October 27, 2012
On a regular bed, people simply lie down, close their eyes and drift off to La La Land within a few minutes. If it gets cold, they can easily turn on the heater or use a blanket or two to keep them warm. But how about the Eskimos? How do they survive the cold nights inside the icy interiors of an igloo?
In cold areas like the Arctic and Greenland, snow is a perennial element. Even though these places have summer, snow will still abide. This is why normal houses cannot last in this kind of environment, where the weather and temperature can easily penetrate the walls and freeze the people inhabiting the shelter. Within a few hours, the overwhelming cold temperature can cause a person to freeze to death or lose a part of their body due to frostbite. In order to prevent these tragedies from happening, igloos were invented. Constructed by the Inuit tribes for their hunting trips, an igloo can be made by building a shelter from snow and ice. These shelters are temporary because of the increased temperature during summer.
If the temperature outside is enough to kill a person without proper protection, how do the Eskimos stay warm inside an igloo when the igloo is made out of ice itself? The answer to this question lies heavily on how igloos are made.
First of all, igloos are built out of bricks of ice. Unlike solid ice, which is a poor insulator for heat, compressed snow has more air pockets, making it an ideal insulator. Now, inside the igloo, things aren’t normal either. This ice shelter is tiered for maximum protection. The coldest part of the igloo is its lowest level; this is where the entrance is located, which is usually at a right angle, providing protection from any high winds that may blow directly into the shelter. Fire is built at the second layer of the igloo to heat up the air. At the uppermost part of the igloo is where the people sleep. Since all the cool air inside the igloo goes to the bottom part and remains there, the upper levels stay warm. A small hole at the top also prevents the igloo from storing too much smoke.
By keeping the shelter insulated, the heat from the inhabitants and the fire does not escape easily. The warm air from the fire cannot diffuse fast because it is insulated by the snow, thus, Eskimos maintain a warmer temperature inside. Pretty awesome, huh?
Inside their “bedroom”, the Eskimos use willow twigs as a mattress and bedding made from thick fur to insulate the heat within their sleeping areas. They use these materials so they can insulate the heat to remain near their bodies. In addition, they also choose to sleep with a group. The more people to sleep in an Eskimo, the more body heat there is available to warm the atmosphere.