Goodnow Kayak - Atlas Obscura

Goodnow Kayak

Goodnow Library

The Inuit kayak from Robert Peary's 1896 expedition to Greenland is now on display at a local library.  


Sudbury, Massachusetts, may be small, but the town is steeped in a rich history. Some of its storied past includes contributions during the American Revolution, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem about the Wayside Inn, and some of Henry Ford’s business ventures throughout the area. The town also reveres its Native American history, with artifacts and accounts of the Nipmuc people well documented and preserved.

Now, another relic of the dynamic communities’ past is on display at the Goodnow Library. The historic kayak is not from the Nipmuc or other New England tribes, but rather from the Inuit people in Greenland.

In the summer of 1896, Dr. George Barton and his colleagues from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology accompanied other scientists on Robert Peary’s sixth expedition to Greenland. Peary planned to relocate several large meteorites he discovered called the Ahnighito, the Mother, and the Dog. The Ahnighito, which today is on display at the American Museum of Natural History, was the largest, weighing 31 metric tonnes. Peary enlisted the scientists to study the rocks and the surrounding area. The team arrived in the town of Uummannaq and traveled with several Inuit guides via umiak on the ice and also recruited a local hunter named Ludwig Sigurdson to help them navigate the crew on the water, dodging icebergs and ice floes.

After the expedition was complete, Barton purchased Sigurdson’s Inuit-made kayak and took it to the city of Sydney, Nova Scotia on Cape Brenton Island and then to Boston. Barton later donated the kayak to the Goodnow Library, where it is on display today. The kayak is roughly 17 feet long and 18 inches wide, and wrapped in seal skin prepared by traditional Inuit methods.

Know Before You Go

The Goodnow Library is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. 

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