Monday, August 22, 2011

The wonderful world of Igloo

This is an interesting subject that you may never need to use. But, imagine how cool it would be if there were a situation you had the chance to build an igloo! At least now you would know how to!
Igloo building in Sarek
 An igloo (Inuit language: iglu) or snowhouse is a type of shelter built of snow, originally built by the Inuit.
Although igloos are usually associated with all Inuit, they were predominantly constructed by people of Canada's Central Arctic and Greenland's Thule area. Other Inuit people tended to use snow to insulate their houses, which were constructed from whalebone and hides. Snow is used because the air pockets trapped in it make it an insulator. On the outside, temperatures may be as low as −45 °C (−49 °F), but on the inside the temperature may range from −7 °C (19 °F) to16 °C (61 °F) when warmed by body heat alone.

Igloo interior
There are three traditional types of igloos, all of different sizes and all used for different purposes.
  • The smallest was constructed as a temporary shelter, usually only used for one or two nights. These were built and used during hunting trips, often on open sea ice.
  • Intermediate-sized igloos were for semi-permanent, family dwelling. This was usually a single room dwelling that housed one or two families. Often there were several of these in a small area, which formed an Inuit village.
  • The largest igloos were normally built in groups of two. One of the buildings was a temporary structure built for special occasions, the other built nearby for living. These might have had up to five rooms and housed up to 20 people. A large igloo might have been constructed from several smaller igloos attached by their tunnels, giving common access to the outside. These were used to hold community feasts and traditional dances.

The snow used to build an igloo must have sufficient strength to be cut and stacked in the right way. The best snow to use for this purpose is snow which has been blown by wind, which can serve to compact and interlock the. The hole left in the snow where the blocks are cut from is usually used as the lower half of the shelter. Sometimes, a short tunnel is built at the entrance to reduce wind and heat loss when the door is opened.

 Architecturally, the igloo is unique in that it is a dome that can be raised out of independent blocks leaning on each other and polished to fit without an additional supporting structure during construction. An igloo that is built correctly will support the weight of a person standing on the roof. Also, in the traditional Inuit igloo the heat from the kudlik (qulliq, stone lamp) causes the interior to melt slightly. This melting and refreezing builds up a layer of ice that contributes to the strength of the igloo.
The sleeping platform is a raised area. Because warmer air rises and cooler air settles, the entrance area acts as a cold trap whereas the sleeping area will hold whatever heat is generated by a stove, lamp or body heat.
The Central Inuit, especially those around the Davis Strait, lined the living area with skin, which could increase the temperature within from around 2 °C (36 °F) to 10–20 °C (50–68 °F).

Igloo at night
A dog trying to enter inside an Igloo


resting inside igloo

Community of igloos. (Illustration from Charles Francis Hall's Arctic Researches and Life Among the Esquimaux, 1865)

child playing igloo-outdoor

Arctic Bears in front of  igloo

Igloo hotel
More information
Watch How to Build an Igloo (National Film Board of Canada)
An article on igloos from The Canadian Encyclopedia

Related Stories: Marvels of Canada
Northernmost Settlements in the World

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