Monday, 18 January 2010

So many different "snows" !

In the native languages of the arctic there are dozens of different words for snow and ice:

kaniq, qirihuq, qirititat, nilak, nilak, nilaktaqtuq, hiku, hiquaq, hikuaqtuaq, hikurhuit, hikuqihuq, hikuliaq, maniraq, hikup hinaa, qainnguq, manillat, kassut, iluliaq, ilulissirhuq, auktuq, quihaq, hirmiijaut...

Rime frost, freshwater ice, sea ice, thin ice, pack ice, new ice, the ice edge, solid ice, hummocky ice, pressure ridges, pieces of floating ice, icebergs in the water, melting ice…

When an inuit hunter speeds on his dog sled, the kind of ice he's on makes the difference between life and death - sliding or sinking. Ice is the only runway, the only drink, the only shelter where you build an igloo. No wonder you have to be precise when you describe it.

Just think in reverse: in non-arctic regions we have lots of something inuits scarcely know : trees. If one of them comes to our land, oak, willow, pine, larch, maple, cedar, birch... - all those would be merely "tree" for our eskimo !

By the way, a new word: sastrugi.

It means the ridges or dunes or in ice that are parallel to the prevailing wind direction.

They´ve been observed also in...Mars !