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canoe

canoe (kənōō´), long, narrow watercraft with sharp ends originally used by most peoples. It is usually propelled by means of paddles, although sails and, more recently, outboard motors are also used.

The canoe varies in material according to locality and in design according to the use made of it. In North America, where horses were not generally used and where the interlocking river systems were unusually favorable, the canoe in its various types was highly developed. Where large logs were available, it took the form of the hollowed-out log, or dugout, especially on the N Pacific coast, where immense trees grew at the water's edge, where an intricate archipelago invited navigation in ocean waters, and where the tribes came to depend to a large extent upon sea life for their food supply. A semiseafaring culture developed there, and the great canoes of the Haida and Tlingit tribes, with high, decorated prows, capable of carrying 30 to 50 people, began to resemble the boats of Viking culture.

On the northern fringe of the American forest where smaller tree trunks were found and rapid rivers and many portages favored a lighter craft, the bark canoe dominated, reaching its highest development in the birchbark canoe. At portages this light canoe could be lifted on one's shoulders and easily transported. It was the birchbark canoe that carried such explorers as Jacques Marquette, Sir Alexander Mackenzie, and David Thompson on their journeys and carried fur traders out to trade with Native Americans; thus it played an important part in early American history.

A third type of primitive canoe is that made from skins, found where trees are lacking. The bullboat of the Plains people, little more than a round tub made of buffalo hides stretched over a circular frame, was its crudest form. A much finer form is the kayak of the Eskimo, originally made of sealskin stretched over a frame constructed of driftwood or whalebone.

In the South Seas, canoes were developed for use on long voyages from island to island, and ingenious outriggers were developed to give stabilization to the canoe under sail. The double-bladed paddle—used in North America only by the Eskimo—is almost always in use on wide bodies of water affected by wind and tidal currents. The substitution of canvas for birch bark in making canoes is credited to the Oldtown or Penobscot in Maine; the canvas-covered wooden canoe is sometimes called the Oldtown canoe. All-wood canoes made of basswood or cedar, very popular in Canada, are sometimes called Peterborough canoes after a canoe-making center. Plywood canoes made in Canada and elsewhere have also been popular.

The majority of canoes made today, however, are manufactured of a tough but light aluminum alloy. This type of canoe contains an air pocket in either end to ensure flotation. Modern canoes are also made of fiberglass, plastic, and even a hard-rubber nonsinkable compound. The sail used on the modern canoe is usually the triangular lug sail known as the lateen. The decked sailing canoe used for racing carries two and sometimes three sails; its navigator uses a sliding seat (sometimes called the monkey seat) on which he balances, frequently out over the water on either side, to prevent his craft from heeling over too far. This canoe, clocked at 16 knots or more, and the Samoan canoe (with an outrigger), exceeding 20 knots, were the fastest watercraft under sail until the advent of the catamaran.

See also canoeing.

See T. T. Quirke, Canoes the World Over (1952).

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Canoe

CANOE

CANOE. Native Americans constructed several kinds of canoes, including the birchbark canoe of the Eastern Woodland tribes; the dugout canoe, or pirogue, used by the Southeastern and many Western tribes; and the kayak of the Arctic Inuit. Light birchbark canoes were easily portaged, and they were responsive enough to be guided through rapids with precision. White explorers and fur trappers quickly adopted this remarkable watercraft for their travels across the continent. They also developed large trading canoes capable of carrying several hundred pounds of furs.

The pirogue, the traditional dugout canoe of the Indians of the Southeast, was usually shaped from the trunk of a cypress tree, hollowed out by burning and scraping. The pirogue drew only an inch or so of water, and it was well-suited to being poled through the vegetation clogged bayous.

On the northern Pacific Coast of North America, elaborately carved and painted dugout canoes, some a hundred feet long, were made from the giant cedar and other light woods. The Chumash and Gabrielino Indians of the southern California coast and the offshore islands made plank canoes, the planks being lashed together and caulked with asphalt. The Inuit kayak is a specialized variant of the canoe, with a frame of whale ribs or driftwood, over which sealskins are stretched to make a watertight covering.


Until railroads and highways became common, the canoe was the principal form of transport wherever water routes allowed. As these Newer forms of transportation and motorized boats became more common, most American Indians abandoned traditional canoes and the skills needed to make them.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Roberts, Kenneth G. The Canoe: A History of the Craft from Panama to the Arctic. Toronto: Macmillan, 1983.

Kenneth M.Stewart/j. h.

See alsoIndian Technology ; River Navigation ; Rivers ; Waterways, Inland .

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canoe

ca·noe / kəˈnoō/ • n. a narrow, keelless boat with pointed ends, propelled by a paddle or paddles. • v. (-noes, -noed, -noe·ing ) [intr.] travel in or paddle a canoe: he had once canoed down the Nile. DERIVATIVES: ca·noe·ist / -ˈnoōist/ n.

canoe

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canoe

canoe Light, shallow-draft boat propelled by one or more paddles. Primitive types are dug out of logs or made of skin or bark stretched over wooden frames. Modern types are made of wood, metal or fibreglass. Canoeing became an Olympic sport in 1936.

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canoe

canoe XVI. — Haitian (whence Sp.) canoa.

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canoe

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