American Bushman

"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing." —Benjamin Franklin

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Igloo

This entire post was composed last night and then, due to problems with Blogger, I lost it. So I'll do my best to retell the story here...

Getting up Sunday morning I knew the snow would be ideal for cutting blocks to make a snow shelter and the kids were anxious to get outside to play so we bundled up and made a day of it. After assessing the condition of the snow and checking the forecast (don't want too many 32+ degree days when you're building a snow shelter) the kids set to sledding into the back yard and I pulled out the shovel to begin cutting blocks out of the front yard.

The first blocks were nice and big. The snow held together wonderfully and it was quick work to cut down into the snow 6 to 12 inches to create the first course of blocks. After just one row of blocks you could lay down and be protected from the wind. We wanted something a little different and a little bigger though.

After about an hour, however, the temperature began to rise and the quality of the snow went to heck. Blocks would crumble, the surface layer of snow was mush, and we started having problems keeping things together. I thought we were finished for the day but the kids wanted to sit inside and have their lunch so I played around with a "brick" form that was designed for kids to use to build snow forts and/or sand castles and tried packing it with some of the snow to form blocks.

The blocks would form well but they didn't have any real strength. Letting them set up for a bit would improve their consistency and the process of building row upon row of the wall wasn't really high-stress enough to smash them (unless a kid tried leaning on the wall and/or setting heavy objects up against the wall.)

So we're getting winter storm warnings today from The Weather Channel and we're hopeful that we get some good snow to come in on top of what we've already got. It can be useful for filling in holes and packing in between the bricks to add strength and to wind proof the shelter.

Where I am having some difficulty is in the transition from wall to roof. The original blocks would have been big enough to create the traditional igloo dome but these smaller bricks just don't leave me with enough confidence to try pulling them in toward the center where they'd be over my head. Any igloo builders reading this? I'm open to suggestions.

Thanks for reading,



At 9:26 AM, Blogger Mungo said...

I haven't made an igloo, but apparently the ICEBOX tool is very effective. I'd like one for next winter...



At 6:22 PM, Anonymous Ron said...

Growing up in snow country I have certainly attempted to make igloos. The fact is, igloos are difficult to make well.

IMHO it is far easier to make a snow cave or trench and they work just as well for shelter.

Nice blog, by the way!

At 5:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Firstly, I really enjoy your blog and look in most days. Thanks for taking the time and effort to share so much. I don't live in snow country, and have only seen examples of Igloo - building on the TV. One of the examples had the English guy ray Mears building with some Innuit folks in Alaska. The construction technique was to form a continuous spiralwhich starts to lean inwards. The final step is a number of 'roof tiles'. He did mention that the local guys know that only certain snow is suitable for construction. Sorry I can't share more practical info.

At 11:05 AM, Anonymous Ron said...

The icebox is an interesting find, Mungo.

At 4:13 PM, Blogger Pablo said...

I think the problem with the dome is that perhaps the the build should have been done in a spiral from the start. The door is then cut out.
I've only done one some time ago, but I remember that it isn;t done like a conventional "brick" type lay.
It's a great effort though Bri.
BTW, How did you get snow in Floida, or have I missed a post or two?

At 4:21 PM, Blogger American Bushman said...

LOL! No Pablo, I guess I never made the online transition from sunny Florida back to snowy, cold Illinois. :)

The original plan was to do the spiral build but the bricks just aren't big enough and the blocks were too inconsistent at the beginning to have supported the build.

Today we're working on building up even further and I've started the first row of bricks in toward the center. It'll be a few more rows before we have something that starts to look like a dome.

The snow is still too powdery to do much with so we have to pack bricks, lay a row, and then wait for them to set up.

Mungo, that's the tool a group used two winters ago to build an igloo at Indiana Dunes. I'd been looking for that link and just got it from Dan at JRE Industries about an hour before your comment.

Thanks everybody,



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