and some invertebrate species.

In the sea there are many algae, on the ground there is a vegetation consisting almost exclusively of mosses, liverworts and lichens.



The ideal clothing must keep warm body, hands and feet; avoid sweating; allow freedom of movement as well as being comfortable.

Layered clothing is recommended to create air chambers that isolate from the cold. Several overlapping layers of light fabrics are more effective than one or two layers of heavy fabrics.

For the survival kit and clothing we recommend: the ever-present multipurpose knife, sunglasses, binoculars, snow goggles against UV rays, waterproof jacket (Anorak or Parka), fleece clothing, hat (ski mask), boxing gloves snow, scarf, aluminum blanket, thermal and non-synthetic clothing, sunscreen, swimsuit, comfortable snow boots, rubber boots (at least knee-high), waterproof rucksack, snowshoes and ice ax .

Remember not to leave dark-colored objects on the snow, as you may not find them anymore (dark objects capture the sun’s rays more and heat up, sinking into the snow).

If a cold metal object sticks to the skin, urinate on it.

No vaccinations are required to leave these areas.

Precautions are recommended for problems with hypothermia, sunburn, dehydration, frostbite and snow blindness. Bring the usual medicines and possibly sea sickness tablets.

The snowshoes will allow you to walk more easily on fresh snow, so they are an extremely recommended tool to have available.


You can improvise skis with two wooden boards and wire or a makeshift sled to cover a long descent in less time.


Snow blindness

The snow that reflects the ultraviolet rays is very dangerous for our eyes.
UV rays directly and repeatedly hit the cornea causing inflammation.
The symptoms are excessive tearing, pain in the eyes. It can also lead to partial or total momentary blindness. Snow blindness is not permanent and quickly regresses within a week. Generally the sight reappears after 18 hours.
To avoid exposure to snowfall, wear polarized sunglasses or attach a bandage around the eyes with two small slits to see.
If you are affected by snow blindness: cover your eyes and apply fresh bandages paying attention to possible frostbite.



The sastruga is an irregularity produced by the wind on the fresh surface of the snow. It has a variable shape according to the intensity and duration of the wind and the surface conditions of the snow.
In practice it is a snow dune formed by the wind (the principle is similar to that of sand dunes in the desert). Observing the dune, one notices that on the side where the wind is blowing the upper edge forms, this is an excellent indicator of the main wind direction. So if you are at the north pole follow the sastrugi to reach the sea or the coast.
Wrong direction to the poles can be fatal if you take the wrong direction you could enter the heart of the continent where the temperatures drop considerably and the flora and fauna are becoming increasingly scarce, and with these assumptions you would go towards certain death.


In harsh climates, our body consumes twice the daily calories it normally consumes during the day.

The easiest foods to find are fish, small animals and bird eggs (in these areas the birds lay their eggs directly on the ground, so look carefully at the ground).

Larger animals (seals, foxes …) can be trapped or stunned by hitting them on the head with a heavy object. The animals in these areas know little about man and it is easy to approach them even with primitive expedients (for example by hiding them under a white cloth or by catching them behind).
If you find any droppings and footsteps it means that there might be some animal nearby, you might find reindeer, hares, foxes …
If you find a herd or a group placed on their path of traps (the more you prepare the more likely you will be that someone catches a prey), then try to circumvent them by going the other side. To do this move slowly and camouflage, the animals around here have a good view and a great sense of smell (walk with the sun behind as the animals tend not to turn towards it to avoid blindness). Seize the pack suddenly, behind them, and try to scare him by trying to direct him to the area where you have hidden the traps.

Once the animal has been captured it is necessary to open it and eliminate its entrails before it freezes and becomes too hard.
It is always better to boil or roast meat before eating it (the animal could be sick), same thing is true for fish.

Capturing a medium-sized animal will feed you for about two weeks. In addition, the animals in the glacial areas have a heavy fur that allows them to survive the great cold. You can skin it and use its mantle to shelter from low temperatures.

The little vegetation that is found in these places is edible, from it you can make excellent soups.


If you find a frozen lake you can drill ice to try to fish deep.

Attach the hook on a 1 meter long rope and tie it to a stick that will fit on the hole. To prevent the entrance hole from freezing, you can place a pine branch in the hole.


The icy water

If you unfortunately fall or slip into the cold water of a lake or river you leave as quickly as you can, survival in freezing waters is measured in minutes. Try not to panic; shake hands and feet to reach the shore. Once you leave, do not stand still. Move to warm up the body. If the clothes are wet remove them and squeeze them then let them freeze and rindossateli. A dry but frozen garment is better than a soggy one.
Move your hands and beat your feet for 5 minutes to prevent freezing.

