The Snakebot of Doom - now dubbed Jormungandr by the first humans to encounter it and survive - is busy steamrolling New York into rubble, having first nuked the capitols of every member of the Nuclear Club and the continuity-of-government sites of the US, Russia and China with 80Mt fusion bombs, bombarded all larger fixed sites of military or strategic importance (military bases and nuclear weapons caches) in the continental US into rubble with heavy kinetic cluster weapons, and having eaten a 60,000 ton container ship in order to resupply its ammunition bunkerage. A subsequent counter-attack by naval aviation and the remnants of land-based fighter and bomber squadrons has been decisively defeated, with every human weapon, aircraft and most of the pilots in the attack shot down without causing Jormungandr any damage at all.

However, Jormungandr is not actually interested in exterminating humans unless they're a threat, and then will kill only those individuals who pose a threat. Now, a group of eighteen people have survived the crash-landing of their unarmed helicopter on Jormungandr's side even as it is in the process of steamrolling New York City into a gravel driveway. Jormungandr isn't going to stop, but neither is it going to try to kill these humans. Their survival is a matter of indifference to it.

Jormungandr is 446 metres in diameter, weighs 1.486 billion metric tons, has a body that is cylindrical for 7480m, and then tapers down to a point over a further 669m, the tail matching with a similarly shaped mouth. Its armour is made from Tungsten-depleted Uranium alloy plates with a smooth surface coating of Boron Carbide, at the surface appearing to be overlapping scales around five metres long and half a metre thick, much like the scales of a snake. Most importantly to this question, it is driven by shape-memory-alloy 'muscles' that have an operational temperature of around 97°C/207°F, and it has a similar surface temperature.

It is presently rolling sideways up the length of Manhattan at a speed of around 5kph / 3mph.

Of the eighteen people who have crash-landed on Jormungandr's side, one woman has a collapsed lung, one man has a broken femur, and another man has significant internal bleeding. The remainder of the survivors are not significantly injured, and range in fitness from a couple of ultra-fit military types to a few unhealthily obese individuals. Some individuals have good first-aid skills and one of the lightly injured survivors is a general-practise doctor.

It is not possible to climb directly down Jormungandr's sides, since it is large, cylindrical and rotating, however the tapering tail about 3km/1.8mi distant from the crash point is a viable escape point.

It is late January, and a large blizzard struck the previous night, but the morning, while cold enough to freeze water, is sunny with light winds. The crash survivors are mostly wearing clothing generally available to and worn by New Yorkers in such conditions, though while all are wearing some sort of footwear, some had come directly from heated buildings and had left any removable outerwear behind, and are wearing footwear that could be considered business attire.

The question:

Is it possible for the survivors of the crash to escape Jormungandr and return to land? Can they all survive, or is it likely that some will die? If so, who is most likely to survive - or die?

Please don't forget:

  • Jormungandr is hot, with a skin temperature of 97°C/207°F, nearly hot enough to boil water, and is emanating vast amounts of heat.

  • It is covered with smooth scales a half metre high.

  • It is rolling sideways at 5kph / 3mph

  • The survivors must travel a linear distance of 3km/1.8mi to the escape point, but this does not account for Jormungandr's rotation, which will make the actual distance greater, inversely proportional to the rate of travel.

  • Failure to move quickly enough will result in a fall of several hundred metres, followed by being crushed by a billion and a half tons of rolling doom.

  • Human nature will tempt some of the less injured survivors to try to save the more injured members of the party.

  • Some members of the party may not be significantly injured but are of sufficiently low fitness that travelling the required distance at the required pace would be highly taxing.

  • The environment outside Jormungandr's sauna-like microclimate is below freezing, with lots of snow but no precipitation and light winds.

