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How to build an igloo: A clip from A Boy Among Polar Bears

In this clip from the BBC documentary A Boy Among Polar Bears, we get to watch how the Inuit people build the snow shelter known as an igloo, or iglu in the Inuit language. (“Snow house” is igluvijaq.) These temporary shelters, built only with snow and a snow knife, have protected hunters from the extreme Arctic wind and cold for thousands of years. From Wonderopolis:

An igloo’s walls block the icy wind that’s common in these areas. Snow also happens to be a very good insulator. This means that the heat inside the igloo — whether from a small oil lamp or just body heat — tends to stay inside the igloo. The result is that the inside of an igloo can be as much as 40 degrees warmer than the outside temperature.

Igloos also get stronger and warmer over several days after they’re first built. As trapped heat causes the inside of an igloo to melt slightly, the melted snow will then refreeze when the igloo is unoccupied. A few days of this thawing/refreezing cycle will eventually turn the entire structure to solid ice, which is even stronger and warmer than the original structure…

An experienced igloo builder can construct an igloo in about an hour. If you’ve never built an igloo before, it’ll probably take you three to six hours or more. All you need, though, is plenty of packed snow, a few tools and patience.

Update: If you like this video, watch this next: The National Film Board of Canada’s 1949 classic How to Build an Igloo.

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