The Umiak boat. This model of a 10-metre-long Umiak in a scale of approximate 1:10 is part of our exhibition on the history of shipbuilding on deck 3 of the museum.
An Umiak is a type of boat used by the Yupik and the Inuit. The use of this type of boat can be traced back to the proto-Inuit cultures around 1000 AD. It is evidence of how human cultures have been able to build boats in a wide range of conditions that do not depend on the presence of specific materials. The lack of larger trees in the areas inhabited by Arctic cultures led them to build the frames of the boats from either whalebone or driftwood. Instead of the planks used in southern latitudes, the hull is stretched with the taut skins of walruses or seals. The structure is like that of a Kayak, but open at the top. While the Kayak is built for one or sometimes two adult men, the Umiak can accommodate a larger group of people and cargo. It is used for seasonal migrations and for hunting larger animals such as walruses and whales. The materials and structure make Umiaks extremely quiet on the water, which makes hunting marine mammals easier. Their light weight makes them easy to transport over ice and flat terrain. The hull skin can last more than three years, and fitting a new hull is quicker and easier than with an aluminium or wooden boat.
Traditionally, the Umiak is propelled by women with oars for transport or by men with paddles for hunting. However, there are also examples of using a single sail or, in modern times, an outboard motor.
Although the use of umiaks has declined in modern times, they are still used because of their outstanding characteristics, especially by the Yupik and Iñupiat in Alaska.
This model of a 10-metre-long Umiak in a scale of approximate 1:10 is part of our exhibition on the history of shipbuilding on deck 3 of the museum.