When we picture a wintry landscape and think about the people living there, igloos are usually the first dwelling option that comes to mind. While they might seem like extensions of the ice and snow, these shelters are actually quite useful and convenient for keeping their inhabitants out of the cold.
Igloos are familiar dome-shaped dwellings that are built from compacted snow itself. It is commonly associated with the Inuit hunters, who would build igloos as a temporary shelter from their hunting trips. Here are some other interesting facts about these natural sanctuaries:
The Skill of Inuit Hunters
Igloos are most commonly associated with the Inuit tribe, so it stands to reason that they were experts at building such shelters. In fact, Inuit hunters can usually build an igloo in less than an hour! When you’re out in the cold with the daylight fading and facing the threat of frostbite, having an igloo ready in record time could be a lifesaver.
Igloos provide shelter to those who need it, as well as warmth from the cold outside. Warmth, you say? Well, although snow is obviously not a source of heat, it otherwise acts as an insulator of heat from various sources. The chief one here is human heat, with the others being generated from oil lamps or small wood fires for cooking. Most of the meat is eaten raw by igloo-dwellers in any case.
The igloo walls also provide shelter from the wind outside, which can be essential for ensuring a higher level of comfort. Basically, the igloo acts as an insulator that makes use of your own body heat to warm up the interior. If there are quite a few people inside and they also light a small fire, the inside of an igloo can even reach about 60 degrees Fahrenheit when the outside temperature is -50 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Igloo Transformation
After a few days of occupation, the inside of an igloo will understandably start to melt a little bit. When the occupants go outside, that melted snow will freeze and turn to ice. This gradual process slowly turns a snow igloo into an icy structure. This is actually a good thing, as it means the igloo become a stronger structure and has more warmth inside.
The actual term igloo directly translates to ‘house’ or ‘shelter’. This means that we can actually use this term for houses made of any and every kind of material. You might be sitting in an igloo right now!
However, we usually apply the term ‘igloo’ to the snowy houses that are usually domes with an entrance/exit at one end. The largest structures can usually accommodate about 20 people at the same time.
Windows in Igloos
Some igloos would feature windows to let in some light. It is good to include a window if you’re planning to stay inside for some time, especially on sunny days. A good window typically has a seal skin or a pelt of a caribou (a type of deer), which you can use as a sort of curtain when the wind gets too much. If you simply want the window as a way to let the light in, you can use a block of ice like a glass pane.
Having an open window in an igloo also makes sense if you plan to have a fire inside. The smoke will not escape properly through the entrance hole every time, so you need a window to make sure the interior stays clear of smoke.
Tools for Making Igloos
Technically, the only tools one requires for making their own igloo are a snow spade and a saw. The Inuits might have fashioned these tools out of bone as and when required.
However, the Inuits do not often dwell on snow houses, but in earthen homes for much of the year. When on hunting trips, their igloo-making skills would have come in handy. At some point, there could be whole Inuit villages consisting mostly of igloos.
Documentary About Igloo Making
If you want to see an actual igloo being made, you might be interested in the documentary called “Nanook of the North”. This is a silent film directed by Robert Flaherty and is a part-documentary and part-drama. The building of the igloo is one of the film’s most discussed parts.
In fact, the shooting of the igloo-making was met with great difficulties. This was because cameras were big and bulky at that time, so fitting them inside the igloo would result in its collapse. When the igloo’s construction was finally finished and it was time for Flaherty to shoot inside, he found out that it was too dark to be photographed.
Fortunately, the director was clever enough to come up with a solution. Instead of shooting in a proper igloo, he had a three-walled igloo built to comfortably accommodate his bulky camera along with allowing enough light to take brighter shots of the igloo’s interiors.
The Strength of an Igloo
One might think that an igloo isn’t very strong. After all, it’s made of packed snow and is only meant for temporary shelter. However, a properly-made igloo is usually strong enough for a full-grown man to stand on without causing the structure to collapse.
In fact, igloos are usually so sturdy that they can withstand winds as strong as a hurricane’s. This is essential if you need to take shelter within one of these structures, as the wind in places like Canada or Greenland is quite strong.
The strength of a normal igloo is due to the sturdiness of the snow bricks. As the snow bricks used for the igloo’s construction are so compacted, the igloo is strong enough to withstand against some forces of nature such as hurricane-force winds.
Size of Igloos
An igloo can generally accommodate several people at once, but they were traditionally built for just families. In any case, igloos can be of any size, even being small enough for just one or two people or big enough for a large group
Speaking of big, the biggest igloo ever built is several miles down and away from the Arctic region — it is located in the municipality of Zermatt, Switzerland. Measuring 10.5 (34 feet) meters tall and having an interior diameter of 12.9 (42 feet) feet, it is the biggest dome igloo ever.
Three Kinds of Igloos
While igloos come in several shapes and sizes, there are three main types. There’s a very small kind that’s usually utilized for temporary sheltering. A medium-sized igloo would be for a semi-permanent housing option, especially if one is stranded somewhere. However, the largest kinds of igloos take at least two people to build.
An Igloo Fort
Igloos are fascinating structures for many people and especially children, but one may not be able to build one for themselves. In fact, it would take a lot of strength to even stay in an igloo for some time. However, you can still give your children an igloo-like experience without having to subject them to sub-zero temperatures. Check out this igloo-shaped toy fort at the link here:
This fort comes in 69 pieces, which you can assemble to make a sturdy frame. Once constructed, all you have to do is add bedsheets on top and have the time of your loves! There are about 25 balls and 44 sturdy sticks for a secure and fun playtime.
If you’re looking for an educational yet fun gift for your kids, this is a durable and portable option. It’s also a unisex toy, so you can get it for both boys and girls. You can even get more than one fort for a more interesting experience.
Igloos might look like simple structures, but they require a lot of skill and know-how to build. We now also know how strong and protective they are in the harshest of weather. Since this is a natural home, built by using the materials at hand, it’s also an eco-friendly option. Overall, the igloo is an impressive invention, so we should think about experiencing one if at all possible. At all events, let’s watch the documentary to get a flavor of igloos before going into one.