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George Dyson: The Floating World

George Dyson: The Floating World from Baby Seal Films on Vimeo.

 

I'm thrilled to announce the release of our latest documentary, George Dyson: The Floating World.

Best-selling author and science historian George Dyson spent his youth living in a treehouse on the water’s edge outside of Vancouver, British Columbia, building aluminum-frame kayaks based on the traditional Aleut design known by the Russian term baidarka. In this short film, Dyson discusses his years living in Canada and traveling by sea kayak along the Inside Passage. We follow him as he gives a presentation on traditional kayaks at the Alaska Native Day celebration at Fort Ross, California, an historic early 19th century Russian settlement which had a sizable population of Alaskan natives whom the Russians had conscripted to hunt for sea otter all along the Pacific coast. 

Dyson is the author of Baidarka: the Kayak (1986), Darwin Among the Machines (1997), Project Orion: The Atomic Spaceship 1957–1965 (2002), Turing’s Cathedral (2012), and Analogia: The Entangled Destinies of Nature, Human Beings and Machines (2020).

I've been sitting on the footage for this film for years and only got around to editing it very recently. My son Joel and I shot the interview with Dyson and Richard Lovering at Dyson's shop, "Dyson, Baidarka, and Co." in downtown Bellingham in 2014, and my partner Katya Palladina and I followed Dyson down to the Fort Ross Alaska Native Day event later that year. This film is similar in size and scope to our documentary The Last Baidarka of Prince William Sound, which was shot around the same time. Since then Katya and I have completed several films and I feel like I finally developed the skills to put the George Dyson interview together in a way that is both informative and entertaining. We had visions of making a much longer film where we actually build an aluminum frame baidarka with Dyson's help. After completing this film, my interest in building one of these exquisite kayaks has been renewed!

Wolfgang Brinck, the author of the book, The Aleutian Kayak: Origins, Construction, and Use of the Traditional Seagoing Baidarka appears briefly in one of the shots. He also attended the Fort Ross event and he let me borrow one of his baidarkas so that I could participate in the kayak race. I got a copy his book (now out of print, unfortunately) when I first starting building kayaks years ago and found it very inspirational, although when I did build a baidarka I used the cedar strip technique.