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Manitoba’s Professor Popsicle is retiring after years of helping save lives

Gordon Giesbrecht, who is known as Professor Popsicle, is retiring from the University of Manitoba after years of educating people about cold weather survival.

Giesbrecht retired on Jan. 1, but said he’s kept himself busy over the last few weeks.

“I don’t have any major responsibilities, so I’m doing stuff that I want to do. It’s great,” he said in an interview with CTV Morning Live on Tuesday.

Throughout his career, Giesbrecht would put himself into precarious cold weather situations, including plunging into cold bodies of water.

He said his research began in 1986 with hypothermia studies and looking at the physiological response during cooling. From there, he began to get opportunities to conduct demonstrations as a way to bring science to the general public.

“Whether it’s the cold water, the cold air stuff, or the vehicle submersion stuff, in each of those areas it’s very gratifying that we know lives have been saved with all of those,” he said.

“It’s a nice note to retire on.”


Giesbrecht says one of the most important things he learned in his work is that it’s safe for medics to warm somebody up outside of the hospital – something that was previously thought to be untrue.

He said another important message is for stranded motorists to stay in their car.

“We’ve given information, if your vehicle is stranded by the roadside, no matter, stay with your vehicle,” he said.

“There are so many different factors that just pull you out, and say, ‘I can make it to safety’… and so many people are found frozen between their car and the nearest safety.

Giesbrecht also recommends having an emergency kit in your car, including a sleeping bag.

“Just get a duffel bag and just put stuff together that you don’t ever use like a parka,’ he said.

As for what to do if you fall through the ice, he said to follow the 1-10-1 principle.

This means you have one minute to get your breathing under control, 10 minutes of meaningful movement and one hour before you become unconscious from hypothermia.

“The main part there is the first minute, if you can survive the first minute, you should be okay,” he said.

– With files from CTV’s Rachel Lagace.

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