Qayaqs, now known as kyaks, were used by the Yup'ik Eskimos of Southwest Alaska. The Qayaq is a symbol of the Yup'ik culture. It symbolizes the significance of subsistence and using the surrounding resources to survive. This vessel also represents the intelligence and ingenuity of the Yup'ik people developing and designing a water craft that was swift, quiet, and could withstand harsh water turbulence.
They were used as a mode of transportation for subsistence hunting and gathering. They were also a symbol of importance in society. "...it was the basis among men for obtaining wealth and women" (Zimmerly, 40). Wealth was measured on the ammount of goods a man could give away, indicating he was a successful hunter. In turn, because this hunter had a qayaq, he had to be skillful in manuvering the qayaq and hunting which gave him status in the community. This would be equivalent to a man owning his own vehicle and having a good job (Zimmerly, 40).
"Each qayaq was outfitted with hunting suppliments to ensure the hunter's success." (http://www.alaskanative.net/341.asp). This mode of transportation was very efficient and aventageous while traveling along coast lines and upstream against a current. This style and of sea vessel is known as the Bearing Sea Kyak. Qayaq building was a very time consuming process. There was a ceremony held in the traditional men's house while each of the wooden memebers of the qayaq was cut. Each piece of wood was measured by the size of the owner. "Thus each man's kyak is built according to the specifications of his own body and hence is peruliarly fitted to his use" (Zimmerly, 40).
Qayaqs were on average fifteen feet in length. They had wide and deep hulls, the bilges were rounded and slightly flattened bottom at the bottom. Qayaqs were very carefully designed. "A sharply ridged deck not only expanded the interior, it also helped to shed waves. The beam of approximately 30 inches gave the kyak excellent stability and combined with a sealable waterproof gut-skin parka and one or two recovery techniques, made it very seaworthy" ( Zimmerly, 40).
The wood used was drift wood, and was steamed and bent into the prefered shape. The pegs to hold the ribs in place were made out of specially selected driftwood or caribou antler. The seal skin was removed from any hair, dried, and then soaked in urine and rain water to make it flexible enough to sew. Then the skins...