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.