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Kola Shnjaka

See also web site about shnjaka replica .

Kola shnjaka bow

It is a big sea-going boat (some 12m long) from Murmansk or Kola area. (see another picture (26.5Kb)) It was built as late as 1905, sewing technique was used only for the seams between the strakes, ribs were treenailed, and it also had some iron nails in stems and hood ends of the planking. Later it seed to have underwent total repair, when most of the remaining sewing material was taken out of the holes, and iron nails where put to hold the seams instead of sewing. Some sewing holes were then stopped with new wooden plugs. So now it is, in fact, a metal-nailed and tree-nailed ship, but all the arrangement of sewing holes and grooves is clearly visible (see the picture below ). The sewing thread was hemp(?) rope or twine. Then, different kinds of available-on-the-spot materials could be used for repairing -- an originally root sewn ship could be repaired with pieces of hemp twines, etc.

most probably, spruce or pine root twisted as a withe.
sewing holes in shnjaka Arrangement of sewing holes.

Shnjakas in the end of 19th century had one mast with a square sail, and were steered by a stern rudder. They had also oars, but this one seem to have had only two pairs of oarlocks (though the oars were fairly big). Swedish ethnologist Gustav Hallström, who studied boatbuilding traditions in NE Russia made some pictures of a similar sewn boat (51Kb) in the same area.

The origin of the word "shnjaka" seems to be very old, middle-sized ships were called "snäka" or "sneckja" in Viking age. It would be interesting to find out if this word was carried over from old Norwegian language, or entered Russian already in Viking age and survived for some 900 years in the isolated areas of Kola peninsula and White sea coast. Similar story with viking word "karv" and northern russian word "karbas" ; but this one must be of greek origin, relative to russian "korabl" and even to spanish "caravelle" .

The ship is exhibited in National Maritime Museum (Sjofartsmuseum) in Oslo.

See also reference to the paper.



Westerdahl Christer., 1985, Sewn boats of the North:A preliminary catalogue with introductory comments. The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology and Underwater Exploration (1985) 14.1 33-62

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