Friday, February 27, 2009

Green Machine

Mike at Timmynocky has posted a link about an exciting new development based in Norway which has the potential to supply green electricity by exploiting the chemical differences between salt and freshwater to produce a kind of battery based on the reverse osmosis principles now in use at desalination plants. The technology,  if practicable, would be appropriate for most large estuary's worldwide. Lab tests have been run and the project managers are ramping up for full scale tests. Click the title bar or better yet, visit Timmynocky to delve a little deeper. Seems promising, but I am not a scientist or engineer. All opinions will be given space here. Let me hear from you.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Kayak 1.7 The Historians: Captain George Comer, Whaling Anthropologist

George Comer in the rigging, courtesy Mystic Seaport

Inuit Family,  photograph George Comer, courtesy Mystic eaport

Hudson Bay Inuit carving, collected by George Comer, courtesy Canadian Museum of Civilization

Hudson Bay Inuit carving, collected George Comer, courtesy Canadian Museum od Civilization

Netsilik Family, George Comer photograph, courtesy Mystic Seaport

Netsilik Kayak drawing courtesy Canadian Museum of Civilization/Dr. Eugene Arima

Replica and photograph courtesy Harvey Golden

Captain George Comer's life story is as unlikely as it is interesting. Born in Quebec in 1858 to a seafaring father, he emigrated to New England around age five, with his mother. At age seventeen in 1875 he had found his way to New London, where he shipped out as a green hand on the Nile, a whaling barkentine bound for the Arctic whaling grounds. Though it would be over a decade before he returned to the arctic, the trip was seminal and set the course for the arc of George Comer's life and adventures. After several seasons of sealing from Cape Horn to the Indian Ocean, Comer returned to the Arctic with his original captain, John Spicer, with three annual whaling trips to Hudson Bay in the Era, a 91  ft. topsail schooner. In '93 he returned (as second mate aboard the Canton) to winter over in the Hudson Bay for the first time. It was a significant experience which fed a growing interest in the natural world and anthropology. Long winter hours. Inuit camped nearby. He collected.
His life changed in 1897 when the father of American anthropology, Franz Boas contacted Comer's former captain Spicer for information about the Hudson Bay Inuit. Spicer referred him to Comer, who had taken over as captain of the Era. It was, as stated by Fred Calabretta in "Sea History" magazine, Comer's 'defining moment'. Asked to put together a collection of Eskimo artifacts from the Hudson Bay area, Comer impressed Boas immensely. He went on to become a highly regarded figure in North American anthropology under Boas' tuteledge, taking over 300 pictures of Canadian Inuit and recording the first Inuit voices in Canada, telling stories and singing songs. His closest friend among the Inuit was a Shaman, Ippaktuk (shaman) Tasseok, andhe had a longtime female Inuit companion, Nivisinaaq.
In 1916, while icebound in north Greenland, near Qaanaaq, or Thule, Comer discovered a kitchen midden which yeilded the first evidence of a paleo-Eskimo civilization, ancestors of the modern Inuit, which became known as the Thule Culture.
The kayak, or more properly qajaq seen above was collected by Comer in 1913, a year after he had retired from whaling. It's a Netsilik or Natlinglimuit style, and one of the only two qajaq I'm aware of him having collected ( the other was also built in replica by H. Golden, see his Caribou Inuit Kayak here). There may have well been more. This is a Caribou Eskimo craft, used in lakes and rivers for hunting caribou.
This kayak has struck my imagination and I am planning to build a replica, or near replica of this fine example of Inuit craftsmanship and creativity. It was my interest in this boat that led me to discover and research George Comer. I found valuable and facinating information on Comer from a variety of sources, especially the above mentioned magazine article , but also at the Mystic Seaport, where there is a large exhibit devoted to Comer, see website, the Canadian Museum of Civilisation, and the Dartmouth College Library. The replica was built by Harvey Golden, to plans found in "Inuit Kayaks in Canada" by Dr. Eugene Arima. My thanks to all .

