How Did Captain America Survive Being Frozen For 70 Years?

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In the movie, Captain America is injected with a super-serum that gives him heightened agility, strength, and endurance. This super-serum allows him to enter a state of suspended animation, which is why he remains alive and well for the next seventy years.

In the movie Captain America: The First Avenger, towards the end, Captain America crashes the airplane into the Arctic with himself still inside it. He does this because he cannot land the aircraft without detonating the weapons. After a long wait of 70 years, he is finally found and discovered to be alive. The scene then cuts to the present day, where Cap wakes up in a 1940s-style hospital room without a single scratch or bruise on his body!

captain america before after
Captain America before and after he got injected with the serum.

Suppose you follow Captain America in any way, either through movies or comics. In that case, you know that unlike other Marvel superheroes (e.g., Thor, Spiderman, and Wolverine), he has no supernatural powers. Cap is a ‘regular’ human with heightened agility, strength, and endurance. However, how Steve Rogers, a rather sickly, scrawny youngster, transformed into Captain America is a different story altogether. But the question is, how could he possibly survive being frozen for no less than seventy years?

Your instinctive response may be, ‘Well, that’s because he’s a superhero, right?’

That wouldn’t be incorrect, but is there a scientific reason behind Cap’s miraculous escape after being buried in snow for 70 years?

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How Did Captain America Survive?

Well, much of his survival has to do with the super-serum that had been injected into his bloodstream as part of Operation: Rebirth, which occurred at the beginning of the movie.

Captain america frozen
Captain America survived on the ice for 70 years.

While the constituents and formula for making the serum were never revealed, its effects on Cap’s body were visible. The serum gave him unmatched physical and mental strength, preventing his blood from freezing in the subzero conditions of the Arctic.

The super-soldier serum and the freezing temperature allowed him to enter a state of suspended animation, so Cap remained alive and well for seventy years.

The creators of Captain America explained that this state of suspended animation was why he survived on the ice for so long. This explanation was good enough for Cap’s fans who wanted to see more of him in action.

But what is suspended animation? Is it a natural phenomenon or just a fantastical term from science fiction?

Also Read: Science Of Captain America: What’s The Secret Of His Superhuman Strength?

What Exactly Is Suspended Animation?

Suspended animation is a real phenomenon where certain life processes are slowed down or stopped without causing the death of the person. Although involuntary bodily processes such as heartbeat and breathing may still occur, they can only be detected artificially.

suspended animation in fiction
The concept of suspended animation has been discussed several times in fiction; this is an 1852 depiction of Snow White laid in a glass coffin during her period of magic-induced suspended animation (Image Source: Wikipedia)

This preservation method is used for small organisms like embryos and can keep them in a suspended state for up to 13 years.

Different methods, such as temperature alterations and chemical changes, are used to induce this state. Lowering the temperature of a substance reduces its “chemical activities,” which include metabolism—a vital chemical process in the human body.

Also Read: Can We Hibernate In Pods As Seen In Sci-fi Films Like ‘Passengers’?  

How Close/far From Reality Is It?

Suspended animation, as depicted in Captain America, is far less complex than in reality. In actuality, a human body cannot survive for long periods, even in a state of suspended animation, while being exposed to freezing temperatures.

suspended animation space astronauts
It will be many years before we can send astronauts to distant destinations using suspended animation (Image Source: Wikipedia)

Many pitfalls are involved, including damage from ice formation and the loss of cellular viability. Additionally, freezing someone in such inhospitable conditions would raise ethical concerns. Unfortunately, limited experiments have been conducted in this area, which limits our understanding of the process.

To recreate something close to the super-heroic survival of Captain America, we need to be better equipped to understand the process and technological know-how. While it is possible to survive for extended periods in extremely cold temperatures, obtaining super-soldier serum and vita rays is impossible in reality!

Also Read: Is It Possible To Freeze People And Bring Them Back To Life?

Last Updated By: Ashish Tiwari

References (click to expand)
  1. Stratmann, H. G. (2015, September 15). Suspended Animation: Putting Characters on Ice. Science and Fiction. Springer International Publishing.
  2. Bellamy, Ronald, et al. "Suspended animation for delayed resuscitation." Critical care medicine 24.2 (1996): 24S-47S.
  3. Mitchell, R. (2011, January). Suspended Animation, Slow Time, and the Poetics of Trance. PMLA/Publications of the Modern Language Association of America. Modern Language Association (MLA).
  5. Suspended Animation – The Strange Science of Captain ....
About the Author

Ashish is a Science graduate (Bachelor of Science) from Punjabi University (India). He spearheads the content and editorial wing of ScienceABC and manages its official Youtube channel. He’s a Harry Potter fan and tries, in vain, to use spells and charms (Accio! [insert object name]) in real life to get things done. He totally gets why JRR Tolkien would create, from scratch, a language spoken by elves, and tries to bring the same passion in everything he does. A big admirer of Richard Feynman and Nikola Tesla, he obsesses over how thoroughly science dictates every aspect of life… in this universe, at least.

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