A little similar to castle-making using sands and clay, building igloos make use of snows that are hardly compacted, too compacted that they can form blocks and be sliced. How we all wish that building our homes will be as simple as collecting snow, compacting them, and putting together to create a shelter. Yet, house construction is becoming more complicated now, but things are seemingly easy because of the advanced architecture and engineering.
If you think an igloo is small, yes, there are smaller sizes igloos typically about 3 to 3.5 m high and 3.5 to 4.5 m in diameter. Bigger “snow huts” can actually accommodate about 20 people or can house bigger families. For hunters, a 1.5-meter high and 2-meter in diameter igloo is already a desirable shelter for them during the freezing nights and when the storm comes.
Using a sharp snow knife, the builder will cut the formed snow blocks into the desired size and put them together until it forms a dome-shaped home. All the remaining tiny holes or uneven surfaces will be polished so no air can enter from any point except from the designed entrance.
Although snow is cold, the compacted form is a good insulator, that is why some animals hibernate under the snow caves they dig during the winter. There is a high amount of air trapped among the accumulated snow crystals, and because the air cannot move, heat transfer is significantly reduced. Fresh snow is usually 90 to 95 percent trapped air, and many animals take advantage of its insulating qualities during freezing winter temperature.
How long can an igloo be built?
This is depending on the size of an igloo that a builder wants to put up. It’s similar to having a house construction: the bigger a house is, the longer it takes to finish building it. But small igloos can be finished in as short as 3-6 hours.
But if you happen to hear or to see the biggest igloo in the world, which can be found in Switzerland, it took over 2,000 hours to build and was made out of 1,387 blocks of snow. It was 10.5m tall and had a width of 12.9m. It was indeed an impressive creation.
How does an igloo look from the inside?
Igloos all look the same from the outside; they all have a dome shape. But they can have varying looks on the inside. It is dependent on the desired set-up that a builder wishes to achieve. Bigger igloos, which will be occupied by a larger-sized group or a family, can be made to have separate sleeping areas like other mini-holes inside the igloo.
There is an elevated level, where the sleeping area is typically designated, on the uppermost level. All the coldest air from inside the igloo runs down off the terraces and collects in the bottom, allowing the upper portions to stay warmer. The middle is the fireplace and the workplace, and the bottom level is a “cold sump.”
The passage towards the igloo is at the bottom and includes at least one right angle, to keep the high winds from blowing straight into the igloo and chilling the residents or blowing out the fire. At the top, there is also a hole to keep the smoke from building up inside the igloo.
On the outside of the igloo, the temperature can be down to -50, but on the inside, it’s a little warmer at 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Twenty degrees may not be what some consider comfortable, but a 70-degree difference is certainly welcome somewhere so cold.
How long can an igloo melt?
The body’s heat from the people that occupy the igloo can affect it’s melting. If people stay longer, the igloo can melt a little bit. But once everyone has left, the melted snow will turn to ice, which makes the igloo stronger and warmer.
When the fire is burning or when the flashlights are on, the igloo looks like a glowing snow dome in the night.