  • $\begingroup$ Are they unaffected by Jormungandr's weapons and rubble from the city being destroyed? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 23:12
  • $\begingroup$ If any debris from buildings being steamrolled by a 446m thick 1.5Gt snake going sideways at 5kph can reach the top of that snake, then yes, they might be affected by debris. Jormungandr has already seen off an all-out airborne attack, and can't be bothered shooting back at humans who are armed with hand weapons (or less) even if they are actively attacking Jormungandr with them, so weapons - probably not. It could turn them all into a fine red mist in an instant if it wanted to, but right now it doesn't. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 23:39
  • $\begingroup$ Also, debris most likely won't stick to Jormungandr's sides unless it's pretty small, given that while overall the scales make it very rough, the surface of the scales is pretty smooth, at its roughest like a melamine benchtop, and they fit together closely enough that stuff won't get stuck beneath them. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 0:06
  • $\begingroup$ Is his Tungsten-depleted Uranium armor radioactive? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 0:29
  • $\begingroup$ I worry about the surface temperature; I'm betting that convection of air coming off the sides of the snake will result in the ambient air temperature at the top and near-sides of the thing being roughly equal to the surface, aka almost boiling. (Unless a lot of heat is being dissipated by the ground-snake interface as it rolls along?) $\endgroup$
    – Steve
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 0:29

3 Answers 3


I'll take each grouping of survivor one by one First: the collapsed lung

In my research, I have found that:

between the airways and the pleural space around the lung which lead to the pneumothorax becomes a one-way valve through which air can only enter but not leave the pleural space. As air continues to accumulate there, it may not only collapse the lung, but also shift the contents of your mediastinum (the stuff in between the lungs in the middle of your chest like your heart and major vessels). Eventually this would lead to compression/kinking of your vena cavae, which would prevent blood from returning to your heart, rapidly dropping your arterial blood pressure and killing you as a result.

So yea, that person's dead

Group 2: broken femur

With the blood loss from the broken bone combined with infection risk combined with severe cold, even with the medic on scene there's no way this guy could survive and even if he did moving him could kill him so he couldn't leave.

Group 3: Internal bleeding

If it didn't damage a major artery than it is indefinite. This person could be carried out if they didn't succumb to the cold. If it did hit a major artery than this person couldn't survive.

Group 4: Not significantly injured

If they are wearing thick clothing than they should be able to survive long enough to get off. The people not adequately dressed could still survive because of the heat this thing produces.

So yes, some could make it back to land. ( if no debris interfered, but it seems that there is none at this time)

Edit: Although the heat doesn't change the nature of my first 2 groups, the person with internal bleeding now would have a better chance because they would no longer need to worry about dying from cold. Also, if they kept on there feet they should be fine, just with the plastic bottom of there shoes slightly melted but not bad enough to hurt them. About human nature and saving the injured, most likely knowing the spin of the thing there on, the highly athletic people would immediately start carrying the injured until they are diagnosed and there chances of survival analyzed. Also, if it's a life or death scenario, the drive to live of the nonathletic people would be enough from keeping them from giving up even for 1.8 miles, not to far even under those conditions for someone who's driven.

  • $\begingroup$ I was also concerned about the temperature of Jormungandr. Don't forget that it's skin is 97°C/207°F, i.e. nearly hot enough to boil water. It would be putting off a tremendous amount of heat, and there isn't much wind. What about human nature, might the other survivors try to rescue their severely-injured comrades, and how would that affect their chances of survival? Also, don't forget that this thing is moving, at 5kph. If you stand still, its movement will result in you falling to your death, and the further to the sides you get, the harder it will be to move over the hot scales. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 23:59
  • $\begingroup$ @MontyWild they would still be fighting the cold more than the heat because of the transfer of heat to air the only severe conductor of heat would be were they are touching the body. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 0:24
  • $\begingroup$ Would their feet be burned? What if someone fell? Survival might provide sufficient motivation for an extremely unfit person to keep moving, but their physiology may not be up to the challenge. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 0:40
  • $\begingroup$ I'm assuming no one falls and this being about the temperature of a hot pan, the shoes would melt a little but not enough to burn there foot, although it would be hot $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 0:46

They're dead, unfortunately.

