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The Scottish Kayaks and the ‘Finn-men’

  • Ian Whitaker
Extract

Among the more obscure aspects of polar research the problem of the appearance off Scotland of kayaks of Eskimo type is one of the most formidable. A These craft, one of which has certainly survived, normally become waterlogged after about forty-eight hours in the water. How then were they brought to the British Isles, and by whom?

Apparently the earliest reference to their appearance off the Scottish coast is that of the Rev. James Wallace, Minister of Kirkwall, Orkney, who wrote about 1688 in his Description of the Isles of Orkney:

‘Sometime about this Country are seen these Men which are called Finnmen; In the year 1682 one was seen sometime sailing, sometime Rowing up and down in his little Boat at the south end of the Isle of Eda, most of the people of the Isle flocked to see him, and when they adventured to put out a Boat with men to see if they could apprehend him, he presently fled away most swiftly: And in the year 1684, another was seen from Westra, and for a while after they got few or no Fishes; for they have this Remark here, that these Finnmen drive away the fishes from the place to which they come.

‘These Finnmen seem to be some of these people that dwell about the Fretum Davis [Davis Straits].… One of their Boats sent from Orkney to Edinburgh is to be seen in the Physitians hall, with the Oar and the Dart he makes use of for killing Fish’.

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References
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Antiquity
  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
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