A way to redo the blood to the fingers and vigorously shake the arms back and forth at chest level.

Also try to light a fire to recover heat, if you can not immediately go on the road without ever stopping.
Pay close attention to where you walk, the shock for sudden immersion in very cold water can also cause a cardiac arrest due to the contraction of the veins in the body, or you can faint and drown.

With wet clothing the body quickly loses heat, if the body temperature drops too much, hypothermia risks.
Hypothermia begins when the internal temperature of the human body falls below 35 degrees. Serious hypothermia is considered when the internal temperature reaches 26 degrees, below 24 degrees, hypothermia is considered lethal.

Remember that on a frozen lake, on a pack or on an icefield, 5 cm thick ice is sufficient to support the weight of an adult man.


In a glacial atmosphere, lighting a fire to warm up is essential.

Waterproof matches or a flintlock are indispensable in areas such as these.

Finding firewood is quite difficult and even more so in Antarctica, but in the areas closest to the coast, especially at the north pole, some vegetation is found.

To complicate things is that often the wood found is wet and moist.

You can use seal grease as fuel but also as a cosmetic to combat frost.


To shelter from the cold and spend the night you can build the classic igloo or a shelter in the snow.

Remember that in a hole under the snow it is warmer than inside a metal hull like an airplane.
Never sleep in direct contact with the snow, isolate yourself from the ground by spreading a waterproof cloth or branches and leaves (needles).

Always cook inside the shelter to keep the environment warm.



Heat the snow and ice before drinking them in a saucepan.
Never heat sea ice to drink it as it contains salt.
Never suck ice or snow to avoid losing unnecessary heat to the body.
Drink the water that accumulates in the puddles on the ice or pierce the ground to take advantage of the water with a primitive well.

Do not drink alcohol, even if it immediately warms up, immediately after it causes a venous contraction that causes an even stronger and more dangerous cooling of what you felt before drinking.


About 80% of the white fish that is found on supermarket counters comes from the Arctic seas, the waters of the North Pole are constantly navigated by fishing boats. If you can reach the coast you can surely meet one.

Important: to indicate on the snow use colors that are in contrast with white (shake a piece of red cloth is ideal). Red is a very visible tint on a snowy background.

To signal a fire that produces black smoke, you can burn rubber and plastic, two materials that are not difficult to find on the polar coasts (in fact in these areas ships and boats often abandon waste of various kinds).

If you can build a raft or a boat you can try to get closer to the navigation routes in order to have more chances of being rescued.

To move around they can also use floating ice floes.

Important: the raft must be resistant and able to keep you afloat. If the boat of fortune yielded, you would have little time to be rescued, before dying in the icy waters.

Basic survival kit


Are you worried about losing yourself in the forest? This article shows you what to keep handy for a survival kit.


1 – Buy a lunch basket, a bag, a shoulder bag or a three-pocket backpack. You will use it to contain everything you need.


2 – find the essential:
Bottle of water
7 m at least light nylon rope
Small vase
Swiss Army knife


3 – Then put the following objects together:

Space blanket
First aid kit
1 meter of aluminum (to cook, signal and collect water)
Magnifying glass
Cotton balls
Safety pins
Insect Repellent
Scotch tape
Flashing light or preferably a rechargeable crank light
Triangular bandages
Waterproof poncho
Small notebook


4 – Put everything in the bag. Place the objects in the best way.
Everything you think can be useful to survive and cook, such as a modular fishing rod or a small gun (if possible)


If you get lost, STOP. Stop, think, observe and plan. Use common sense.
Avoid wearing cotton. Cotton soaks in water and makes clothes unsuitable to prevent hypothermia. All you wear should be wool or polyester.
Perhaps the most important object that does not seem so obvious is the whistle. Blowing into a whistle consumes much less energy than shouting and can be done for longer periods of time, to increase the odds of being saved.
The insect repellent spray, sprayed on cotton, ignites the fire.

Never intentionally lose yourself. Use common sense.
Do not play with fire.
Keep the kit away from children.

Things you will need
Space blanket
Bottle of water
First aid kit
1 meter of aluminum (for cooking)
Superglue tube
Lenses to light a fire
Disinfectant for water
Cotton balls
7 safety pins
Insect Repellent
Pen with ammonia
Scotch tape
Signaling mirror
Bottle of water
Self-powered light and radio
Military Rations