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Saturday, March 28, 2009

"Seal Skins and A Craft"

A trip to "The Rooms" today, a museum and art gallery in downtown St. John's provided some fine nostalgia. This kayak secured from a village in Northern Labrador about some 100-120 years ago in the late 19th to early 20th century took me back to times where life and livelihood hung in the balance most days resting on the functionality and skill needed to utilize the characteristics that this craft could provide. Hanging foam the ceiling of a display room upside down, (I inverted all the images to appear right side up), this beautiful vessel hung, resonating years and years of craftsmanship and utilitarianism in a world of long ago where now it seems the craft is taking on new dimensions never dreamed possible when harpooning seals for food.
Whatever the importance of the vessel years ago there certainly has been a 180 degree shift in it's function, to provide a platform for hunting from. Most kayaks are used for paddling enjoyment in some recreational capacity or in exploring new waters and challenging ones self with crossings, circumnavigations or endurance trips of long duration or sometimes all of the above. We no longer hunt seals from these vessels as did our northern ancestors, but wait, there is undoubtedly a resurgence of using varied types of them as platforms for fishing from today. Usually the sit-on-top types are frequently stylized as the kayak of choice for this endeavour hooking a variety of species these days it seems.

I can only suggest that the diversity in kayak shapes, sizes and construction materials will undoubtedly lead to a diversity of uses. I am just glad that I am able to paddle one to enjoy that history and culture.

A couple things I liked about this kayak are the low deck profile which I am use to, and the striking similarity to the Nordkapp of which I am hoping to paddle this year when mine arrives. I can't wait to paddle that ancestor and be taken back to images of rougher times and necessary skills to lern to master some of that which is kayaking as they knew it then and we try to know it today.


Michael said...

Hi Stan! Interesting boat and it appears to be in pretty good shape with few distortions brought about by age and poor storage (compare the boats in the Canadian Canoe Museum to see what I mean). No wonder your Nordkapp looks familiar! This is a West Greenland boat built nearby the original Taylor boat from which the Nordkapp was enlarged. I doubt very much it was made in the Labrador although the paddle probably was. Their boats are very different. I'm curious to learn more about this boat and it's history!

Stan Mac Kenzie said...

Hey MIchael,

I'll get more info for you. I was kind of rushed as I got to the museum at the end of the day . They also had a very interesting display on our efforts in Afghanistan that I had to breeze by and a kayaking display of which this kayak was not part of (it is on permanent display) that I didn't even get to. When I go back I'll forward the info to you, unless of course you own research shall get the answers for you. :-)