The Aleutian Baidarka or Aleutian kayak was the watercraft created by the native Aleut (or Unangan) people of the Aleutian Islands. The Aleut people were surrounded by treacherous waters and required water transportation and a hunting vessel. Due to the geography and climate of the Aleutian Islands, trees and wood were in scarce supply and the people relied primarily on driftwood to create the framework of the kayak, which was covered with the skins of sea mammals. Two types of boats were created, one with a covered deck, the hunting kayak and another that was open and capable of carrying goods and people from one island to another.
Before the arrival of the Russia
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ns, the one-hole bidarkas (kayaks) were found in abundance, along with some two-hole boats. The Russian influence, due their presence on the islands to hunt fur bearing animals, on the design of the kayaks was significant and resulted in three-hole kayaks. These were probably configured with the stern man paddling and guiding the craft, while the bow man was responsible for using the throwing board in the hunt, with the hunt boss in the middle directing the hunt.
Some characteristics of these early kayaks are described in the words of Veniaminov from the island of Atka in 1840:
"...The baidarki of the present-day Aleuts are no longer as perfect as those of the former Aleut riders. At that time, in the hands of excellent riders, they were so speedy that birds could not outrun them. They were so narrow and sharp-keeled that they could not stand upright in the water without a rider, and so light that a seven-year-old child could easily carry them."