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November 2013


In June of 2013 Ricardo and I had the wonderful opportunity to interview traditional Alaskan kayak builder Mitch Poling. I first met Mitch at the Traditional Arctic Kayak Symposium 2010 (TAKS) in Trinidad, CA, where he gave a presentation on the revival of the Chugach baidarka.

Mitch spent part of his childhood in Chenega, Alaska, a small village where the traditional seal-skin covered kayak (known by the Russian term baidarka) was still being used for hunting and travel. The art of skin-on-frame kayak construction in Alaska was almost completely lost, as new technology was introduced and fishermen turned to using outboard motors and plywood boats. In 1964, a tsunami wiped out the village of Chenega and destroyed the remaining baidarkas. Fortunately, one kayak was left intact, safely stored in a museum in Cordova. Using this remaining specimen, Mitch was able to revive the practice of traditional skin-on-frame kayak construction in Prince William Sound.

Mitch had an amazing amount of information to share in this interview, and generously took time off his busy schedule preparing for his latest trip to Alaska to show us around his home and workshop in Port Townsend, Washington. I am feverishly working to get the final video out, but it always seems like there is something more to add or change. I am hoping to release it in November. For those who are interested, the full transcript of the interview will eventually be made available here on my blog. It will contain a lot more technical information on kayak construction than is presented in the video that traditional skin-on-frame kayak builders might appreciate.


MUSIC: "Yearning" by Alex Plowright. Courtesy of


Still Images used with permission from Mitch Poling and the John M. Poling Trust.

Still Images used with permission from the Alaska State Library:

P350-30-175 Frederica DeLaguna Photograph Collection

P306-0973 Butler/Dale Photograph Collection

P306-1154 Butler/Dale Photograph Collection

P306-1260 Butler/Dale Photograph Collection

P306-1261 Butler/Dale Photograph Collection

P306-1249 Butler/Dale Photograph Collection

P306-1250 Butler/Dale Photograph Collection

P306-1259b Butler/Dale Photograph Collection