Thursday, February 22, 2018

Historic Paddle Photo: Voyageur Paddling Stroke

Here's an image of an HBC freight canoe carrying Missionaries as passengers. According to Timothy J. Kent, author of Birchbark Canoes of the Fur Trade, the photo is dated to 1907 and was taken on the Lac des Quinze section of the Upper Ottawa River. However a postcard in the collection of the Quebec Archives also bears this image and claims to taken on Lac Abitibi
 Lac des Quinze, Upper Ottawa River, 1907
or Lake Abitibi

What caught my attention, however, was the paddling technique of the Native Guides. If you look closely at their grip hands, the paddles are not being held with the palm across the top of the grip in the "modern" technique of today. Instead, the upper grip hand is held parallel to the shaft with the thumb pointing down. This indigenous paddling technique has been discussed in a post here and helps to explain why many surviving paddles from this era had oddly shaped grips (or none at all) compared to modern designs.

 Bow paddler and Milieux using the "Indigenous" paddle technique

 Rear Milieux using the "Indigenous" paddle technique 

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