Class 7/8 Kayak Building

16 May 2017

Class 7/8 are making a 20 foot, full-size reconstruction of an 1823 Inuit qujaq (kayak) in a wonderful living research project. This hugely exciting project  is connecting learning across all areas of our broad curriculum – from maths and the science of buoyancy, to history, ethnography, craft and literacy. Find our more below…

A Living Research Project

Mike Morgan, our Woodwork Teacher, has been leading the three week project. The Class will finish skinning and painting the qujaq in Woodwork lessons then launch it (with them inside) on the River Taff, before taking it on further sea trials.

The original qujaq is from Igloolik Island in Foxe Basin, Canada, and is part of the British Museum collection. Mike partnered with the British Museum to draw and survey the boat which is kept in their vaults in a dusty lock-up in London. Renowned Canadian ethnographer, Eugene Arima, has been interested ever since, and has been asking Mike to make a reconstruction using original techniques.

A reconstruction of the boat from Mike’s survey drawings was made for the Cannes award-winning film Atanarjurat: The Fast Runner, however that one was made in fibre glass while Class 7/8’s is using original construction techniques (though using 12 oz cotton duck canvas rather than the original 13 seal skins!). No one in the Arctic is now making these so it is a fantastic living research project.

The qujaq would have been the absolute cutting-edge technology of it’s time, and the process of reconstruction has seen Mike and the Class develop a growing appreciation of the technical knowledge and precision skills entailed.

The original qujaq was collected on the British Naval Northwest Passage Expedition 1821-1823 led by Arctic explorer, Sir William Edward Parry. The crews wintered in 1822  at Igloolik Island when the the Inuit encountered Europeans for the first time. The expedition uncovered a little known sector of the Arctic and provided them with a wealth of information on the culture and way of life of the Inuit.

Mike has a catalogue of expedition sketches, his survey drawings and photographs, along with an 1875 photo of the qujaq in storage which the Class have been working from. Combining this with Mike’s extensive knowledge of qujaq building and Inuit culture has added rich layers of meaning and a real sense of human connection  to this unique, experiential learning project.


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