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Monday, December 28, 2015

Two Indigenous North American Boats in Maine Museums

A couple of trips to small museums in Maine yielded two nice boats: a bark canoe and a skin-of-frame kayak. It's almost like a snapshot from Adney and Chapelle's The Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America

The canoe, at the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, is a fine reproduction. (We've written before about the Abbe Museum.) The kayak, at the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum at Bowdoin College, in Brunswick, is an authentic artifact.

Birchbark canoe of the Penobscot style at the Abbe Museum, built by Steve Cayard and David Moses Bridges. It's 14 feet long, weighs 50 lb., and according to the exhibit card, it required 500 hours to build, plus 200 hours to gather materials. We've written previously about Steve Cayard's bark canoes, and not coincidentally, the canoe construction of his that we documented was assisted by David Moses Bridges. (Click any image to enlarge.)
The bark along the sides of the canoe is etched in traditional patterns. Bark is harvested in winter to obtain the brown color that can be scraped away to reveal the lighter color underneath. Seams between sections of bark are sewn with spruce root and sealed with pine resin.
Inner and outer gunwales are lashed together with split spruce roots and pegged. A gunwale cap is also pegged in place. The thwart is mortised into the inner gunwale (i.e., inwale) and lashed.  
The bow has an etched flap of bark held against the hull by the outer gunwale. It's known by the Passamaquoddy term for "diaper" and it is purely decorative.
At the Peary-MacMillan Museum: a kayak of Labrador Inuit design, built between 1860 and 1890.  
The very flat deck rises just a bit in front of the cockpit rim to make it easier to enter the kayak. Built to fit its paddler specifically, the kayak would still have been a tight fit. 
One can see the chine timber and one intermediate longitudinal member between it and the sheer timber (which is not visible). The kayak has minimal deck rigging. The paddle just above the kayak is extremely long, and the blades are especially narrow.
A model kayak just below the real one, built around 1914 by an Inuit for the MacMillan expedition's collection. 
The model has more elaborate deck rigging than the real kayak and a different shape cockpit rim. On the after deck is a harpoon line and drag. 
An Inuit child using an empty packing crate ("Spratt's dog biscuits") as a toy kayak, 1913.


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