Joëlle Robert-Lamblin, 1980 Photo Set

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Fig 1 - Map showing the traditional habitat of the Aleut population: the archipelago of the Aleutian Islands and the tip of the Alaska peninsula as far as Port Moller. The Pribilof Islands and the Commander (Komandorskiye) Islands were not inhabited until relatively late, towards the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries respectively, by Aleut families transplanted by Russian colonizers (Map prepared by D Fouchier, Centre de recherches Anthropologiques, Musée de l'Homme).

Fig 2 - One man kayak shown in an engraving from Le troisième voyage de Cook, III, Paris, 1785, from a drawing by John Webber. In June 1778, an Aleut hunter from Unalaska, wearing a wooden visor decorated with sea lion whiskers and dressed in a chigidax, or waterproof garment, approached Cook's vessel, the Resolution, (Document private collection, photo Musée de l'Homme. J Oster).

Fig 3 - Different types of kayaks from the Aleutian Islands: one man kayak, with skin covering, fully equipped; and wooden frame of a two man kayak. In: Choris, Voyage pittoresque autour du Monde, plate VIII, Paris, Firmin Didot, 1822, (Document of the Société de Géographie, photo, J Robert-Lamblin).

Fig 4 - Scale model of a three man kayak (length 48 cm, width 6.2 cm). The frame, of red painted wood, is covered by a sealskin envelope, the upper seams of which are decorated with strands of red and blue wool (Collection Musée de l'Homme, Paris, M H 08,1.1. photo J Oster).

Fig 5 - Units of measurement used by Bill Tcheripanoff in making a two man kayak and sea otter harpoon. The values of these measurements are given in centimeters: they represent the informant's body measurements.

  1. distance between the tips of the middle fingers, both arms extended, that is, a "span";
  2. distance between the tip of the middle finger of one arm, extended, and the tip of the chin, with the head turned in the other direction;
  3. distance between the tip of the middle finger of one hand and the tip of the elbow of the other arm, bent;
  4. distance between the tip of the middle finger of the right hand and the tip of the elbow of the right arm, bent, that is, a "cubit";
  5. linear distance between the tip of the thumb and that of the middle finger, spread (right hand);
  6. linear distance between the tip of the thumb and that of the index finger, spread (right hand);
  7. width of three fingers: index finger, middle finger and ring finger (right hand);
  8. width of two fingers: index finger and middle finger (right hand);
  9. length of the first two joints of the index finger (right hand);
  10. length of the first two joints of the middle finger (right hand);
  11. linear distance between the tip of the thumb and that of the index finger, bent (right hand);
  12. width of the chest. (Sketch D Fouchier, CRAMH).
Fig 6 - Details of the construction of a two man kayak.

a. side view of the two man kayak, ullux, and the seams of the four skins covering the frame. Bailing system, uyuxqoleq, consisting of a skin tube tied shut.

b. the deck of the kayak, with hunting and navigational equipment attached by leather straps.

Sternman's equipment (hunting partner):

  1. buoy (stomach of a sea mammal, inflated), sanxuq
  2. individual water container, wood, tangadguseq
  3. wooden bailer, mínmax
  4. whalebone club, áneux
  5. various harpoons or spears
  6. thrower, ásxux
  7. bone paddle holder, ánaxseq

Bowman's equipment (owner of the kayak):

  1. buoy
  2. water container
  3. bone paddle holder
  4. harpoons or spears
  5. club
  6. thrower

Fig 7 - Cross section of the kayak, showing the structure of the hull and the profile of the deck (forming a medial ridge)

  1. gunnels
  2. keel
  3. stringers
  4. longitudinal central stringer
  5. hoop of opening
  6. beam
  7. rib
  8. leather envelope

(Sketch D Fouchier, idem).

Fig 8 - Detail of the prow, saningin, and the stern, ukunyulax,

a. the stern post and the skin envelope covering it
b. the stem post, represented hereby a single piece of wood, but often composed of two parts, either mortised in or attached with thongs.

  1. chukchadax
  2. changeq (Sketch D Fouchier, idem).
Fig 9 - Bailer (length 46 cm, width 17.8 cm). Two hollowed out pieces of wood are attached together by a small cord at the centre and at the two ends. At each end, there is an opening. Through one of these openings, the hunter sucks up any seawater which has entered his kayak, then plugs the other opening with his finger and throws the water overboard (collection of the National Museum of Copenhagen, Ethnographic Division, no P 538, photo J Robert-Lamblin).

