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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Igloo Building 101

On Friday afternoon, we started building an igloo. By Saturday evening it was finished and the first team of hardy adventurists was gearing up to spend the night.

We began the construction with Dr. Kershaw giving a short lesson on igloo building. Another spelling for the traditional house of the Canadian and Greenland Inuit people is iglu. The translation means "house."

To build an igloo, the snow has to be be the right type. The snow must be hard and able to be cut into slabs. The snow in New York tends to be too fluffy or icy and not the hard-packed, dry snow found in northern Canada.
Using a saw or machete-like knife, the snow is cut into uniform slabs. The Inuit would have used a knife made from a whale's jaw bone or a caribou antler. Each slab is then placed next to each other with the ends shaved so that they have contact with the previous slab. It is also important the each slab angles so as to form the dome-shaped structure. It is a slow process, makng sure that each slab fits into the previous slab.

Eventually, the slabs get smaller as you reach the top. The last couple of slabs are challenging to put into place. The process where each of the spaces between the slabs have to be filled with snow is called chinking. And finally, the last step is to dig out a door and create an entrance.
Caribou skins are placed on the floor. Then thermarest pads are put onto of the skins. Finally, the winter sleeping bags are placed on the thermarest pads. Inside, the entrance is blocked so cold air does not flow into the igloo.
On Sunday morning the first team to sleep in the igloo emerged around 6:30am with comments ranging from "cold for the past 3 hours" to "warm all night."
My night in the igloo comes tonight. Prior to entering the igloo, we will be staying up to watch the northern lights and the comet Lulin. I will report back Monday evening on how the igloo night went.



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