Kayak studies in Russia part I
Just as the world went even crazier, and Russia turned as isolated as ever before, I finally went through the work I did 5 years ago on a trip to St. Petersburg, Russia. I'ts been on my "to-do-list" for 5 years, but better late than never. I really want to share some incredible experiences and discoveries here :) To understand why St. Petersburg somehow is the Mekka of kayak studies, we have to take a brief look at world history.
Today's Alaska was discovered by native Americans long ago. It was inhabited through migrations from Asia, and sea-mammal hunting cultures inhabited Alaska for thousands of years. But Alaska was first discovered by white people in the early1740's Vitus Bering, a Danish captain in service of Russia, is generally credited of the discovery. Alaska was claimed Russian territory, and from 1799 the land was officially a Russian colony until 1867 when it was sold to the United States of America. Even though you can find native Alaskan kayaks and paddles in many museums and collections around the world, you may find the oldest kayaks and paddles in Russian collections. Which led me to St. Petersburg in search of old native Alaskan kayaks. The first stop was the etnographic museum of St. Petersburg.
The museum is incredible. A huge marble palace of culture. I was welcomed by a very helpful staff of people there. Huge thanks to Anna and Irina :) Busy with all kinds of work, they still took the time to help seach their archives for information on kayaks and paddles. They helped and let me work and study both in their exhibition and in their storage and were simply super friendly. I also had a Norwegian friend with me to help and assist. Erling was planning a paddle expedition through Russia, and wanted to make aquaintance with official people to get the proper permissions and advice for his expedition. In the enormous collection, we found serveral Alaskan and Siberian native kayaks and paddles. Aleut paddles and a huge 3-hole Aleut baidarka. In the exhibition I noticed a very old object, carved in mammoth tusk, that represented a small kayak. One of he most incredible object that immediately caught my attention, however, was a complete one-hole baidarka - or "Iqyax" displayed in the exhibition.