Archive for the 'greenland' Category

Arctic photo archive

January 31, 2007

Justine Curgenven caught on camera a sea kayak pitchpoling in heavy storm surf and posted a clip on her blog. But even more interesting is a post about the Danish arctic photo archive As Justine says:

The database is in Danish only but… if you look for kajakker you will have all kayak-photos, starting with the oldest. You can limit the search by writing kajakker fangst (kayaks hunting), but you might miss some relevant photos.

I did just that and found some hauntingly beautiful photos. I chose these three as they are intriguing, instructive and a little scary.

Arctic photo archive

Arctic photo archive

Arctic photo archive


They also capture the key to my interest in sea kayaking, self sufficiency.


Kayaking in sea ice

January 26, 2007

I have two short term ambitions for my sea kayaking. The first is to make the crossing from Matsushima to Ajishima (an open crossing of about 25km) before I leave Japan. The second is to paddle in sea ice.


Japan offers sea ice in Northern Hokkaido from January (article, information and map with up-to-date sea ice locations for Hokkaido) and the “bergy bits” can get further south through early April. Sadly I guess this one may have to wait as my third child is due 1st April.

But it doesn’t stop me dreaming and reading great stories about East Greenland (the account starts terribly with mention of a “fanny pack” but improves…)

EDIT: such is life, on Saturday the local paper that my wife reads had a big back page picture and article on sea ice trips to Hokkaido. Apparantly my wife has always wanted to go…


Gordon Brown on Greenland kayaks

January 17, 2007

Gordon Brown author of Seakayaking, in a interview with Simon Willis published as a podcast said:

“There is no place within modern seakayaking for [skin on frame kayaks and greenland paddles]”

He calls Greenland paddles “lollipop stick paddles”. I think he is being deliberately provocative and it is said with some affection as he uses both and can roll like a greenlander but it bugged me for two reasons

Firstly what is the point of limiting the sport? Why define edges or classes? Yet even the term ‘sport’ or ‘modern seakyaking’ gets up my nose, for me sea kayaking is about being on the sea. In what doesn’t really matter. I think of this as a ‘club’ mentality which sadly is a british disease.

Secondly I am not sure it’s factually true. It reminded me of an article by a greenland kayak expert on the most famous greenlander out there Maligiaq Padilla:

Using a Greenland paddle and a borrowed touring kayak with no rudder, he competed against kayakers who used racing kayaks and wing paddles. He made a respectable showing in the top ten, in spite of having to paddle a lot on one side to compensate for side winds.

Later, in Miami, using a borrowed surf ski and a Greenland paddle, he won first place in his category and second place overall, beating several kayakers who used wing paddles.

The full article here.

Anyway I apprecaite Gordon Brown as a sceptical calvanistic Scotsman and its this sceptisicm that made Scotland great (a nation of inventors). A subject blogged about by Douglas Wilcox today too.

Greenland expedition and patagonia

January 12, 2007

On Kayaks posted about an expedition up the west coast of Greenland. There are some beautiful pictures taken by these guys (I guess a requirement of commercially sponsored expeditions)


But it wasn’t the photographs that interested me so much as their route map: 


Isn’t that an amazing coastline.

It reminds me (well I mean its not like I’ve been there or anything) of the coastline around Cape Horn. which I have read about in sailing books and took ages to understand – Patagonia, Terra del Fuego, the Cape is just like this: a series of inlets, islands and fyords. Back in the old days the locals would paddle out in canoes to try and kill (and eat) the sailors which was one of the things that made rounding the cape worthy of a ear piercing – left ear going round anticlockwise, right ear clockwise. Captain Joshua Slocum’s book provides fascinating historical narrative.

map of terra del fuego


Greenland architecture

January 12, 2007

copyright not mine

Those Greenlanders are really good designers as well as kayakers.  Image from here (Though someone should mention that the stainless steel flue on this building doesn’t extend high enough up and there is a risk of noxious gases entering in through the window – wouldn’t pass British Building regulations lol).

