The Umiaq

Preview a skin boat model with oars
(Smithsonian Institution NMNH)

Large skin boats carried people and cargo between islands and on long-distance expeditions. This umiaq was made with a driftwood frame and covered with sea lion skins, could hold up to twenty passengers and crew. The original design had a rounded bow and was propelled with paddles. Russian fur trade companies imported a Siberian design that was more suited to their purposes. These boats, which resembled the model shown here, were wider, more stable, and had wooden seats. The bow was slanted and sharply pointed, and oars were used. The modified boats are often called by their Russian name, baidar.