446 meters in diameter means the circumference of Jormungandr is 1400m. Anything beyond a quarter rotation is going to be pretty much guaranteed death, so you have to have solved the problem before you move 350m, and realistically the number should be lower than that, depending on how much traction you can get on the scales before you slide off. 5km/hr is 1.3m/s, so you have 270 seconds to solve the problem, if you're holding still. Obviously you can gain time by running on top of Jormungandr, but that's not going to help as much as we might like.

270 seconds is 4.5 minutes. You just crash landed your helicopter. That means everyone is going to be disoriented. Worse, you crash landed your helicopter into Jormungandr. I've had the privilege of going up in a helicopter for training once, and the pilot walked me through what he was thinking. While he was up there, he was constantly thinking "If the engine died now, where could I set this bird down. Oh, I can set her down in the park over there" Your pilot should have been trying to set you down in the best possible place, which would not be on top of Jormungandr. The best place would be behind it, in the wake of the destruction.

So by the fact that you landed in such a horribly bad place, that lets me know that not only did you crash, but it was a bad crash. It was the kind of crash that you don't just get up, push the guy with pneumothorax out of the way and leave him for dead, and run on top of the boiling wurm. It's the kind where the first minute or so you're still too dazed to realize what is happening. Then you need to get your wits about you, because somehow you're going to have to figure out that the only way out of this is to run across the boiling log of doom like some crazed lumberjack, relying on nothing but your rubber soled shoes to keep your feet from 3rd degree burns as you go on your leisurely 3km reverse-hurdle jog in amidst scalding steam (you don't have to jump up the scales, but you do have to jump down them).

And, of course, by the time you are out of your daze and ready to run, you're already rotated off of top-dead-center, meaning every step is going to be an uphill slog. But what's really going to kill you is how long it takes to come back to conscious rational thought after the crash.

  • $\begingroup$ Okay, good points, I was hoping someone would consider this!. To give more detail, a VH-60N (a Marine One helicopter down-checked due to blade damage suffered in the storm), overloaded by a fair degree, took off to avoid being flattened by Jormungandr, just cleared the top of the beast, then lost part of the previously damaged blade, fell onto its far side and came to rest almost as close to the rising edge as it could without sliding off. So, yes, pretty bad, but the surviving crew are trusted to fly the President, so if anyone can recover quickly and get the passengers off, they can. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 1:17
  • $\begingroup$ If the survivors can get their s**t together and get out - not much of a problem since the vibration of the lost blade will have popped the main doors off and at least begun the disintegration of the airframe - in time, can they survive then? $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 1:28
  • $\begingroup$ I don't see that running in a diagonal causes any more real difficulty than the added distance. If you can run 3km under these conditions you can run 4km, no? In fact..you could kinda use it to your advantage in that you could always be running downhill. Totally agree about how screwed the marines are in general tho ;) $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 1:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @mensenisevirem If you can get ahead of the serpents rolling, you're right about being able to run downhill (I like that detail, which I didn't account for), though whether you can do this probably depends on the crash circumstances. However, I will point out that "if you can run 3km like this you can run 4km, no?" can easily be extended to suggest you can run a marathon on his back! Once you start pushing the limits of human endurance, the limits of endurance push back. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 1:34
  • $\begingroup$ I've already said (in my own proposed answer and comments) that I don't believe they could even do the 3km, the comment here was in that context. As long as they can run at all they can get to the top. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 1:40

They're all dead. Why?

