Cold Comfort

You may already have run across this item, but it appears, according to a story sent me by my friend Eugene Jen, that a Japanese man recently survived a three-week exposure to the elements, without food or water, by doing something that primates aren’t usually thought to be capable of: hibernation.

The story is sketchy, but apparently the man, having visited Mt. Rokko in western Japan “for a barbecue”, wandered off to some remote spot, took a fall, and lay barely conscious, with a broken pelvis, and in temperatures slightly above freezing, until he was found 24 days later. You can read the story here.

While hibernation is not known in primates (with the exception of its recent discovery in some Madagascarian lemurs), it has long been thought that to induce it in humans might be possible; techniques for doing so might have a variety of beneficial uses.

I for one, would have been glad of it today; I woke up to discover that my lower back had “gone out” during the night, and I have been effectively immobilized all day. It took me an excruciating 40 minutes this morning just to traverse the distance from bed to bathroom (I will spare you the details). It is only after spending the entire day as sessile as a limpet, engaged solely in metabolizing therapeutic dosages of oxycodone, that I am recovered enough even to scribble this perfunctory post.

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  1. Kevin Kim says

    Having just recovered from a week of my own lower back pain– a first for me!– I offer my sympathies. I know what you mean about being sessile for long periods and taking all day to cross short distances. Man’s lot: sponge or starfish.


    Posted December 20, 2006 at 11:45 pm | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    Thanks, Kevin. I’m not usually one to expatiate upon my physical discomforts — we of British upbringing are taught that to do so is a bit coarse, and of course “things are tough all over” — but this has been awfully debilitating, and agonizingly painful, too.

    Posted December 20, 2006 at 11:56 pm | Permalink
  3. Kevin Kim says

    Why were you immobile, anyway? I thought you kung fu types learned how to sprint across floors lying flat on your backs, using only your buttocks for locomotion. I’m very disappointed.

    As for pain-induced utterances…

    My Buddhism prof once scalded himself while we were sitting in the cramped prof/grad student lounge of the Caldwell building’s fourth floor (at Catholic University, DC).

    “Yow!” said Dr. Jones.

    “Pain is only in your mind,” I quipped.

    “Yes,” my prof shot back, “but the problem is that my finger is also in my mind!”


    Posted December 21, 2006 at 9:12 am | Permalink
  4. Malcolm says

    No, Kevin, I hate to disappoint you, but at age 50, with three rounds of leg surgery in my past (one ACL reconstruction, one repair of a badly shredded Achilles tendon/calf muscle, and one ankle bludgeoned by a hatchet), I am no longer fleet of foot; nor am I — and I suspect this may be the first usage of this phrase in the history of English — fleet of buttock. Arm-fracturing blocks, thousand-pound sinking power, blasting holes in (and tearing chunks out of) the opponent — that’s more my style.

    The utterances I have emitted in the past couple of days go well beyond “yow”, however.

    Posted December 21, 2006 at 11:21 am | Permalink
  5. David Pauley says

    Ah Malcolm, what fond memories of your “hacksaeted” ankle.
    Pocomoke City, artichokes and clear vomit pooled on the tent floor.

    Posted December 21, 2006 at 9:03 pm | Permalink
  6. Malcolm says

    Hi David,

    Yes, those were the days, all right, but I’ll venture that your memory of that ankle incident may be a little fonder than my own…

    Posted December 21, 2006 at 9:19 pm | Permalink
  7. MikeZ says

    You threw your back out while asleep? I’m going with “Yikes!” on this one. :-) Hope it’s better soon.

    – M

    Posted December 21, 2006 at 11:48 pm | Permalink
  8. Malcolm says

    Thanks, Mike; it seems better already.

    It had been threatening for several days. It’s not like I was lifting air-conditioners in my sleep; I’ve found that backs often stiffen up overnight.

    Posted December 22, 2006 at 1:19 am | Permalink