Further to the previous post: in spite of doubts that the Indians of New England may have hunted whales, it is of course known that other native people of the western hemisphere did so. According to an article by the Kendall Whaling Museum (now part of the New Bedford Whaling Museum), "In North America several groups of people historically were engaged in subsistence whaling. With a tradition dating back possibly as far as 4 or 5 thousand years, Eskimos in the Eastern and Western Arctic hunted great whales, bowhead whales and possibly humpbacks..." They did this in umiaks -- skin-on-frame open boats considerably larger than the kayaks in which they hunted smaller prey. In addition, Indians of the northwest hunted gray whales in large dugouts.
(Caption: Northwest Whaling)
Given a choice, I'd rather face a whale in a large skin boat or one of these enormous dugouts than in a bark canoe. The umiaks were probably flexible enough to take a hit, and the big dugout canoes of the northwest were quite stout.
A beautiful reproduction of a northwest indian dugout canoe. (Photo: Andreas Mensert)