A Study of the Ethnotechnology of Indigenous Craft in Arctic and Sub-Arctic Waters of North America

Noble, Peter G. (Noble Associates Inc.)

OnePetro 

The design and construction of waterborne craft using "scientific" methods is a relatively recent development in the context of the whole history of humankind, and is by no means universally applied even today. Many traditional craft in current service still rely on the process akin to Darwin's natural selection concept. And the evolutionary process continues from Madagascar outrigger fishing canoes to Bangkok water taxis with "long-tail" propulsion systems, and from Haitian fishing boats with high performance new sails built from poly-tarp material to whaling umiaks in NW Alaska covered with tensioned membrane skins made from walrus hide and equipped with outboard motors. There can be value in studying the design, construction and operational approaches of these craft, which can lead to insights for the modern naval architect. Lessons such as optimizing weight/strength ratios, minimizing resistance, utilizing materials in clever ways, developing repairable structures etc., can all be learned from the study of indigenous craft. The indigenous peoples living above of the tree line on the North American continent exist in an environment where much of what is required to survive and thrive comes from the sea. This paper will specifically describe the development of skin-covered craft for use to support of the lifestyles of the peoples of Arctic and Sub-Arctic North America in Alaska, Canada and Greenland.