Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Historic Penobscot & Maliseet Paddle Photos

A while back, paddle maker Luc Poitras sent me some wonderful historic images of Wabanaki styled paddles. These tall slender paddles look reminiscent of the collection from the facebook page of the Passamaquoddy Cultural Heritage Museum  posted about here.

Feb 2021 Update: Thanks to a recent comment by E Nicolar, the correct identities of these men have been established. According to this new information, on the left is former Governor (now Chief) Peter Nicolar (1853–1927). The gent on the right is Peter's Father-in-law, Tuester Ranco (1813–1914.).  

Luc also sent me some pics dating to 1903 of William H. Ganong and his canoe mate, Arthur H Pierce on the portage trail to the Miramichi River, New Brunswick. Both photos have fantastic views of their paddles with distinctive roll top, flattened grips, no doubt influenced by the native Maliseet culture of the region.

Arthur Henry Pierce -  August 1903
Portage to the Northwest Miramichi River, Northumberland County, New Brunswick

Dr. William Francis Ganong -  August 1903
Portage to the Northwest Miramichi River, Northumberland County, New Brunswick

Monday, February 25, 2013

Canoe Campstool - Convertible Camera Tripod

After recently completing the folding campstool project, I had another idea to tweak the design. Generally I like to carry camp items that serve more that one role. Got to thinking that if the dowel legs were carried on a trip, what other uses would there be for them?

The completed camp stool

Well, I've started to take my photography and video work of trips more seriously. Until now, I've  simply used a mini tripod with flexible legs to rig up shots - mostly on the empty canoe seat. But on more than a few occasions, paddling the canoe strongly heeled over has resulted in the camera tipping over. Luckily it has always stayed inside the hull and not plopped overboard.

Store bought mini tripod with flexible legs

I've never considered carrying a larger, commercial camera tripod on my trips and have made due with my simple setup. But after thinking about the campstool, figured the legs could be reconfigured into a homemade camera tripod of sorts. Obviously, since the legs are only 24" long in the first place, the tripod wouldn't be a full sized one - but it would be sufficient to sit properly in the hull of the canoe and still provide an elevated view.

Once again, wanted to use whatever scraps were lying around. Found a discoloured piece of rough Yellow Birch and after mulling over the mounting system cut out a simple design to serve as the leg supports and camera platform. Wasn't sure if if was going to work so I cut this thing out rather crudely with a saw - if I ever make a version 2.0 it'll certainly be leaner.

Crudely cut camera mount

With some some more 3" carriage bolts (a little long but what I had on hand) and some brass wing nuts, 3 crude hinges are formed around the edges. One of these same 3" carriage bolts is used in the "stool" setting to connect the legs for the leather seat. Holes were drilled near the top ends of the dowels and once assembled, a functional tripod is born.  I forgot to stain the top of one of the dowels, but it was already sealed with commercial green stuff, making this thing look even more amateurish.

Basic Camera Tripod

Anyway, turns out the ball joint of the mini camera tripod is attached with a small screw which means it can be easily separated from the leg section. So on the wooden camera platform, I mounted an appropriate matching machine screw and now the separated ball joint can be easily screwed onto the wooden platform. This allows for fully adjustable camera angles. When I'm done or if I want to remount the ball joint onto the original legs (to wrap around a tree branch or something) it can easily be returned to its original mini tripod legs. This should add some versatility to my homemade system.

Ball Joint Removed; Added to new tripod platform

Here are some pics of the completed tripod with the waterproof video camera and (my wife's) fancy Nikon. I'm taking these pics with my trusty ancient Coolpix 5100 (circa 2003) still going strong after dropping it numerous times...

Obviously going to have to wait until spring to test this out on a canoe trip, but now I can justify carrying the legs of the original camp stool since they will serve more than a single purpose.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Life Article - Robert Rock - Battered W/C Canoe

A few years back, I posted about a pic of bashed up cedar canvas canoe after a run down some nasty rapids. Now I've come across the original source article which appeared in LIFE magazine, 16 Nov 1953. It follows the life of Woodsman Rock Robertson in the backwoods of Quebec and features a few of Rock's canoeing exploits. Here's a pic of his portage load...

