The Fan Hitch Volume 6, Number 1, December 2003

Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog

Table of Contents

Editorial: What's in a Name?
Fan Mail
Breaking Away: The Liberation of Ove Nygaard
What is the ISDI and the ISD?
A Holiday Miracle
Of Sheep and Sled Dogs
News Briefs
Qamutiit and How They're Loaded
The Truth Behind the Madrid Protocol
Media Review: Globe Trekker - Iceland and Greenland
Product Review: Ryobi TrimmerPlus®
Tip for the Trail: Bitches in Season
IMHO: Super Cars and Inuit Dogs

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Editor's/Publisher's Statement
              Editor: Sue Hamilton
              Webmaster: Mark Hamilton
The Fan Hitch Website and Publications of the Inuit Sled Dog– the quarterly Journal (retired in 2018) and PostScript – are dedicated to the aboriginal landrace traditional Inuit Sled Dog as well as related Inuit culture and traditions. 

PostScript is published intermittently as material becomes available. Online access is free at:  PostScript welcomes your letters, stories, comments and The editorial staff reserves the right to edit submissions used for publication.

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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.

Step 1

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.

Step 2

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.

Step 3

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.

Step 4

Duffel bags containing the tent, extra clothing and sleeping bags are strategically placed in between the tack box and the cooler provide cushioned seating.

Step 5

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.

Step 6

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.

Step 7

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.

Step 8

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.

Step 9

Long items such as ice knives, shovels and firearms are tucked in along the sides for quick and easy access.

Step 10

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 camp sites.
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