Ah, winter in Florida. The chill in the air…a sixty-eight-degree temperature that makes the tanned masses finally break their furs out of cold storage. As I sat here, freezing in my seventy-two-degree office, I thought it might be a nice change to discuss a topic that mirrors our chilly atmosphere—igloos! That’s right, folks, it’s going to be another random trivia Title Tidbit.
Igloos are known as the iconic winter dwelling of members of Alaska’s Inuit tribe, made by packing and cutting snow into blocks. For the casual igloo fan, myself included until about ten minutes ago, this is the extent of his or her igloo knowledge. However, despite only taking a few hours for a small group to put together, this ten-to-fifteen-foot dwelling is a lot less simplistic than one might think.
It’s true, almost everything in an igloo is made of snow, but the snowy furnishings are fairly complex. An igloo’s interior could contain shelves for storing food and belongings and often had a large shelf of snow covered with animal skins for a bed. Something I didn’t know about igloos was that they were almost always lined with seal skins. This would catch any melting snow and prevent the igloo dwellers from getting wet.
Inside the igloo was also a soapstone lamp for both heating and lighting purposes. Due to the igloo’s overall design and insulation, the inside of an igloo could actually get very warm. Even without the soapstone lamp, an igloo’s interior could heat up to sixty-one degrees Fahrenheit with a person inside. This insulation was provided by the pockets of air trapped within the snow itself.
The name “igloo” comes from the Inuit term “iglu.” By Inuit standards, an iglu can be any sort of dwelling, be it made of snow, wood, sod, or animal hides. Igloos as we know them were not year-round dwellings. They were often used only during the winter, and they weren’t even used that much by the Inuit tribe. Igloos were originally only used by central Canadian and Greenlandic (is that a word?) tribes.
Igloos came in many different sizes depending on the intention of their use. When members of the tribes would go on hunting trips, they would build small igloos intended to last for less than a week. Sometimes, they would build these igloos on top of the frozen ocean waters. Igloos are built in a spiral, winding method, building layer upon layer of brick on top of each other in a circle.
Today, there are nearly 140,000 ethnically Inuit people with more than fifty percent of them living in North America. One of the largest Inuit archeological discoveries was found in Labrador. The site is about 3,800 years old! Ethnically, the Inuit and their descendants are distinctly different from other indigenous tribes. One such thing that sets them apart is that many of them are of blood type B! One thing is for sure, the Inuit people’s scientific and archeological understanding allowed them to build some pretty rad dwellings that are both iconic and appreciated today! You can even vacation in igloos across the world today if you want a chance to appreciate this unique cultural experience for yourself. That’s all for this week’s Title Tidbit!