It was only appropriate that temperatures were in the lower digits on Thursday night as Dr. Burt Yankielun P.E., the “cold weather man of the island,” spoke about his expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctica and passed on some winter hiking advice.
Yankielun, who lives in Deer Isle, has been on four expeditions to Antarctica, as well as trips to Arctic Alaska and Greenland. The talk, which was sponsored by the Island Heritage Trust, started off with Yankielun showing some slides of images taken on his various trips.
Yankielun’s involvement in visiting some of the cold and snow-ridden areas of the world came about because of a radar he engineered to detect ice thickness on lakes. The Coast Guard and Navy took an interest in the technology and asked for his help using his work to conduct studies in these rarely traversed areas.
He shared humorous stories of having to adapt to a constantly cold climate and living in close quarters with a limited crew of people for months at a time.
Yankielun concluded his talk by showing the audience what his hiking bag consists of and discussing some tips for those who are preparing to take a winter hike, whether it is a serious expedition or a short walk.
Yankielun said that the majority of the equipment he brings is for injury prevention primarily and treatment second. He said one of the most important things to do is to tell someone about your hiking plans and to make sure they know where you’re going and when you plan to be back.
While some of the equipment Yankielun showed may have seemed extreme for a short walk, he said that being prepared was the most important part. Theoretical situations such as someone in the hiking group being injured or a weather change were situations he said you should be prepared for. “You never know when you might be stuck for a few hours in the woods waiting for help.”
As far as winter wardrobe is concerned, Yankielun said a nice pair of hiking shoes with warm socks should suffice for hikes around the island. Yankielun said to wear clothing with a wind proof shell and to avoid cotton, “cotton kills.”
Yankielun suggests a set of hiking poles for stability. The set he showed extended to differing lengths and could be used as something for a person to grab a hold of if need be.
Yankielun’s hiking bag contained:
-a water bottle with duct tape wrapped around it. Yankielun explained the tape could be used for a variety of reasons. He also suggests storing your water bottle upside down so that ice forms at the bottom, not the top.
-an extra set of socks, hats, mittens and jacket in case clothing gets wet, lost, or blown away
-waterproof matches, Yankielun says a lighter will not work at certain temperatures, making waterproof matches ideal
-water proof map and compass
-pencil and paper
-sunglasses, sunhat, and ChapStick
-a head lamp or flashlight with fresh batteries
-a sleeping pad, which can be used to sit on while taking a break
-a first aid kit; Yankielun had matches, a flashlight, a Leatherman, toilet paper, and basic first aid supplies
-a mirror with a hole in it; Yankielun said a mirror can be seen for miles by someone in the air and the hole allows you to aim the beam
-a mini shovel; Yankielun’s had holes in it and the shovel could be put into the ground and double as a belay point while climbing.
-a titanium mug with a burner platform and supply of tea; Yankielun’s looks like a can with a folding handle on it and can be heated by pine cones, twigs, and wood
Most of the gear that could be affected by water damage was kept in a water proof boat bag deep within Yankielun’s back pack.
Yankielun stressed that hydration is key to prevent frostbite. He also suggested keeping an eye on your hiking partner and taking breaks to stop and look intently at the color of their face and focus on their behavior. He said when someone gets the “umbles” and starts to grumble and stumble, those could be warning signs of hypothermia. Yankielun said if these symptoms start, to stop and take a break and wrap up in a blanket and drink something warm if possible.
Before heading out, Yankielun said to check all gear and put fresh batteries in flashlights and similar devices. Check zippers, seams, buttons, and straps for wear and tear and possible replacement.
Yankielun also stressed how he is an advocate for “being friends with winter” and encouraging families to get out and enjoy the fresh air. Yankielun authored the book How To Build An Igloo and spoke animatedly about how igloo building can be a safe and fun family activity during the winter months.
Yankielun will be guiding an igloo and snow shelter-building workshop at Heritage House on January 26 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.