SurvivalBlog reader “KonTiki” sent the following article excerpted from the Duffy’s Law web site: http://www.duffyslaw.com/current14.htm
The following is from a collection of random notes from the 1913 book My Life With The Eskimos by Vilhjalmur Stefansson. For serious research, one should read the unabridged edition.
Eskimo houses were constructed with a hole in the roof to allow in light. The hole which was most often left open was covered with Bear intestine. The base of the house was five to six foot thick made of earth and sod and tapered and thinned out towards the top which was about six foot square. The top had about six inches of earth on it. The center of the house was about nine feet high and the walls at the edge were about five feet high. The opening on the roof was about three foot square. 3 or 4 lamps burned continuously and one of the most important duties of the wife was to make sure they didn’t smoke or go out. The entrance to the house was a twenty to forty foot shed-covered tunnel about four feet lower than the floor of the house. The cold air in the tunnel would not rise into the house which was kept warm by the four lamps at a temperature of sixty to seventy degrees Fahrenheit even when the outside temperature was fifty below zero! They would sit with only shorts on in the house. So they would be bare below the knees and above the waist. After five months Stefansson began to enjoy the boiled fish they would eat for supper. The entryway and the hole in the roof were kept open most of the time, but especially during cooking. The only time the entryway would be covered would be to prevent a baby from falling into it or puppies coming in from outside and this was only rarely. Stefansson would usually sleep next to the tunnel entryway to get more fresh air. Each corner of the room had an elevation for sleeping that was covered by skins as was the floor. The houses at first smelled bad but soon you realized that it was the cooking of food that gave the smell to the house. The lamp is a half moon soapstone about two or three inches deep kept almost full and the wick is a powdered ivory (walrus), sawdust, dried moss ground in the fingers, manila rope from the whalers with a strand taken and chopped into tiny pieces. The wick is made from the powder laid in a strip which the oil soaks. A piece of fat is suspended over the flame and when the wick dries the flame gets brighter and hence hotter and more fat drips into the half moon lamp bowl which then fills and wets the wick more which cuts down the height of the flame and this works by itself for about six or eight hours. The open center of the house was like a club pip on playing cards it was twelve foot square with an alcove in each corner which sometime would lead to another house. The entire compound accommodated 23 people.