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The Hunter's Boat

The Inuit invented the kayak, a one person boat used for hunting and transportation, and propelled by a double-bladed paddle. Inuit and Aleuts used driftwood or whalebone to make a light framework, and covered it with stretched skins, made watertight with whale fat.

Kayak means "hunter's boat" and it is perfect for hunting on the water. It's almost silent, making it easy to sneak up behind prey. If a white cloth is draped in front, the animals might be fooled into thinking that it is a drifting piece of ice - perhaps a "growler".

These traditional "one man" boats were usually just that - "made to measure" for just one man's size and weight. When a person had fallen into the water or died from kayak hunting, it was often said that he had borrowed someone elseís kayak, and didn't have the same sense of balance.

Hunters wore a sealskin "annuraaq" to keep water from getting into the boat (the origin of the modern name "anorak" for a waterproof cover). The hood and wrists were tightly tied, and it was long enough to be tied around the cockpit. So how did they get out if they capsized? Simple. They didnít.

It was considered suicide to come out of the boat. There was no protection from the icy cold water, no buoyancy in heavy skin clothing, and... who knew how to swim? If you rolled over, you had to know how to roll right back up!

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Library: Arctic, Inuit
Arctic Animals, Whales/Fish
Links: Building a South Baffin Kayak
Arctic, Inuit, Boats & Ships
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