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HomeLetter from Editor - Vol 5

Letter from the Editor - Vol 5.

Qajaq Journal Volume Five. Letter from the Editor

As this volume was about to go to press I received the sad news that H.C. Petersen had died. I was fortunate to meet him a few years back. He was soft-spoken and thoughtful, passionate when the conversation turned to Greenland, and quick to let me know that his interests were not limited to kayaks. At the time of my visit he was gathering local data from seal hunters in an effort to document the regional effects of global warming. My. Petersen was a historian and a scholar, and his research preserved much that would otherwise have been lost. It is impossible to imagine what kayak studies would look like without his efforts. We owe him a debt of thanks for what he has left behind.

H.C. Petersen’s seminal work, Skinboats of Greenland, has been published in three versions: first in English in 1986; then in 1987 in a Greenlandic edition, Qajaq: Inoqarfinni Tamani; and finally in 1997 it was released in Danish as Den Store Kajakbog. The later Greenlandic and Danish editions contain a section on kayaks outside Greenland that is missing in the 1986 edition. With Mr. Petersen's permission a translation of that chapter from the Danish volume is made available here for the first time.

Martin Nissen contributes an article on a uniquely Greenlandic innovation, "Kayak Post." Very early on Danish administrators saw the utility of using kayaks for communicating between settlements along the coast. Kayakers were hired to carry letters and official correspondence from outpost to outpost. The native paddlers chosen for this task not only benefitted materially but also gained status, for only the most skilled were chosen. It is an interesting history, and noteworthy as an occasion where kayaks were used for purposes other than hunting.

Eugene Arima makes a case for adapting the East Canadian kayaks for recreational uses. The opportunity to survey an Eastern Arctic Kayak in the Peary MacMillan Arctic Museum's collection allows him to share his views on the performance of this Atlantic craft, while arguing for its adoption by recreations users. In another article he muses on a photograph of a native paddler taken by canoeist Ernest Oberholtzer during a paddling trip to Hudson Bay in 1912, offering some historic context for the image in questions.

The Finnish academic and kayak scholar Jarmo Kankaapää offers his thoughts on Harvey Golden's book, Kayaks of Greenland, as well as on the contending views of archaeological evidence relating to the historical development of kayaks in the Arctic.


I would like to thank the contributors: H.C. Petersen, Martin Nissen, Eugene Arima, Harvey Golden, Ben Fuller, and Jarmo Kankaapää; Peter Christensen of Ottawa for his translation of the Petersen article; The "Send them to Greenland" organization in the guise of Turner Wilson, Cheri Perry, Ed Zachowski, and Alison Sigethy for their financial support; Martin Nissen for his invaluable help on the ground in Demark; Dr. Susan Kaplan, Anne Witty, and the staff of the Peary MacMillan Arctic Museum for facilitating the survey of the kayak in the museum’s colleciton; Mike Mueller of Ottawa, Beth Waterhouse and Bike Hilke at the The Ernest Oberholtzer Foundation, Steve Henning of Lake Country TV, and author David Pelly; finally, Eric Eaton, Tom Milani, Ben Fuller, Harvey Golden, and Nelia Ponte for their invaluable help in producing this volume and the board and membership of Qajaq USA for their continuing support.


Vernon Doucette

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