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Rule 2 / Case 8

Updated: Feb 9, 2022

Always Dress For The Water Temperature

Randy Morgart

February 19th, 2010 Mississippi River, Missouri

Note: This Case History consists of 3 separate articles and 1 video. We recommend that you read the articles in sequence, starting with Cold and Alone on An Icy River. The location is about 25 miles north of St. Louis, MO.

Randy Morgart's gripping account of his near-death experience on the freezing Mississippi River is one of the finest first-person accounts of cold water immersion ever written. It provides a clear picture of how cold shock interfered with his ability to think clearly and to pull off the solo rescue that saved his life. It takes courage to publicly share a deeply personal account like this, and we’re grateful to him for doing so. This article was first published in the August 2010 issue of Sea Kayaker magazine.

Taken by Randy Morgart shortly before he capsized, this 1-minute video shows a slowly-moving ¼ inch thick sheet of ice knocking a large steel buoy all over the place. It provides a graphic example of why getting caught between moving ice and a fixed object is extremely dangerous and likely to be fatal.

Randy Morgart’s experience provides us with a lot of practical lessons and important insights into the physical and psychological effects of an unprotected cold water immersion. This article takes an in-depth look at the way he was affected by cold shock and incapacitation. It also discusses his extended loss of breathing control, his clothing, his successful self-rescue, and his inability to think clearly throughout the entire incident.

Randy Morgart's incident raises a big question: How could an experienced paddler decide to leave his thermal protection at home in the closet and paddle unprotected on freezing water? It also begs a question that’s frequently asked in the aftermath of many accidents: “What the hell was he or she thinking?”

This article by Moulton Avery answers that question and explores the age-old tug of war between reason and emotion. It also includes a detailed critique of the Challenging Conditions myth. It was originally published in November 2010 as the Feature Article in the Sea Kayaker Magazine newsletter.

Major Contributing Factors

  • Not Dressed For Water Temperature

  • Unable to Call For Help (No cell or VHF reception)

  • Being Complacent / Overconfident

  • Paddling Solo


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