Look Out Below

Snow Goggles and Snow Blindness

"The arctic sun is very hard on the eyes. While travelling in bright sun on the snow or on the sea, people commonly suffered from snow blindness. Snow goggles (iggaak) made from wood, antler, or ivory protected the eyes. The only light that could enter was by means of a narrow, thin slit. In addition, the interior of the goggles was usually blackened with soot from the qulliq. This further reduced the glare, and hence the strain on the eyes. Nevertheless, Inuit did suffer from snow blindness. They also suffered from other eye ailments.

'A few drops of oil were administered in cases of snow blindness caused in the spring by the reflection of the sun on the snow. When first poured on the eye, the oil produced a very acute burning sensation, but afterwards brought relief to the patient. One would also smear one's face with seal oil. A taboo concerning food was imposed in such a cure: one could not eat the contents of a [caribou] stomach…

Sometimes a whitish substance formed on the globe of the eye. One would permit a louse, tied by a hair, to turn in the substance. With a little patience, one was soon rid of the discomfort’ (Lorson 1968:14-16).” 

In Uqalurait: An Oral History of Nunavut. pp. 253-254.
Lorson, Georges. 1968. Eskimo Therapeutics. Eskimo (78):14-17.

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    This was my fav part of my Native North American Art History class! Thanks Metcalf, you were awesome!
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    Sun on blaring white snow does cause a burning sensation! In Maine when the vast potato fields were covered over and it...
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