1: How exactly are they getting to the ground? Are you proposing that they slide or what? Cause snakes don't have nice flat edges that meet the ground 'squarely,' I'd expect a drop of at least ~50 meters if not more. The drop.. of course, is onto urban terrain that has been mashed up by the passing of the behemoth, right? rubble etc..whether or not the bot has passed over that particular terrain or just passed it, it's displacement is absolutely immense. Not to mention that the land you're jumping down to has been under a 90 degree C object for the last 6 minutes with no ventilation. (the place you're jumping to isn't really any cooler than where you're jumping from)

2: Did they know it was that hot beforehand? Cause people use all sorts of body parts to stop themselves getting hurt in falls. If they jumped out of the helicopter most likely every one of them not only has suffered the usual impact stresses which break bones etc, but also touched the 'ground' with their hands/knees/shoulders and that's if they landed pretty perfectly...you'd expect some head contact..and touching 98 degree surfaces with your head itsn't advisable.

3: They have, presumably a 30 second run (for those uninjured) at least to the 'edge' of the snake. Depending upon what curve you're operating with, they probably can't see the 'edge' of the snake (you ever ran downhill?) so most of them will hesitate at least to run flat-out.

If we're giving them a safe & survivable curve (by cheating) that obviously means they have further to run. Running for a minute isn't a big deal, but anyone who can't..or stops for whatever reason.. is probably dead.

You can talk all you want about how it's possible to breathe for x time in 90+ degrees (with commensurate air turbulence from the massive hot surface of said bot and regular air), but actually convincing your lungs that they can breathe in such temperatures is a different matter altogether.

Before you go for such ideas as "but their feet are in shoes and their shoes haven't melted" remember that heat is commuted between one material and another, it makes no difference if the clothing survives if it is conducting enough heat to melt flesh.

Given that Jormungandr's characteristics aren't going to change, and that the helicopter is going to crash-land on top of it somewhere, are there any variables - like weather - that if changed would mean that at least some of the survivors of the crash might escape? – Monty Wild

Does Marine One have a winch? If not you might consider using a port authority helicopter or something, to avail yourself of a nice long rope. Longest I see available is 250ft. So the scenario goes..everybody still alive and capable dangles off the leading edge of the beast (PotUS first ofc) anchored by the wreckage of the helicopter..as the helicopter reaches the leading edge the dudes have a ~60m clearance down to the roof of a building, last one dropping down gets flattened as the chopper slides off onto him, obviously this leaves the remainder of the party very limited time indeed to descend ~150m+ of steps...

So you'll probably want to revoke the rooftop helipad ban in-world and have your pilot be one of the survivors. no idea how long choppers take to cold start tho.

Or you could figure out how much time they'd need to get out of a building that is being toppled by snakey, doubt elevators would be operational so that'd be out.

Or....it could detect them once they're off and play nice..waiting till they get out of the way.. though that would kinda beg the question..why not just put people in front of it to stop it destroying stuff.

  • $\begingroup$ Getting off at the tail isn't a problem - if they can make it that far. Actually, Jormungandr has low priority instructions from its designers to avoid harming native lifeforms - which can include humans - any more than necessary, and dropping the tip of its tail so that a few humans can get off is not out of the question. It'll be a minimum 3km run over terrain that is pretty visible. What matters is the thermal conductivity of the soles of the survivors' shoes... $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 0:58
  • $\begingroup$ So I guess the question is, can somebody run for 3km in a sauna? I can't really see anybody doing that, especially not some random guys that just dropped out of the sky, but hey..not my story :) $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 1:02
  • $\begingroup$ By the way, Jormungandr is rolling at 5kph, not standing still. The ground behind it won't have been under it for more than a minute or two, and given that the air temperature is at freezing point - and that untouched terrain will be nearby, that won't be a problem. Jumping over the side would be suicide, since it would be a hundred or more metres to the ground. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 1:06
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe i did that wrong..I don't always think too well with coffee :) 5/0.450=11.1 11.1/60=~5.4 minutes What did I write earlier? 6 minutes... Well..ok, so the two issues then are displacement..a gigaton or w/e crushing earth & asphalt & etc..that stuff has to go somewhere, does none go ass-ways? And the effects of a differential air temp of 97 degrees meeting air at freezing point. He's big enough to create his own weather system, no? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 1:17

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