Saturday, February 14, 2009

More light on the "Ahmad Bin Majid"

loading Warren's hulls for New Zealand

all photos Warren Matthews

Warren Matthews is a New Zealander who was having a Tiki 38 built at the same boatyard responsible for Creed O'Hanlon's Ahmad Bin Majid. He was just behind Creed in building order, but recently decided to remove his project from the yard in Thailand to his home area in NZ to complete his build. He recently wrote about his reasons for doing so here. Add that to this and this. The whole picture begins to clear a little. Or does it? Take a look at this thread on the Boat Design Forums last August. Warren is planning another post in a day or so to relate his on site observations at the boatyard.
Also here and here. (New 2/15/09)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Kayak 1.6 History, the Museum Volkenkunde, Leiden, NL

all photographs courtesy Lyndon  Kearsley

The Museum Volkenkunde in Leiden, the Netherlands houses this stunning kayak  collection/display. Lyndon Kearsley, a British Islander living in Belguim shared these photos taken at the museum last year and recently posted them on the Qajaq Usa forum. He is promising more from his tour of kayak colllections last year. After seeing these photographs, taken in available light with no tripod, I asked Lyndon to tell me about his interest in traditional kayaks. He responded that... "I have a life long love of kayaks. My first was a canvas covered wooden one for my 6th birthday. My dad said I could paddle it once I could swim 100 yards. Didn't take long. Caught on to the skin-on-frame kayak culture having come across Cunningham's book. The internet did the rest. Once you have built one yourself visits to exhibitions such as Museum Volkenkunde in Leiden, Holland are an education. Genius in ingenuity, design and simplicity".
I'll say! Lyndon has promised more photos from two other museums. I'm looking forward to seeing them. You can view the entire album of kayak and kayak related items taken by Lyndon at the Leiden museum here .

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A (stuck ) Tiki in Thailand

All photos RB Boatworks

Creed O'hanlon recently emerged from his self imposed silence. Very unlike him, silence. I hadn't heard from him for some time, and his blog, 'A Tiki in Thailand' had shut down. I was concerned. Indeed as it turns out, Mr. O'Hanlon had some medical issues but report's he's on the mend. In the meantime I saw other sources on the web saying Creed was dismayed with the final issue of his Tiki and had refused delivery of the boat. Creed confirmed this, said he'd lawyered up, and that's about all. Except that he would like to issue a cautionary note to anyone contemplating a build in Southeast Asia, unless you can be onsite to watch the progress and quality of work. He is remaining mum due to pending litigation. The builder, Raoul Bianchetti of RB Boatworks, has recently published a suite of photos (see above) of the Tiki in question. She looks great, but apparently what cannot be seen are flaws deep enough to dissuade Creed from accepting the build.
You can read more about this 'situation' here. And take a look at Creed's new weblog "A Sea in Solitude". Creed, I wish you a speedy recovery and a happy outcome.

postscript: anyone who's had or is having a similiar experience with long distance builds, please let us know about it.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Minimalist Cruising part 8, Atalanta Et Al

courtesy Joann

courtesy Gavin Atkin, intheboatshed

courtesy Gavin Atkin, intheboatshed

courtesy Gavin Atkin, intheboatshed

courtesy Joann

courtesy Joann

Gavin Atkin over at intheboatshed brought these boats to light today.  Built by the legendary British yard Fairey Marine both the Atalanta and her slightly larger spinoff  Titiana would serve well as minimal cruisers.The series started in 1955 and it's a model of the  streamlined thinking of that period- soft curves, but these may add seaworthiness. That said, these look like very interesting cruising boats, with a center cockpit and  small aft cabin, perfect for the singlehander. They were hot moulded, using the technology from the war years. In fact, Fairey was responsible for many aircraft built during WWII using this same method. It's a lovely boat, full of soft curves . Not many iterations were built but you might pick one up. Put a junk rig on her and sail around. The harbor, the island, the world. Click the here to reach the owners group.