Fig 10 - Double paddle, akadguseq, of light, strong wood. Measurements of length; the width may vary. The blades of the paddle have a medial rib on each side. (Sketch D Fouchier, CRAMH, from information supplied by Bill Tcheripanoff).

Fig 11 - Aleut hunter in a kayak, about to toss his harpoon, using a thrower. Scale model brought from Unalaska in 1872 by Alphonse Louis Pinart. The kayak is made of wood, covered with oiled, translucent skin, and the hunter's garment of seal intestines. On the deck of the kayak, attached by leather straps, are a number of wooden instruments painted red and, in some case, black as well: a long geometrically cut and sculpted piece, a paddle, a club, and seven wood and ivory harpoons. Length of the kayak: 42 cm. (Collection of the Musée municipal de Boulogne-sur-Mer, No 168, photo J Robert-Lamblin).

Fig 12 - Kayaks off the small trading centre of Unalaska in the early nineteenth century. In: Choris, Voyage pittoresque autour du monde, plate VII, Paris, Firmin Didot, 1822. (Document of the Société de Géographie, photo J Robert-Lamblin).

Fig 13 - Lithograph showing the physical characteristics and dress of the inhabitants of the Aleutian Islands. The man is wearing hunting dress: kamleika (a long, hooded waterproof garment made of horizontal strips of dried sea lion or seal intestines, sewn together) and wooden visor decorated with beads and sea lion whiskers. In: Choris, Voyage pittoresque autour du monde, plate V, Paris, Firmin Didot, 1822 (Document of the Société de Géographie, photo J Robert-Lamblin).

Fig 14 - A.L. Pinart's traveling companions on his kayak tour of the Aleutian archipelago in 1871. The three man craft is probably the one in which the young explorer traveled (Iliouliouk, May 1871) (Document of the Société de Géographie, WF America 159 No 13, photo Bibliothèque Nationale).

Fig 15 - Sketch by Bill Tcheripanoff showing a sea otter hunt from a two man kayak. The otter is swimming on its back, dragging the shaft of the harpoon by which it has been wounded. In the kayak, it is the hunter seated in front who has thrown the harpoon, while the other hunter is steering and stabilizing the craft (Sketch drawn at Akutan, summer 1971).

Fig 16 - The sea otter harpoon: iglax, shape and dimensions as described by Bill Tcheripanoff.

  1. wooden shaft, uyuchtax: 92 cm long
  2. middle section, tumgwax, whalebone, attached to the shaft: 23 cm.
  3. detachable bone head, saxsidax
  4. line of braided tendons, umnax, connecting the tip of the harpoon to the shaft: approximately 1.20 m.
  5. thrower, ásxux: 40 cm.
  6. hole in the end of the shaft, designed to fit over the bone hook of the thrower.

Fig 17 - The harpoon thrower, ásxux: shape and dimensions as described by the same informant. The thrower is a wooden stick which acts as an extension of the hunter's arm, to increase the force and distance of throw.

  • lower surface, which is held in the hand
  • upper surface, which fits into the shaft of the harpoon
  • longitudinal section
  • bone or ivory hook designed to fit into the end of the harpoon shaft
  • longitudinal groove, chilamaqa, which keeps the harpoon on the thrower during the act of throwing; it must be accurately made if the harpoon is to be thrown properly
  • opening through which the hunter places his index finger
  • indentation for the thumb
  • indentation for the other three fingers of the hand.

(Sketch D Fouchier from information provided by Bill Tcheripanoff)

Fig 18 - The principal informant for this study, Bill Tcheripanoff (born 1902), presenting the braided intestine of a seal, ready for cooking, a favorite dish among the Aleuts (Photo J Robert-Lamblin, Akutan, summer 1971).

Fig 19 - Aleut hunter's hat, made of light wood and decorated with multicolored paintings very realistically depicting various marine mammals (whales, beluga, sea lion, octopus, etc) and scenes showing kayak hunting. On the original lithograph, the colors black, red, light blue and light green reproduce the paints of mineral or animal origin traditionally used by the Aleuts. Two scenes showing the sea otter hunt, using the technique of encircling by a fleet of kayaks, are pictured: in one, the otter is swimming alone and in the other she is holding her young between her forelegs. In: Choris, Voyage pittoresque autour du monde, plate IV, Paris, Firmin Didot, 1822. (Document of the Société de Géographie, photo J Robert-Lamblin).