The umiaq is a large open boat with a wood frame and a skin covering that was used for transportation and for hunting whales. An umiaq typically was about 10 m in length, 2m wide and about 1 m deep. An umiaq that size could carry a dozen or more people. Umiaqs were well suited to traditional Inuvialuit life. They were a shallow draught watercraft, and could be used in shoals and close to shore without fear of grounding. They had flat bottoms, which made them stable in the water, they could carry large loads and the tough hide covering was difficult to damage. If the covering was damaged, it could be easily repaired with a patch. They were light enough for two people to carry, and could be moved over snow and ice on sleds. Umiaqs were propelled by paddles and with sails made from intestines sewn together. MacFarlane collected models if the original object was too large or too difficult to ship to the Smithsonian Institution.
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“The umiaq is the vehicle used to transport equipment, the family and for whale hunting. On journeys it accommodates the children, the old, the sick, the disabled and it is maneuvered exclusively by women. The bow is fitted with an upright wooden crotch through which the harpoon line is guided and paid out when it is being pulled away by the wounded whale. The poop, higher than the bow, has a little quarter-deck terminated by a triangular appendage. These boats are made of porpoise (beluga) skins sewn together and stretched over a strong framework of wood." (Émile Petitot, quoted in Savoie, 1971: 156)
“They generally decorate the sails of their boats, sewing on them strips of multicoloured cloth in juxtaposed bands, or with ornamental fringework.” (Émile Petitot, quoted in Savoie, 1971: 156)