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The MacMillan Kayak

Posted by on June 5, 2013

The MacMillan Kayak. Found in an unspecified Greenland location between 1908 and 1954 by Provincetown native Donald MacMillan, the “MacMillan Kayak” represents a quintessential piece of kayaking history. Built from only organic materials, the MacMillan kayak measures in at over 17 feet in length but barely surpasses a 19 inch beam.

Although Admiral MacMillan made over 30 individual expeditions to the Arctic, he rarely brought back artifacts in such remarkable condition. This Greenland kayak gives us a snapshot into the Inuit kayaking world where the only functionality of a kayak was for survival purposes. Harsh Arctic conditions made hunting and fishing by land challenging. The unique vantage point of a kayak made daily survival significantly easier by allowing hunters and gatherers to move faster, quieter, and in smaller waterways.

There is no exact date of when the MacMillan kayak was built or used, but its traditional construction and use of animal skin places it in the pre- to early 1900 era. Take a look at the images below to truly appreciate the craftsmanship and historical value of this remarkable vessel.

Modern drafts show the design dimensions of the MacMillan

Modern drafts show the design dimensions of the MacMillan

The MacMillan Kayak, on display at the Pilgrim Monument & Provincetown Museum in Provincetown, Mass.

The MacMillan Kayak, on display at the Pilgrim Monument & Provincetown Museum in Provincetown, Mass.

macmillan cockpit

Round, ocean-style cockpit complements the MacMillan’s low volume profile

skin on frame

Exposed stitching reveals the true craftsmanship required in building a skin-on-frame kayak 

Rear deck of the MacMillan (paired with original Inuit-style paddle)

Rear deck of the MacMillan (paired with original Inuit-style paddle)

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