Inuit Snow Goggles

Snow goggles were designed to reduce the amount of sunlight reflecting off the snow, preventing snow blindness when outdoors.

Written by Amelia Fay

January 14, 2017

Snow goggles were designed to reduce the amount of sunlight reflecting off the snow, preventing snow blindness when outdoors. Snow blindness is essentially sunburn of the eyes, and vision can be affected for a few days if precautions are not taken.

Many Inuit groups made snow goggles to combat this issue, sometimes out of bone, ivory, or, like the ones shown, wood. Imagine travelling across the snow-covered tundra on a bright day without sunglasses, and you can see why snow goggles were invented. The small slits reduce the field of vision and the amount of ultraviolet radiation that reaches the eyes.

Little is known about these early twentieth-century goggles, though the record suggests that they are from the Caribou Inuit in Nunavut.

Amelia Fay is curator of the HBC Collection at the Manitoba Museum.

This article originally appeared in the February-March 2017 issue of Canada’s History.

This article is also available in French.

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