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dart, two yards long, chiefly used for the purpose of catching seals.
The Greenlanders have two kinds of boats, conveniently adapted for procuring their sustenance. The kaiak, or little man's boat, is six yards long, sharp at head and stern, like a weaver's shuttle, scarcely eighteen inches broad, and about a foot deep: the construction of this boat is very similar to that of the umiak, only that the top is covered with skins. In the middle of the upper covering there is a round hole, with a rim of wood or bone, into which the Greenlander slips with his feet; the rim reaching just above his hips, he tucks the under part of his great coat so tight round the rim, that the water cannot in any place penetrate. On the side of the kaiak lies his harpoon, and in the front his line, rolled up on a little round raised seat made for it, and behind him is the seal-skin bladder. He holds his oar in the middle, with both hands, and strikes the water on each side very quick, and as regularly as if he was beating time. Thus equipped, he is prepared for fishing or travelling. The Esquimaux use a boat exactly similar.
In these kaiaks the Greenlanders row so swiftly, that if a letter requires expedition, they will make a voyage sixty or seventy miles in a day: they fear no storm, and pass on regardless of the most boisterous billows, because they can dart over them with the greatest ease, and if a whole wave should overwhelm them, yet they are quickly seen swimming again upon the surface. If they are even overset, they are able, while they lie with their heads downwards under water, by giving themselves a certain swing with their oars, to mount again into their proper position. But if they have the misfortune to lose their oar, they are almost sure of being lost, in which case, they contrive to bind themselves to their kaiak, in order that their body may be found and buried.
Polygamy, though by no means common among the Greenlanders, is not altogether unknown; and so far from its being considered a disgraceful thing for a man to have a plurality of wives, he is respected for his industry, by which he is enabled to maintain them; but to be without children, is deemed
a matter of great reproach ; and therefore, in such cases, the matrimonial contract is easily broken, for the man has only to leave the house in anger, and not to return for several days; the wife, understanding his meaning, packs up her clothes, and removes to her own friends.
If a man's only wife dies, he in a few days after the event adorns himself, his house, and children, in the best manner possible ; but to render himself agreeable to another woman, his kaiak and darts must, above every thing, be in the finest order. He does not, however, marry a second time till the interval of a full year, unless he has small children, and nobody to nurse them. Where there is more than one wife, and the chief or proper one dies, the junior wife takes her place, and pays even more attention and regard to the motherless children than she does to her own.
The girls do nothing till they are fourteen years old but sing and dance, unless fetch water, or perhaps wait on a child : but afterwards they must sew, cook, dress skins, and construct houses. Building, indeed, is almost the sole work of women, the men doing only the carpenter's work, and contentedly looking on while the women are carrying weights ready to crush them to the ground.
The Greenlanders are remarkably quiet and inoffensive. Like most nations living in a state of simplicity and poverty, they are fond of rhyming, and when one man offends another, they often appoint a time for fighting in verse. Each of the combatants appear at the time and place agreed upon, with bis friends; and the contest begins by one of the parties reciting a few doggrel verses, satirizing his antagonist, the other replies in a similar manner; and whoever acquits himself with most humour and facility is declared conqueror. How happy would it be for mankind, if all their quarrels were decided in such a harmless, amusing, and intellectual manner.