(A scientific perspective)
The story “To Build A Fire” was about a man named Chechaquo and his dog traveling back to the main camp in the freezing cold Klondike. After accidentally stepping in some frigid water, he built up a fire to warm up and dry off. The fire was put out by falling snow from a tree branch, and the man tried to build another fire but was unsuccessful. After hopelessly and desperately trying to warm up by running, he finally sat down and slowly died.
While he was traveling in the negative eighty degree weather, Chechaquo’s warmth was being drained. The main cause of this was heat conduction. Even though Chechaquo was wearing heavy clothing, all matter conducts heat until it has reached thermal equilibrium. The heat from his body was going through his clothing and into the vast, cold atmosphere at a very fast rate. Another factor was convection. When Chechaquo gave off heat, it immediately rose above the freezing air, so the air next to his body was no longer warm. Also, the cool air rushed down below the warm air so he was surrounded with cold air. The snow made the air near the ground even colder because instead of absorbing the radiation from the sun and turning it into thermal energy it just reflected it away because it was white.
When Chechaquo stepped in the water, things got even worse. Not only was the water cold itself, but it took even more heat away from his body. When the water made contact with his leg, it absorbed his warmth by conduction. Then, the molecules of water that had the most heat evaporated into the air. This meant that his leg’s heat was taken away and the water in contact with it is colder than before. At that frigid temperature, the water and the leg along with it had a good chance of freezing to ice.
As Chechaquo’s skin quickly lost heat, the blood that once flowed started to slow down and finally stop. Without blood flowing through it, the skin had no energy for producing heat. The cells in his skin and extremities froze and burst open because ice takes up more space than water, this is called frostbite. The reason he could not handle the matches when he tried to make another fire was that his hands were in this state and too damaged to use. As the warmth was taken from him his body tried to save itself. It shut off the extremities and kept all of it’s heat in the vital organs. This would not help and finally Chechaquo’s brain could not function and he died.
In conclusion, Chechaquo died because his body lost too much heat. The freezing cold air absorbed all of his warmth through conduction and convection. It was even colder because of the white snow bouncing the radiant energy from the sun away. When he stepped in the water, conduction and evaporation made him even colder. Finally, his core temperature was too cold for body to function anymore and his life ended.