I posted another image on the architecture of greenland here. There is a catlalog and history of Greenland’s architecture here.

There was also a well known photographer who recently spent a while in Greenalnd photographing the architecture – I’ll need to find that source again and post it here.

A history of modern boat designs

October 3, 2006

Another part of the same source. but interesting in that both ‘paths’ have a Scottish root.

What is the history of the development of the modern kayaks?

The modern sea kayaks can trace their ancestry via two paths. The first type are those kayaks that are close copies of the Southwest Greenland kayaks.

In the summer of 1959, Ken Taylor made a private one-man expedition to Western Greenland and brought a kayak back to Scotland. This particular kayak excited special interest because it was a more moderate example of the West Greenland type.

This kayak has been copied a number of times, most noted being the kayak built by Geoff Blackford in 1971. Blackford redesigned the boat to fit his own particular dimensions, retaining the upturned stern, and ending up with a plywood model 17 ft (5.2 m) long with a 21 in. (533 mm) beam. In all other respects the craft was identical to Ken Taylor’s boat.

Blackford’s craft was used as the plug for a fiberglass mould and eventually found its way to Frank Goodman of Valley Products who went into commercial production under the name ‘Anas Acuta’.

A noted British mountaineer and exponent of outdoor education, Colin Mortlock, proposed an expedition along the Arctic fiords of Norway to Nordkapp, the northern-most cape of Europe. Mortlock and his team paddled the Anas Acuta kayaks around the Isle of Skye but believed that a new sort of boat would be needed, one that could take huge quantities of supplies without losing too much manoeuvreability and seaworthiness.

Eventually Frank Goodman came up with a kayak design, having a basis in the West Greenland kayaks, but incorporating elements of standard boat design, with a round bilge capable of the extra payload required, and the ‘Nordkapp’ was born. Many modern boats can trace their design lineage from this root.

The second line of descent for modern kayaks is that of the ‘Rob Roy’ kayaks.

The McGregor “canoe” was built in 1865 to resemble what John McGregor thought he had seen when looking at sketches of Eskimo kayaks. In shape and size it is fairly similar to a Coaster. The Kleppers were also of a similar style. Many of the kayaks designed in the Pacific Northwest of North America have their roots in this basic shape.

If the designs of the Greenland and Alaskan kayaks are studied, it is obvious that there are a wide range of designs. Each has evolved as suitable for the region that it comes from. From this one can see why some designs are popular in one region and not in another, the Nordkapp style in Britain and New Zealand and the beamier, flatter boats in northwestern North America. Even in a country as small as New Zealand there can be regional preferences, a highly rockered boat in the north and flatter, lower windage boats in the South Island, for example.

Wood and wood/fabric were common up until 1950’s when fiberglass was introduced. This was followed by plastic in 1984, the Chinook being the first of the rotomolded boats.

Was kayak hunting dangerous?

October 3, 2006

Very interesting about greenland kayakers from here:

Very dangerous.

Some times a wounded animal wound attack the kayak. Walrus and whales were especially dangerous when injured. Some times a walrus would attack a kayak even if the kayak was not hunting it. Sometimes the harpoon line would tangle and upset the kayak.

It is important to remember these people had no thermal protection against the cold waters when they wet exited since there was no equivalent to the wetsuit or drysuit (although in Greenland there was an equivalent to the modern drysuit but that was only used by Umiak crews hunting whales). The water temperature they paddled in could be as low as 27 degrees F since saltwater has a lower freezing point than freshwater. Glaciers helped to lower the water temperature by calving icebergs into the water. To wet exit the boat was considered suicide by many groups. Also, there was no equivalent to the modern PFD.

In South Greenland in 1888 there were 162 deaths. 90 were males and 24 of the males died while kayaking. In 1889, there were 272 deaths. 152 were male and 24 died while kayaking. The population consisted of 5614 of which there were 2591 males.