Kayak 1.5, the Historians: John Heath and Eugene Arima

 Eastern Arctic Kayaks courtesy University of Alaska Press

avasisaartog Kayak c. 1870

John Heath on Greenland paddles

Harvey Golden rolling his Korneileson/Heath replica

Interior shot of the replica

John D Heath and Dr. Eugene Arima have both made huge contributions to the history and ethnography of the indigenous watercraft of the North. The current culture of revival of skin on frame Kayak would not be the same without their contributions.  Eugene Arima is a an ethnologist who has written extensively on artifact kayak, Inuit culture and oral tradition and also has deeply studied the culture of the Northwest Coastal tribes. He has worked in Canada for most of his career and is currently in Ottawa with Parks Canada. He has surveyed, drawn and published many, many kayaks and is considered one of the worlds leading authorities on these elegant weapons. He is still working as an ethnographer.
John Heath  was Texas born and drawn to kayak. In the mid 1950's  as the kayak began to rise in popularity as a recreational boat in both America and Europe, John endeavored to spread the word about the traditional models for these boats, feeling that the centuries of evolution in life or death conditions tended to produce models for kayak design that were by and large being ignored. He studied the Inuit culture, the boats and the skills needed to survive in them in the most trying conditions. It's seems John became as much an historian of kayaking technique and skills as of the building process. In the 1960's he was able to interview some of the last generation of hunters using their boats in the original manner in Alaska and also travelled to Greenland and interviewed some of the last true seal hunters and measured their kayaks. Exceptional for an historian, John was  equally interested in both the material culture of kayak and the operation of the craft, the skills and techniques needed to safely use and optimally hunt with these boats. 
John Heath and Eugene Arima were collaborating on a book at the time of John's death in July of 2003. Recent years had shown a growing interest in traditional kayak due in part to John's efforts and he was gratified to see his lifework begin to have effect on a growing number of kayak enthusiasts.
The book was published in 2004  by the University of Alaska Press. Eastern Arctic Kayaks has become in the few years since it's publication one of the landmark texts in the history, design and technique of kayak. A rich volume, it includes contributions from John Brand, Harvey Golden and Hugh Collings on kayak types from various museums, and, in keeping with John's interest in technique, a chapter by Greg Stamer on Greenland paddle technique and an extensive photo study of Greenland rolling technique and contributions from H. C. Petersen and Johannes Rosing. Instant classic and now one of the must have books for the serious student of Kayak. 
In 1959 John Heath commissioned one of the last living indigenous kayak builders, Greenlander Emanuelle Kornielesen to build him an Illorsuit kayak similar to the one built for Ken Taylor (see previous post). The builder was short of skin that year and John's frame was never covered. The frame is now in the care of Greg Stamer, and in 2004 Harvey Golden took off the lines and built a replica.
John produced several kayak technique videos, some with (seven time) Greenland National Kayaking Champion Maligiaq Padilla, and his widow, Jessie, has made them available  here. There is also a short biography and memoriam, here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Google Ocean

Google just released it's Beta version of it's latest, Google Earth 5.0 (beta). A new "layer" is the Google Ocean feature which includes 3D maps of the ocean floor, and they have partnered with National Geographic, the BBC, Cousteau’s Ocean World, and several others to provide a wealth of information about everything from the global fishing crisis to footage of shipwrecks. Marine life census data, scientific expeditions, and countless links to information outside Google Earth. There is also an Historical feature which allows one to view changes to a location over time. You can get it here. Thanks to Sandy at the Casco Bay Boaters Blog for the heads up.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Tsunamichaser: Thomas Nielsen

Thomas Nielsen is active. In the last year he's finished his Wharram Tiki 26 Tsunamichaser, he's built an Ulua for himself and his wife to paddle, and one  for his daughter, both from a Gary Dierking design, is currently finishing a hollow strip built bamboo surfboard and is planning a traditional skin on frame kayak for his daughter. Whew, I am tired just writing it all. Keep in mind he's doing this in a small (1o'x20' or so) garage. Thomas also has ambitions beyond mere boatbuilding. There are many homebuilders of Wharram catamarans. James Wharram is a very popular designer, and rightly so. What makes Thomas stand out is that his boat has been specifically built to achieve a purpose, a scientific endeavour. to wit:

In 1985 Tom spent the summer in the Canadian Arctic doing geological research and village resupply aboard the CCGC Nahdik. Since then Tom has been following the ice maps and can attest to a significant decrease in polar ice every year. His intention is to retrace his original journey, photographing along the way to document the changes. He has lots of material from the '85 trip to verify the evidence and contrast with current conditions. This is a serious scientific undertaking and is being supported by . Seriousness aside Thomas plans to take his family along as crew. Wouldn't you like to have such a dad? The voyage will begin at Great Slave Lake, one of the five deepest lakes on our planet at 614m. and is the fifth largest lake in North America, tenth largest in the world. Tom plans to trailer the boat to the Hay River and take this up into Great Slave. Across the lake to Yellowknife, where he may leave the boat to overwinter. He hopes to start this coming July and spend about two months this year exploring Great Slave. Then he'll resume giong  from Yellowknife to the Mackenzie and out into the Beaufort Sea, then over to the Bering, through the Straits and then the Aleutians, down through the Inside Passage and home to Seattle. Ambitious. He plans to bring along Spot technology which can, among other things, track his progress at 20 minute intervals. We've talked about the possibility that we may be able to track his progress here on 70.8% and on his Tsunamichaser weblog. Should be a great deal of fun! 

Postscript: Thomas gave me a correction, he also! built an Ulua for his wife and himself to paddle. I stand corrected, and also, a little in awe.