Two adventurers, Olly Hicks and George Bullard, have just landed in Durness in North-West Scotland after kayaking 1200 miles from Greenland to Scotland. Their voyage took over six weeks, including spending 12 nights at sea paddling by the light of the midnight sun.
Their voyage was inspired by 300 year-old stories which might refer to kayakers reaching Scotland. One account, by an Orcadian minister, talks of these men which are called Finnmen; in the year 1682 one was seen sometime sailing, sometime rowing up and down in his little boat at the south end of the Isle of Eda, most of the people of the Isle flocked to see him, and when they adventured to put out a boat with men to see if they could apprehend him, he presently fled away most swiftly.
Another account records someone who landed with his kayak at Belhelvie, North of Aberdeen. He was ‘all over hairy, and spoke a language which no person there could interpret. He lived but three days, although all possible care was taken to recover him.’ This kayak is still preserved in the University’s museum collection, along with hunting equipment.
The story has inspired much speculation and wonder. Would it be possible for anyone to kayak from Greenland to Aberdeen or would such a voyage only have been possible with the help of whaling ships that were working in the Greenland Sea? Were the ‘Finnmen’ actually Inuit kayakers?
Although the mystery continues, the adventure by Olly Hicks and George Bullard shows that the story of an Inuit Kayaker reaching Scotland 300 years ago might well be true. If so, it shows how amazingly well-designed was the Inuit kayak made from seal-skins attached to a driftwood frame – this year’s voyage depended on a kayak made of carbon fibre with Kevlar in the bottom of the hull for ice protection, with navigation and tracking devices that use the latest satellite technology.