The article also features a sequence during a successful bear hunt. To get back to camp, he portaged the canoe and the bear with a tump-strap. Talk about a single carry!

But the most exciting part of the piece is his attempt down some rapids. Rock seems to have ignored typical bushcraft wisdom of being conservative in whitewater with a cedar canvas canoe and maybe tried to show off for the camera. Here's the excerpt from the article:

Recently, when he decided to shoot the rapids at the head of Lake Mattawa. He ignored the warnings that no man alive could take a canoe over that drop, and that no man could survive if the canoe tipped. Rock simply shrugged and reached for his paddle. He rode the millrace but not in the canoe which turned over and dumped him. Bouncing from boulder to boulder he went through the water in a jackknife position with arms and legs extended before him absorbing the shocks. When he crawled out unhurt 200 yards below, a triumphant grin lit up his face. "I lost my socks," he announced, "but l still got my chewing gum."

The sequence of pics...

 BATTERED CANOE leaking furiously but still afloat after the perilous venture is patched up with spruce gum and boughs to carry Rock back to camp. 

Photos Courtesy of Life Magazine
For Personal Non-Commercial Use

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Closeup PEM Decorated Paddle

Found another b&w image of the decorated Chippewa-Ojibwa (Anishinabe) souvenir paddle in Peabody Essex Museum collection. A full colour version can be seen in this earlier post. It has been dated to c.1823-25 and features a painted blade with some decorative etchings of floral motifs in the upper portion.

Chippewa-Ojibwa (Anishinabe)Paddle
44.5 inches
c.1823-25 (painted wood)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mi'kmaq Canoe Paddle - Glooscap Heritage Centre

The Glooscap Heritage Centre in Truro, Nova Scotia has an exhibit entitled Kmu'jiktuk Wejiaq = Made from Trees. It features a roughly carved, large bladed Mi'kmaq paddle along with some other tribal artifacts.

Mi'kmaq paddle
Glooscap Heritage Centre

Monday, February 18, 2013

Kroka Expedition Paddles & Gear

While browsing around I came across some blogs for Kroka Expeditions which run a 5 month semester program taking youth on a 600 mile ski and canoe journey from January to June. Blogs from previous years showcase the homemade gear the students make (paddles, pack baskets, etc). Here is a selection that I found interesting...

Carving a northwoods paddle...

Wanigan and Pack Basket Portage...

Paddles lashed in for a carry...

Poling before ice out...

For anyone interested, I just found the blog for the 2013 semester. Looks like the group just departed on their skiing journey. Looking forward to their canoe pics in the spring. Check it out at:

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Mike Wamhoff -

Mike Wamhoff of Mequon, Wisconsin is another paddle maker focusing on traditional paddle designs. His site, Woodland Paddles, features some of his work, including this trio of paddles with some lovely grain patterns...

Paddles available in maple, birch, walnut and cherry.

He also recently posted his "Abnaki style paddle" featured below...

54" Hard Maple 

Also on the website are some eye-catching, canoe-related paintings.  I've added Mike's website to the Other Paddle and Canoe Blogs list on the lower right margin and look forward to more creations. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

In the Maine Woods Paddle Photo

In the Maine Woods (1905 Edition) has a wonderful full-page vintage photo (p.92) of a guide and sport after a successful deer hunt...

The guide is using a paddle with a distinctly scalloped grip. Here is a closeup...

Scalloped Grip Closeup

Unfortunately the blade isn't visible in the photo, but the grip area seems identical to a Guide's paddle found on this site's archive page originally advertised by Gould Auctions in Maine.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Canoe Camp Shelters

Back in the summer after my poling excursion on the Big East River, I made a quick canoe camp shelter for some relief against the heat and sun...

Canoe shelter with tarp, paddles, & pole

It was fun to rig up and got me curious to search out images of other temporary shelters rigged up in a similar manner.  One of my favourites is this photo dated to the 1860's of a Maliseet canoe camp. The bark canoe is propped onto its side with a tarp supported by their poles & fishing spears...

