Truth or urban legend:
During the construction of the Alaskan pipeline, workers consumed alcohol to distract their minds and bodies from the bitter temperatures they were working in. On more than one occasion, a worker would leave a glass of alcohol sitting in their car overnight, return in the morning and take a big swig. The subzero alcohol would freeze their throat and stomach on contact, killing them instantaneously.
Some facts that might help you in your journey for truth:
- The freezing point of ethyl alcohol is -117.3 degrees Celsius.
- The record low in Alaska was -80 degrees Celsius, set on January 23, 1971 (during the construction of the pipeline)
- There are lots of ways for cold to kill
My friends are divided 50/50, with half in utter disbelief, and the others skeptical. The source of the story is, of course, completely convinced of its truth.
9 thoughts on “Frozen throats”
Ok, so the story was from me, and for those in doubt…
I did find a web page that discusses the affect of cold alcohol and how it can kill you:
“Conduction is the transfer of heat to objects or substances in direct contact. Your tongue sticking to the flagpole in grade school is a perfect example of how tissue can almost instantly freeze when in contact with cold metal, an excellent heat conductor. Keep in mind that alcohol is also an excellent conductor and often freezes at much colder temperatures than water, so if you bring a beer out on your next cold-weather adventure, don’t throw back a few swigs until you’ve checked its temperature. Extremely cold alcohol can instantly freeze and damage your lips, tongue or other mouth tissue. And if the alcohol comes in contact with your throat or esophagus, that can turn out to be deadly.”
i agree that it would most definitely kill you, although not immediately. a frozen digestive tract would not be fun, that’s for sure.
and wouldn’t this be more of a “rural” legend, as opposed to a “urban” one? maybe a “wilderness” legend.
I almost did this with aquafina… My owners keep water bottles in the car for me. Anyway, he opened one today and the liquid water (not much, mostly frozen) went phfffff…tttt!!! and water squirted all over the car and the bottle then locked up competely… frozen solid… my water bowl stayed empty…
Thanks for warning me about this… they took my water bottles into the house… but I still have a metal dog bowl in the car.
Dao (the chow) (water is my drink of choice)
Now that I’m convinced freezing alcohol can kill someone, the question that remains lurking in my mind is, has it already done so? Does a police report exist where someone died from drinking that bottle of Stoli they left sitting on the dash of their pickup overnight?
Closest my morose self could come by was:
“Case 2. In January 1997, a motorist found a 45-year-old woman lying dead in a ditch on the side of a road. The body was fully clothed with the torso immersed in water; there were no signs of lethal trauma. The decedent had last been seen alive 3 days earlier, and temperatures during the intervening time had been below freezing. The decedent had a history of alcohol abuse, and an empty wine bottle was found nearby. Her blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was 0.19%; levels were higher in the vitreous humor, indicating that, before death, her BAC had been substantially higher. The cause of death was listed as hypothermia attributed to exposure to environmental cold.”
Ok, I found an example where the guy almost died. Read the full account here:
“And took a great inhale for another breath and pulled this cold alcohol into his mouth and throat and the result of that was exactly the same as if he’d taken a blow torch and put it in his mouth, for the temperature of that alcohol was fifty and sixty degrees below zero. I don’t know, just extremely cold because it was packed in the ice, been there all winter. And when it got into his mouth and burned every part of his mouth his mouth swelled up and he couldn’t eat, couldn’t swallow, couldn’t do anything about it and the Doctor Coleman thought that he might lose him but he worked on it and got a passage way through to his throat and then fed liquid through it, through the throat and pulled him around out of it but that was a drastic experience.”
But where is the line drawn between damaging and just darn cold. I have on numerous accounts drunk vodka straight from the bottle that lives in my freezer, and there were no damaging effects there. Please explain….
I just did a quick check and it looks like proper freezer temperature is 0 degrees fahrenheit.
There’s a big difference between that and -50…
One more thing…
“With a temperature or a windchill equivalent temperature of minus 13, there’s a major risk, and with a temperature or windchill equivalent temperature of minus 50, exposed skin freezes in just a few minutes.”
Notice it’s not a few seconds, but I wouldn’t want to try it!
russell annabel – alaskan hunter, guide and writer – reported that folks had died very quickly from drinking whiskey that had been stored outside in a shed in subzero weather.. they took a slug while bringing it back to the cabin and didn’t make the trip.