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Jeremy Laurance: Others have survived such cold – but not for so long

Mr Skyllenberg's warm clothing and sleeping bag would not saved him on their own

Tales of people who have miraculously escaped death reinforce the sense of our own invincibility. But Peter Skyllberg's feat is remarkable not so much because he managed without food for two months as that, thanks a quirk of nature, he survived in the bitter cold.

Given a plentiful supply of water – of which Mr Skyllberg had no shortage in its frozen version – an adult human can survive for many weeks without food. Pictures of the inside of his car show an abundance of wrappers and other detritus which suggests he may not have been totally without sustenance during his eight-week entombment.

Whether he had supplies or not, however, his body fat will have sustained him during his ordeal. Doctors estimated he had lost more than three stone and rescuers described him as "emaciated" when he was brought out. But most people examining the pictures will have been struck less by the presence of the wrappers than the thick layer of frost on the dashboard.

How does a man survive temperatures as low as -30C? He reportedly had warm clothing and a sleeping bag, but these alone would not have been enough to protect him.

Metabolism slows down when the body cools and people have been brought back from the dead after slipping under ice. But these episodes have been measured in minutes, not months. Doctors suggested that when Mr Skyllberg's car was buried it created an igloo – an air pocket under the snow warmed by his body heat to approximately OC, and insulated from the more severe temperatures above. Mr Skyllberg, it seems, survived as an eskimo does.