Friday, October 29, 2010

Celebrity Paddles: Gabriel Acquin's Canoe Paddle

A while back, I came across this intriguing print on with the listing title of "Original Albumen Photograph American Indian Guide".

"INDIAN GUIDE, c. 1870"
Details from the site mentioned a date of circa 1870. An original period photograph, it measures 2.25" x 3.5" and is housed in a beveled 5.25" x 8.25" period mat. The subject, according to the pencil notation below the image, "INDIAN GUIDE, c. 1870", is seen standing leaning on a canoe paddle. Unfortunately, no details regarding the identity of the subject were available.

Later, thanks to an email from blog reader Luc Poitras, I learned the image is of Gabriel Acquin, a Maliseet (Wolastoqiyik) guide who was the first to permanently settle on land that would eventually become St. Mary's First Nation.

Gabe Acquin (St. Mary's), c. 1866
University of New Brunswick Archives

In the photo Acquin is holding a rough looking paddle with an elongated grip typical of this region. Found a detailed bio page that mentioned some pretty neat stuff about the man. Here's an excerpt...
A turning-point in Gabe’s life occurred in 1860 when the 18-year-old Prince of Wales visited Fredericton. Passing by Government House in his canoe, Gabe was hailed by the prince, who asked for a ride. Against the remonstrances of equerries and household, Gabe paddled the future king across the river and into the mouth of the Nashwaak River before returning. Gabe was subsequently invited to England, first in 1883 as one of Canada’s entries in the International Fisheries Exhibition in London. With his canoe and wigwam and wearing an outfit beaded by his wife, an extraordinarily talented craftswoman, he set up camp on the ponds of South Kensington, renewed old friendships with royalty and officers he had known, and became, in the words of William Austin Squires, “the greatest social lion of the day.” Gabe is reputed to have gone to England again in the 1880s though this claim is undocumented. He was 82 when he took his last trip there, in 1893–94 with Paul Boyton’s World’s Water Show.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

1936 Birchbark Canoe Film - Porpoise Hunter

From this thread on the BushcraftUSA forums, I learned about a 1936 silent film featuring Mi'kmaq style birchbark canoes. Entitled "The Porpoise Hunter", it is a re-creation of the traditional hunt enacted by Digby County Mi'kmaq and illustrates the subsequent rendering of the carcasses into oil. The oil was apparently sold by the Mi'kmaq to various local businesses for a time, but the practice died out when there was no longer any market for the product.

Here are some interesting moments in the video
7:27 - Canoe Portage to beach
8:11 - Launching on the rocky shoreling
8:47 - "Indian" Paddling style
9:32 - Quick turn around strokes
The video clearly shows some wonderful images of the unique design of Mi'kmaq style canoes and also illustrates some authentic paddling techniques of these canoe experts - short but powerful strokes with lots of prying of the gunnels. I was also able to capture a screenshot where the sternman's paddle design (looks to be a painted blade) is quickly seen before it is driven back into the water

Sternman's paddle design

Saturday, October 23, 2010

NMAI - C1850 Passamaquoddy Paddle

Another beautiful Passamaquoddy paddle from the National Museum of the American Indian with some barely visible incising decorations on the blade's shoulders...

Passamaquoddy Canoe Paddle
Wood, paint, varnish
Dimensions: 154.10 x 11.80 x 2.50 cm
Date Created:1850-1900
Catalog Number: 25/4432

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Historic Illustration - Champlain Paddle Picture

Here's another image of the paddle featured in The voyages and explorations of Samuel de Champlain, 1604-1616. It contains one of the earliest recorded images of a North American paddle. Figure B illustrates a woman holding onto a child with one hand while grasping chevron decorated paddle with the other.

As far as I can tell, it is one of the oldest images that features the chevron theme I've been consistently seeing in historic paddle art. One must wonder if future artists simply used Champlain's imagery to perpetuate this decorative feature or if it really was as abundant as it seems in art today. I'm still searching for surviving museum paddles with this theme but have yet to come across one.

For more editions of this image, including a colour version from another text, check out an earlier post on Champlain here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Eric Morse Paddle

Another "Celebrity Paddle" featured at the Canadian Canoe Museum is that of Eric Morse (1904 - 1986). A display to Morse features a worn canvas pack and packbasket along with a tripping paddle featuring the Coat of Arms of the Northwest Territories where Morse did a significant amount of paddling.

Eric Morse Display at the CCM

Blade closeup

Recently ordered a copy of Morse's Paddling Memoir, Freshwater Saga from a used bookstore and found it a pleasure to read. I was surprised to find out that although Morse was a lifelong outdoor enthusiast, he was 49 when the he and several diplomats in the fledgling United Nations began their arduous annual canoe treks. Dubbed "The Voyageurs" by the media, they were the first group of recreational canoeists to travel remote wilderness areas just for pure paddling pleasure. Very inspirational!

More info on the group and their travels can be read at this link here.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Historic Paddle Illustration - Stand Up Canoe Race

Stand-up Paddling might be the new rage in watersports, but is certainly not a new phenomenon. From this EBay Link, a reproduction sketch originally featured in Harper's Weekly (1874).

