Friday, February 17, 2017

Historic Paddle Illustration: National Maritime Museum Mi'kmaq paddle

The  National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London has an historic illustration in its collection that might be relevant to those with an interest in traditional paddle designs.

Dated to 1750, it is thought to be the earliest accurate representation of a Mi'kmaq birchbark canoe. Included in the scale drawing is a pole gripped paddle with recurved shoulders and a pointed tip.

Description Scale 1:19.2.
A plan showing the body plan, sheer lines, and longitudinal plan for an 18ft bark canoe brought back to England for Lord Anson by Captain Henry Barnsley of HMS America (1749), in November 1750. The plan includes the outline of one of the paddles.
Date made 1750
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

Additional information on the backstory of this remarkable illustration is provided by an excerpt from Adney & Chappelle.
"The early English settlers of New England and New York were acquainted with the canoe forms of eastern Indians such as the Micmac, Malecite, Abnaki, and the Iroquois. Surviving records, however, show no detailed description of these canoes by an English writer and no illustration until about 1750. At this time a bark canoe, apparently Micmac, was brought from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to England and delivered to Lord Anson who had it placed in the Boat House of the Chatham Dockyard. There it was measured and a scale drawing was made by Admiralty draftsmen; the drawing is now in the Admiralty Collection of Draughts, in the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich. A redrawing of this plan appears opposite. It probably represents a war canoe, since a narrow, sharp-ended canoe is shown. The bottom, neither flat nor fully round, is a rounded V-shape; this may indicate a canoe intended for coastal waters. Other drawings, of a later date, showing crude plans of canoes, exist in Europe but none yet found appear as carefully drawn as the Admiralty plan, a scale drawing, which seems to be both the earliest and the most accurate 18th-century representation of a tribal type of American Indian bark canoe."
Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America, p12 

Adney documented that Mi'kmaq and other Wabanaki canoes were well known for their elaborate ornamentation of winter bark. Shame that that the original Admiralty draftsmen didn't document if any such decoration existed on the canoe or the paddle, but that's not surprising since their obvious purpose would've been documented the lines of the hull.

For anyone interested in recreating this unique paddle shape, offsets for this paddle design can be found in Graham Warren's 100 Canoe Paddle Designs book.

1 comment:

David said...

You would love the work of this guy... Waterdancer's Mi'kmaq Arts on face book... Go have a look!!

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