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The earliest known type of skinboats here had flat bottoms, straight, slanted sides, and a hard chine. Although good descriptions were not made until the early 20th century, evidence seems to point to the existence of this boat type as early as the first Euro-American explorers, in the late 18th century. Frames were made entirely of driftwood, as there are literally no trees on St. Lawrence Island. Frame members were tied together with baleen, and the frame was covered with walrus hide. Typically, two large walrus would cover the length of a boat, with pieces of a third used to bring the skin up to gunwales at the point of maximum beam.
|Note the keel, chines, risers, and the headboards that sit atop the stem and sternposts. Click any image to enlarge.|
But as the whaling industry petered out in the early 20th century, St. Lawrence Islanders had to find a replacement for the whaleboats as they wore out. Still without a local source of milled lumber, it was natural enough for the islanders to revert to the skinboat. But with their recent experience with the advantages of the round-hulled whaleboat fresh in their minds, the new angyapiks they began building were unlike the older flat-bottomed models.
The new skinboats featured very round bilges -- perfectly round, in fact, because the frames were shaped by boiling them and then bending them around oil drums. The keel remained, but the chines disappeared, replaced by several stringers and a heavy gunwale. The floors remained quite flat. Although some were rigged for sail, it was more common for an outboard engine to be placed in a well.
|Gunwales are set up on diagonal braces against the keel and held at the proper width with temporary thwarts. The first ribs have been installed, pre-bent by boiling then shaping against an oil barrel.|
|Lacing the skin onto the frame. Note the mast partner and the headboards at the top of the stem and sternpost.|
|A completed round-bottom angyapik frame.|
|Profile and plan of a round-bottom angyapik.|
|Sled (top) for transporting a flat-bottomed angyapik over land or ice.|
|Left: early, flat-bottom angyapik. Right: more recent, round-bottom version.|
All photos and input from The Skin Boats of Saint Lawrence Island, Alaska, by Stephen R. Braund.