Harper's Weekly, June 1874.

Closeups reveal the natives using narrow-bladed, pole style grip paddles in the scene which I would assume would make gripping and controlling the paddles a additional challenge.

Paddle 1 Closeup

Paddle 2 closeup

Thursday, October 14, 2010

End of Season Paddle

Well, that sad time of year when my paddling season is over has arrived. No more vacation time scheduled until Christmas so the boat was taken on one last tour of the lake. We had just missed the peak time for the fall colour change but there were still some lovely yellows and oranges amidst the background hills. Here are a few shots:

Still, we were blessed with ideal weather for the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend and I was especially thankful to still be on the lake this late...last year's final paddle was on Sept 4th. As before, I set our camera on the floating dock, set the timer and tried to sideslip into frame.

Bye Bye from Pen Lake

Monday, October 11, 2010

Bushcraft Paddle Attempt: Take 2

Happy Thanksgiving to all the Canadian visitors. Had some time today to upload some more paddlemaking pics from this summer. After my pitiful attempt at a bushcraft paddle back in 2009, I decided to take another try at making a paddle with just an axe and crooked knife. This time around, rather than harvest the wood from a downed tree, I ended up using a left over scrap from splitting the 2x10 spruce board for the canoe pole project.

Split spruce chunk

This piece of spruce had a nice, straight grain for the shaft area (if I avoided the conspicuous knot) and at 5" wide was perfect to try another design. I wanted to try a straight sided Eastern Cree paddle like the kind I posted on here and are illustrated below:

Fresh spruce paddles hung to limit warpage

This style of paddle also feature prominantly in the NFB film, Cree Hunters of the Mistassini and I've posted a screenshot of Sam Blacksmith using such a paddle on a previous post. Apart from the obvious green paint, this one has a distinct spine to add some rigidity to the narrow blade design.

Sam Blacksmith paddling his paddle

Once the blade shape was roughly hewned with the axe, a series of cuts were made in the shaft area with my homemade bucksaw. More axe work and the shaft region was taking shape which was later cleaned up with the crooked knife.

Saw cuts in shaft area; shaft roughly hewn out

After a while, my little one came over with his toy dump truck and started collecting shavings to transport down to the beach, dumping each load in the sand and then returning for more. This continued every few minutes for about 2 hours. Definitely distracting, but it kept him quiet and occupied him at least.

Collecting shavings dump truck game

By the next day, I had progressed to working down the blade and was beginning to shape the handle.

Crooked knife work; Starting to take shape

At this stage, I had started carving a simple roll style grip, but later changed my mind to form a more roundish, flat style which seems to be more consistent with these Eastern Cree Designs in the Canadian Museum of Civilization collection.

Blade Closeup; Grip Photo

I've read of craftsmen using the crooked knife with such skill as to carve a paddle perfectly smooth, leaving no tool marks and requiring no sanding. It'll be a while before my skills progress to that level, but I'm still happy with the relative smooth results I got with this spruce attempt. Still some tool marks on the blade and the shaft isn't perfect, but overall it's a functional paddle that was made lazily over a weekend, and could probably be done in a rush in a few hours of concentrated work.

A weekend's project

Don't think I'll be burning decorations on this one as spruce doesn't take pyrography very well. Maybe I'll dabble in a painted decoration over the winter.

July 23, 2011: UPDATE - Paddle has been decorated. See the final post here

Friday, October 8, 2010

Decorated Canoe Paddle Article

An intriguing little article in the August 1944 issue of Popular Science...

Monday, October 4, 2010

Chipewyan Painted Paddles

Here are some painted paddles from the American Museum of Natural History. The first one resembles the classic Cree-style design although the tribal affiliation and location here seems to be different. Perhaps some overlap between Cree and Chipewyan in the area.

Catalog No: 50.1/ 8286
Country: CANADA
Dimensions: L:151.5 W:12 H:4 [in CM]

Country: CANADA
Dimensions: L:129 W:11 H:3 [in CM]

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Charles Relyea Indian Maiden Paddles

Previously, I had posted on fantasy paddle themed puzzle. Turns out it was derived from a painting originally entitled "ABSENCE MAKES THE HEART GROW FONDER" by Charles Relyea (1863-1932). Apparently, Relyea was known for his Indian Maiden prints and calendars. The paddle looks like a simplified early Mi'kmaq design cited in Adney's book and obviously the artist took some creative liberties with the presentation.

Charles Relyea c.1925

Curious to see other paddle themed artwork, I came across another print of his entitled "INDIAN MAIDEN BY MOONLIGHT". It shows another similar shaped, pointed tip paddle with a diagonal slash decoration. In this one, the grip is also just visible and seems to have matching paint.

Charles Relyea

Later I also found a similar looking painting from a now expired EBay ad. Don't know if it is the same artist as no details were provided but the style looks the same. This paddle is painted blue with horizontal black and gold bands. The grip looks like an elongated tripper style.

Unknown Print

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