Igloos

The Arctic is one of the coldest environments on Earth.
Winters are long with few hours of daylight. The Inuit people must adapt to
this extreme climate. They need thick, warm clothing made from animal skins and
furs. They make boots, hats and warm jackets called anoraks. The Inuit people
build sturdy shelters to protect themselves from the harsh winds and bitter
cold.

The Inuit word for home is ā€œigloo.ā€ Igloos are used as quick
shelter to protect oneself and their family by trapping body heat in the mostly
enclosed space.  The size of the igloo depends
upon the size of the base, but the shelters can often hold a family inside, and
someone who is experienced in the art can create an igloo in less than two
hours! During the summer, the igloos are made from a wooden frame with animal
skins and whale bones. During the winter, however, igloos are made from blocks
of ice!

Originally, any snow used in creating the igloo was carved
out of bone, but now more modern tools are used. Inuit people carve large
blocks of dry, hard snow. First, they place a circular ring of blocks on level
ground. The second row of blocks are tilted slightly inward. As each row is
stacked, the walls grow taller, and the blocks begin to arch together. The
structure is a dome. Finally, a key block is placed on the top. The builders
cut a hole in this key block for ventilation. This hole allows air and smoke
from a fire to escape.

The entrance into the igloo is a tunnel. This prevents warm
air from escaping and cold air from entering the structure. The doorway is
small, and one must crawl inside. The blocks of ice act as insulators. There is
gradual thawing on the inner walls. But, when the people leave the igloo to go
hunting during the day, the hardened snow refreezes into ice. This thawing and
refreezing actually strengthens the blocks.

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