is the Russian name used for Aleutian style sea kayak
A sea kayak or touring kayak is a kayak developed for the sport of paddling on open waters of lakes, bays, and the ocean. Sea kayaks are seaworthy small boats with a covered deck and the ability to incorporate a spraydeck...
. The ancient Unangan name is Iqyax
IqyaxIqyax is the ancient Unangan name for the sea kayak of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska Peninsula.The iqya-x was built of a light wooden frame, tied together with sinew, and covered with sea lion hides sewn with a waterproof stitch....
. The word has its origins from early Russian
The Russian people are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Russia, speaking the Russian language and primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries....
settlers in Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...
. Iqya-x builders who kept the tradition of building skin-on-skeleton boats alive in the 20th century include Sergie Sovoroff
Sergie Sovoroff was an Aleut educational leader in the 20th Century. He was born on Umnak Island in the Aleut village of Nikolski in 1902. Sovoroff was born only nine years before the United States government outlawed sea otter hunting. After 1911, the need and use of iqya-x, Aleut sea kayaks,...
A prominent feature of a baidarka is its forked bow
The bow is a nautical term that refers to the forward part of the hull of a ship or boat, the point that is most forward when the vessel is underway. Both of the adjectives fore and forward mean towards the bow...
(bifurcated bow). Very lightweight and maneuverable, it was made out of seal
Pinnipeds or fin-footed mammals are a widely distributed and diverse group of semiaquatic marine mammals comprising the families Odobenidae , Otariidae , and Phocidae .-Overview: Pinnipeds are typically sleek-bodied and barrel-shaped...
skin sewed only by Aleut women, over a frame made strictly of drift wood (since no trees grow in the Aleutian Islands
), bone and sinew. It was treated as a living being by Aleut men (it was taboo for women to handle them).
In modern times, George Dyson
George Dyson is a scientific historian, the son of Freeman Dyson and Verena Huber-Dyson, brother of Esther Dyson, and the grandson of Sir George Dyson. He is the father of Lauren Dyson. When he was sixteen he went to live in British Columbia in Canada to pursue his interest in kayaking and...
is often credited with the revival of the baidarka, through his company Dyson, Baidarka & Company. Dyson and his boats were the subject of Kenneth Brower
Kenneth Brower is an American nonfiction writer.He is best known for his many books about the environment, national parks, and natural places, many of them in hundreds of libraries and by major publishers, including several titles in the series The Earth's Wild Places published by the Friends of...
's book The Starship and the Canoe
, and Dyson himself wrote the book Baidarka
in 1986. Dyson's Baidarkas are made from modern materials such as aluminium for the frame and coated polyester fabric for the skin.
Another well known baidarka revivalist is ethnographer David Zimmerly, who has documented the history of baidarka and the people who used them. In 1983 Zimmerly published two articles in "Small Boat Journal" that showed how to build a baidarka.
Baidarka is the name sometimes used for sea kayaks from the Aleutian Islands and Alaska Peninsula. The word is Russian, and the more ancient word is "iqyak".
The people who have lived in this region of the world for thousands of years called themselves "Unungan" meaning "people who lived by the side of the sea". The Unungan men built the kayaks by carving the wooden frames from driftwood using stone tools made from volcanic rocks as well as tools made from bone, ivory, and wood.
The men designed the kayak frames to be light, fast, and flexible, tying together the wooden parts with intricate and spiritual knots braided from tough animal sinew. Unungan women prepared sea lion skins which they sewed onto the frames with bone needles, using a waterproof stitch. While out at sea, men carried with them emergency repair kits. For the Unungan, the sea kayaks lived as spiritual beings and were essential for their survival.
From early ages, Unungan boys were trained in the use of skin kayaks.