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Windswept – The CO Connection

By Dr. Robert Elsner

Failed attempt to reach the North Pole.

Former observer, Bob Elsner, recalls the winter of 1941-42, when he helped a young Norwegian scientist, Per Scholander, conduct a test of the amount of potentially lethal Carbon Monoxide (CO) produced by various types of cold weather survival stoves. The pair built an igloo on the summit of Mount Washington, and discovered that the stoves produced only a modest amount of CO when burning free, but that the act of melting ice cooled the flame enough to create incomplete combustion and a greater CO by-product.

CO had been suspected as the culprit in Arctic exploration tragedies, of which the famous Swedish attempt to reach the North Pole by balloon is one example described by Elsner, and it was important during those wartime years to determine how U.S. troops could survive the cold without exposing themselves to other dangers.

Elsner tells of how Scholander's example inspired him to become a scientist, and how their paths crossed again during their respective careers.


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