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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dene A-Frame Raft - an Indigenous Landing Ship Dock

The Dene people are, according to Wikipedia,
...an aboriginal group of First Nations who live in the northern boreal and Arctic regions of Canada....Dene are spread through a wide region. They live in the Mackenzie Valley (south of the Inuvialuit), and can be found west of Nunavut. Their homeland reaches to western Yukon, and the northern part of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alaska and the southwestern United States. Dene were the first people to settle in what is now the Northwest Territories.
The northern Dene, who lived "along several great placid rivers," found rafts useful for downriver transport, according to Bill Durham, in Canoes and Kayaks of Western America (Copper Canoe Press, 1960). One of their more interesting rafts was of A-frame construction, and served somewhat the same purpose as the Landing Ship Docks (LSDs) of the Second World War: i.e., a vessel that acts as a mobile dock for smaller floating vessels. To quote Durham:
Two large logs were lashed together at one end, but held apart at the other end by a cross-log placed about midway. A platform for freight and passengers was built over the enclosed triangle, and a layer of earth permitting cooking while under way. The open space between the legs of the A furnished a safe harbor for the canoes of the traveling party, protecting them from damage by ice or debris.
The image above, from Durham, unfortunately doesn't do a great job of showing this. The sketch below is my own -- less accomplished, to be sure, but showing the key features. I assumed that the earthen cooking layer would have been restricted to a small area, since covering the entire decked area would have added a great deal of weight, required much work, and provided little benefit.

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