Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The deadliest mittens.....

A couple of years ago, somebody I didn't know walked up to me in a bar and asked "What can you tell me about the Soviet-Finnish war?"

An unusual greeting, and all I could think of on the spur of the moment was "I believe that is when the Finns invented the biathlon, except that they used Russians as the targets."

He grinned and explained that a girl he knew had said he could ask me a question on any topic he could think of and I'd come up with an answer (not true - he just got lucky).

Recently I saw an article explaining the success of one of these early biathlon practitioners, Simo Häyhä, who reportedly took down about 800 Soviets. I'm sure there was more to his success than just his mittens, but it is interesting to think they were a contributing factor.

An excerpt of an excerpt:
One of the reasons Häyhä was so successful, believe it or not, was because of his mitten ensemble. They consisted of three layers: the bottom layer was an incredibly finely knitted tight-fitting glove made of handspun yarn, finer than commercial woolen knits could be found at that time. The second layer was a fingerless mitt that stopped short of the base of his fingers, while covering his wrist and the first joint of his thumb. The outer layer was made of heavy, thick wool, in a technique unique to scandinavia called nålbinding, which was looped rather than knitted. This nålbinded mitten, in addition to being virtually impervious to cold, also had a split in it for his trigger finger, so he could fire his rifle without taking them off.

The underglove was fine enough that he could reload his rifle without taking THAT off, drastically reducing the amount of time that his hands had to be exposed to the cold. And if he did have to do maintenance on his rifle that required the underglove to come off, he could put the wrist-covering mitt back on; because that covered the pulse point in his wrist, it kept his blood warmer longer and kept feeling in his fingers.

I could use something like that in Rochester even when I'm not in a mood to kill people!

No comments: