CollectionABDUA University of Aberdeen, Human Culture Collection
Object NameKayak
Object NumberABDUA:6013
Other NumberA576
Other Number Typeold number
Brief DescriptionKayak, in seal skins sewn together with tendon and stretched over framework in pieces of redwood lashed together with strips of whalebone and hide (wooden girth and rope lashing round manhole; modern - inserted 1900) Crossed hide thongs fore and aft of cockpit, single loops around bow, stern, cockpit edged by loops in hide.
DimensionsL: 5620mm, W: 480mm, H(at cockpit): 280mm
Materialsleather, sealskin, wood, redwood, sinew, baleen
Completeness Notecockpit combing missing (?)
Object Production Date1690-1710
Place KeyNorth America, Arctic, Greenland (Kalaallit Nunaat)
Association Type Placefindspot
find spot
Publication NoteReid, R W (1912) Illustrated Catalogue of the Anthropological Museum, University of Aberdeen, p51 (illustrated p52); Knight's catalogue 1840; Turner (1979) Indians of North America, (illustrated with equipment) p 232, Douglas (1978) 'East Coast of Scotland'
Caption"There are two kayaks in Marischal Museum. According to the 1824 catalogue of the Marischal College museum they are described as : “Eskimaux canoe in which a native of that country was driven ashore near Belhelvie, about the beginning of the eighteenth century, and died soon after landing” and “Eskimaux canoe with paddles, darts and other implements; presented, 1800, by Captain William Gibbon, Aberdeen” It is likely, though not certain, that the kayak on the left is the one recorded as being found near Belhelvie. The other kayak may have been sawn in half so that it would fit inside a cramped whaling boat returning from the Arctic. The first record of the older kayak is in a diary written by a Rev. Francis Gastrell of Stratford-upon-Avon who visited Aberdeen in 1760. He says that, “In the Church which is not used (there being a kirk for their way of worship) was a Canoo about seven yards long by two feet wide which about thirty two years since was driven into the Don with a man in it who was all over hairy and spoke a language which no person there could interpret. He lived but three days, tho’ all possible care was taken to recover him.” It has been suggested that both kayaks were made in the southern part of West Greenland. The distance from Greenland to Scotland is about 1200 miles, but this could be broken into shorter lengths by landing in Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Shetland and Orkney. This would be needed to prevent the kayaks becoming waterlogged and to get drinking water. Even so, it is difficult to believe in such a long journey on rough seas, particularly with the difficulties of navigating out of sight of land. There are two theories about how the Inuit could have reached the North Sea with their kayaks. The first suggests that they were kidnapped by whalers and brought to Europe as curiosities, but then managed to escape or were freed by their captors. An alternative is that the kayakers took advantage of the colder weather of the ‘Little Ice Age’ of about 1300 to 1850 when ice floes would have drifted much farther south than today and would have offered extra places on which to rest and collect fresh water. These kayaks are not the only evidence of Inuit people coming to the North Sea. There is another kayak in Aberdeen, in the buildings of the University’s Medical School. This may be the one in which Eenoolooapik, an Inuit visitor to Aberdeen in 1839, demonstrated his kayaking skills in the River Dee to an admiring crowd. Eenoolooapik was brought to Aberdeen by Captain Penny of the whaling ship Neptune. Sadly when he returned to Labrador the following year he died of tuberculosis. There are also two kayaks in Zierikzee and Hoorn in the Netherlands which are recorded as having been found in the North Sea. "

Author: Curtis, Neil Date: 15/08/2000 Purpose: 'Inuit in Aberdeen' exhibition
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