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Kayaks of Greenland

Posted Dec 01 2006 12:00am
“2006 has been a big year for me:
I’ve achieved my goal of building and using a replica of every main kayak-type
from the Arctic tradition and have finished my eight year research project,
“the History and Development of the Greenlandic Hunting Kayak, 1600-2000″.
– Harvey Golden

Kayaks of Greenland by Harvey Golden is a 580 plus page, in-depth look at the construction, design, variation, and evolution of the Greenlandic hunting kayak. The spectrum of kayak forms from Greenland is linked to pre-historic forms from the Bering Straits and is analyzed within a changing cultural and climatic context. 104 scale drawings of kayaks are presented, representing examples from the early 17th century through the end of the 20th century. Aside from the 104 scale drawings of kayaks, there are 407 figures consisting of historic images and technical illustration. 79 paddles are also presented in scale-drawing.

So I think what all that comes down to is Harvey Golden’s Book “Kayaks of Greenland”, is a treasure trove for kayak builders as well as those who are deeply interested in Greenlandic history. I can’t think of many people who would be as qualified or have the deep love for tradition that it takes to put this kind of work together. It’s easy to smile thinking of him taking his first self-built kayak out on the water while being sure not to get so deep that he couldn’t touch bottom with his hands. :) At is home in Portland, Oregon Harvey has built many replicas of traditional kayaks. Even for non-traditional paddlers it’s worth a taking a look at the pictures on his website. But more than building replicas, Harvey paddles and experiments with each design working to divine the magic of each unique design. In this way he is constantly enhancing his understanding of the people and their crafts. Harvey of course is also very interested in traditional rolling and paddle techniques as well. And what’s more his driven interest has taken him to Greenland to participate in the Greenland National Kayak championships in 2000, to do research at the Greenland National Museum and research kayaks at 21 museums in Western Europe. His work is really quite impressive. Again be sure to check out his website once you get in and start roaming around it’s really quite amazing.

To steal another quote from his website, “. . . Not until we ourselves have made use of a complicated implement do we fully understand all its small details, which at first sight, we either do not notice at all, or regard as unimportant for the purpose of the implement, and therefore readily consider them to be peculiarities of style belonging to a certain district or tribe.” – From “Studies on the Material Culture of the Eskimo in West Greenland,” Copenhagen, 1915 by Dr. Morten Porsild. That probably says more about Harvey Golden than I ever could.

His book Kayaks of Greenland is available online right here. Now you’ve found the perfect gift for that paddler who always seems to have saw dust in their hair to match the star dust in their eyes. :)

Image provided by Harvey Golden. Used by permission. Thank you.

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