in a Name?
Breaking Away: The
Liberation of Ove Nygaard
is the ISDI and the ISD?
Of Sheep and
and How They're Loaded
Truth Behind the Madrid Protocol
Review: Globe Trekker - Iceland and Greenland
Tip for the Trail:
Bitches in Season
Super Cars and Inuit Dogs
Editor: Sue Hamilton
Webmaster: Mark Hamilton
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Qamutiit and How They're Loaded
by Sue Hamilton
Despite its simple design, the qamutiq (singular of
qamutiit) is quite a piece of engineering. Consider the
creativity of the original versions that contained no
wooden parts. Those had animal bone lashed together with
thin strips of hide for the structural elements, and
runners made of frozen fish laid end-to-end and wrapped in
hides. The bottoms of runners were thick layers of mud and
moss with a finishing made smooth with urine and a lot of
"elbow grease". Keeping that contact surface as smooth and
as frictionless as possible was extremely labor intensive
and it didn't take much to destroy all the hard work.
Today's qamutiit vary in length and can be as long as
eighteen feet. They have runners made of two by six or two
by eight dimensional lumber (although the one's in these
photos are made of aluminum) and have wooden cross pieces
that are still lashed together for the flexibility that
prevents them from self-destructing over rough ice. Some
qamutiit, especially those used in Greenland have what we
might refer to as a "driver's bow" at the back. But even
with that feature, there is barely any runner extending
out enough to stand on. The runner's "shoes" are made from
the same type of "poly" that you see on many brush sleds,
only this stuff is a lot thicker, so thick that extra
pieces are carved into the crescent shaped toggles and
other fittings used to attach the long bearded seal skin
traces to the end of the harnesses and the other end of
the traces to the qamutiq's "bridle".
Loading a qamutiq is a well organized activity. It cannot
be done haphazardly, if it is going to secure the contents
and offer some semblance of comfort for extra passengers
for long-term travel. Presented here is a pictoral lesson
of how to load a qamutiq in ten easy steps.
Plywood, which is used underneath the camp stove inside the
tent, is laid over the cross-pieces. The orange tarp,
stretched out inside the tent over the snow or ice, is
placed over the plywood. The tent ridge pole is laid out on
top of that.
The tack box (some food stuffs and supplies) is placed near
the back of the qamutiq where the tarp ends, leaving
adequate room behind for stove, fuel cans, stake out chain,
cooking utensils and hopefully seals that may be harvested
along the way. Secured in this spot, the tack box also
serves as a seat for one or two passengers and a backrest
for those who sit directly in front of it.
A huge tarp is stretched out over the qamutiq and onto the
snow on either side. An insulated "cooler" containing
perishable items (yeah, I know that sounds weird, but the
weather can warm up to above freezing and it would be a
shame if the ice cream melted!) is positioned toward the
front. This sturdy box serves a seat for the driver when he
isn't running dogs from a reclined position.
Duffel bags containing the tent, extra clothing and sleeping
bags are strategically placed in between the tack box and
the cooler provide cushioned seating.
Insulating foam pads for use underneath the sleeping bags
are laid on top to keep passengers from falling in to the
cracks in between the duffel bags.
The tarp is carefully folded over the load. This will help
keep the contents from shifting and oozing out between the
lashings during rough travel.
Caribou hides placed the length of the load provide dry and
skid-free seating. These skins are used underneath the
sleeping bags for additional insulation and padding.
The load is lashed down starting at the front of the
qamutiq. As the bearded seal skin line is looped over each
end of a cross piece, the load is compressed by kneeling on
it while the line drawn up tight.
Long items such as ice knives, shovels and firearms are
tucked in along the sides for quick and easy access.
A separate section of line is used to secure items behind
the tack box: - stove, tea pot, other supplies and the
camera bags - so they can be separately and swiftly removed
for a quick mug up of tea or photo opportunities in between