This article was originally written and submitted as part of a Canada 150 Project, the Innovation Storybook, to crowdsource stories of Canadian innovation with partners across Canada. The content has since been migrated to Ingenium’s Channel, a digital hub featuring curated content related to science, technology and innovation.
The answer from the world around them.
Anyone who has walked across a snow-covered field on a sunny day can attest to the blinding intensity of the glare. Today, we quickly slip on our Ray-Bans or Oakleys. The Inuit people of Canada’s North had no such luxury. For an answer to snow blindness, they looked to the world around them. Taking a piece of antler or bone, usually from a caribou, the Inuit carved a long slit through it – wide enough to give its wearer the ability to see but narrow enough to block most of the harmful and harsh ultraviolet rays. For the googles to work reliably, they needed to allow in only the light coming through that slit. So the Inuit curved them to fit the contours of the wearer’s face, carved out a piece at just the right spot to accommodate the nose, and fastened them securely behind the head with a cord made out of caribou sinew – another answer from the world around them.