Campsite at Blue Mountain on a bend of the Tobique River c. 1862.
(Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, P5-253)

Canoeing, sailing and motor boating by Warren H. Miller (1919) has an image (p.145) featuring a comfortable canoe camp, where the hull of the canoe serves as a headboard of sorts and shelving for various supplies. The tarp is being lifted with a canoe can just see a metal shoe at the base. While this looks too permanent with the cots and bedding, the setup looks tempting to me next time I'm poling...

Here's one I came across in Boy's Life, March 1944 showing how the canoe can be supported with paddles lashed to the gunnels while a small rain poncho is tied off . Not much headroom here but interesting...
Boy's Life, March 1944

An image from Hesketh Prichard's enthralling read, Through Trackless Labrador (1911). Here a complete absence of trees meant improvising a shelter to escape the wind.
Through Trackless Labrador (p. 70) 

Edward Breck's 1908 publication, The Way of the Woods, has a basic setup of a propped up canoe on pg. 75

Sketched image from The Way of the Woods (1908)

I found the source of this artistic image when perusing through the 1910 online version of In the Maine Woods (p.40) on

Boy's Life, April 1957 has a brief writeup on Lean-To Shelters including a sketch of a canoe shelter with a rigged tarp and forked sticks holding up the overturned canoe. It looks comfy only because the paddlers are tiny kids - no way I'd fit under an overturned canoe like this...

Boy's Life, April 1957

This one from Popular Science, May 1962 seems a little too involved, but at least the canoe is ready to portage after breaking camp...
Popular Science, May 1962

For a modern day look, check out some of the great photos over at Path of the Paddle Canoeing & Bushcraft of their various tarp shelter setups

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Outing - Vintage Canoe Camp Pics

Here are a few pics of traditional canoe camp from a brief photo journal article which appeared in  Outing, Volume LXVI, Issue 6 (September 1915),  entitled, "BY CANVAS AND BIRCHBARK" by George MacDougall (.pdf file).

These pics showcase the canoe, the paddles, and tents as well as the traditional tump-line carry method of duffle bag and wannigan. A reflector oven is in the foreground by the firepit. The original captions for the photos are reproduced below.
Carrying Your Own Weight
It can be done for a short distance, with practice, but the average pack should not weigh over a hundred pounds for ordinary going. The tump line will ease the strain, but be sure to keep the weight high without any sharp corners gouging into the middle of your back.

The ideal camp, like a modern kitchen, is compact and orderly. Experience and habit teach one to keep the bedding, the grub box, and the cooking utensils within narrow confines to prevent waste of time as well as loss of articles.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

More Antique Canoe Paddles: Ralph Kylloe Gallery

Came across some sets of antique paddles from the Ralph Kylloe Gallery. Many are painted with pleasing colours and feature some interesting grip designs...

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Historic Paddle Art: Indian Canoe Race (Colour)

Came across a colourful image of some old-school standup paddling. This piece, entitled "Indian Canoe Race" was painted by William de la Montagne Cary (1840-1922).

Indian Canoe Race.

The scene looked familiar. Earlier I posted about an engraving of a similar scene by the same artist featured in Harper's Weekly (1874)

Harper's Weekly, June 1874.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Vintage Ivory Soap Canoe Ads

Here are some vintage Ivory Soap ads featuring a canoeing theme. This first one features some paddles. The slightly flared blade design looks similar to the Attikamekw design (one of my favourites for soloing). Is it me or are the women doing all the camp chores while the men lounge about?

1909 Ad
Ivory Soap Camping Chores 
Ebay Seller: Period Paper

This next ad features a more rustic camp with an overturned canoe and paddle. Of course, back in 1912, washing up right by the shore with soap was considered acceptable. Turn away if this offends any modern day Leave No Trace folks where washing needs to be done 70 meters away from a water source...

1912 Ad
Ivory Soap Canoe Wilderness Care 
Ebay Seller: Period Paper

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