Eskimo Sled




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By Dan Beard

I am writing this in January and they say that January is the gloomiest month in the year; that is, of course, if you are one of the kind who is afflicted with gloom. If you are, you may sing:

"And it's lonesome, lonesome, lonesome, when the russet gold is shed, An' the naked world stands waiting for the doom".

But if you are not a gloomy Gus, January is also the jolliest month of the year, if for no other reason than because we are beginning a new year, and ever since the time when calendars were first made and records kept of the months, New Year's Day has been a time of rejoicing.

If a fellow is a boy and a Scout, and is afflicted with gloom there is no doubt about it he ought to go and see a doctor right away, because there is something the matter with him not caused by cold weather. It may be that he did not have a piece of mince pie. Should that be the case, let him be happy and dream about one he might have had, if he had been in luck, with a white flaky crust as light as air, covering two inches deep of joy, made of mince meat, raisins, apples, currants, citrons, dried orange peel, spices and sweet cider. 0 boy! that will make anybody happy to think about. 

To be sure, the Indians called January the Moon of Difficulty and the Black Smoke Moon, and we all know that it occurs in the Cohonk or Wild Goose Season; but Gee! we love wild geese and we dote on cold weather!

If January really is the Moon of Difficulties, let us get busy and overcome some of them, and we'll do that by building an arctic sled without being in the Arctics, the kind the Eskimos made before white men came to spoil their ingenuity with shop made things.

Somewhere among my notes I have a century old copperplate print of one of these Eskimo sleds and it represents a sledge all made of bones lashed together with thongs. You see, the Eskimos had no wood, that is, none but the driftwood that they may find in some places on the shores--no trees grow in their country-- so they were forced to make these dog sleds of the bones of the creatures they killed. The flat faced, fur-clad people had no iron to put on the runners of their sleds, consequently they shod their runners with ice. Lately I have seen a moving-picture showing an old Eskimo doing this with his bare bands.

Eskimo Dog-Teams

The Eskimos, for centuries and centuries have caught and trained wolves and these wolves have gradually become domesticated dogs; but even now the sledge- drivers breed their sled dogs with wild wolves so as to inject new vigor and new strength and endurance into the dog team. Such animals are known as huskies or Eskimo dogs; in the far north the Eskimos manage the half-wild creatures, it is said, in a much better manner than do the white men; but, unlike the white man, they live with their dogs, sleep with their dogs, eat with their dogs and travel with their dogs until they have learned to think like a dog and consequently to understand them.

Of course, once in a while we hear of some white man whose proficiency in the art of handling dogs is superior to that of the Eskimos themselves. Recently, since racing dog-teams has become popular, this may be true, but do not forget for a moment that when you hear these things, they are white men's stories. I know of no white man, however, who has taken his bare hands with which to shoe the runners of his sled with ice or half frozen slush which quickly hardens into ice!

The ease with which an ice shod sled will slip over the hard snow of the Arctic country is wonderful. When the dogs are unhitched, an iced sled is always turned over by the Eskimos, otherwise it would go coasting off by its lonesome down the slightest incline. In order

To Ice A Sled

It must be turned upside down, showing the runners the air. These on the old sleds were shod with a thin batten of whalebone that projected about a quarter of an inch beyond the sides of the solid wooden runner. The Eskimo takes a chunk of snow about double the size of his fist and dips it into a nearby bucket of water, thereby converting the frozen snow, which was as hard as stone, into a slushy piece which he spreads over the sledge-runner for a foot or so with the palm of the hand, the slushy mass crimping around the bone shoe-runner and freezing almost instantly into solid ice that looks like so much ground glass.

Handful by handful the slush is used, a foot or two at a time, until the whole length of the runner has been shod, and then this is repeated with the other runner. When his hands become painfully cold the native warms them on his cheeks. Now the native takes a mouthful of water, and when it is slightly warmed between his cheeks he blows out a fine spray over the thick slush ice on the runner, all the while rubbing the palm of his ungloved hand backward and forward over the spot where the spray is falling, "slicking it up", so to speak, until it is actually so slippery that a fly without skates alighting on it would fall and break his skull, if it wasn't for the fact that a fly has no skull.

How to Build a Eskimo Sled

See Also:

More Sled Plans

Make Your Own Winter Gear

Winter Activities

Traditional Outdoor Adventure 






Additional Information:

Peer- Level Topic Links:
Ammunition Sled ] Arctic Hand Sled ] Basic Klondike Sled ] Ben Hunt's Cree Trail Toboggan ] Ben Hunt's Eskimo Komatik Sled ] Ben Hunt's Klondike Sled Plans ] Ben Hunt Klondike Sled ] Ben Hunt's Packrack Sled ] Bob Sled ] Bobsled Steering ] Bob-Sleigh ] Chair Sleds ] Equipment Sled ] [ Eskimo Sled ] Eskimo Sleds ] Get-There ] Gummer ] Ice Boat ] Jumper ] Klondike Sledge Plan ] Ohio Sled ] Pioneer Bob Sled ] Skiboggan ] Stone Boat Sled ] Toboggan ] Toboggan Camping ] Van Kleeck Bob ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.