Bark boats, as the name suggests were small prehistoric type of boats without motors, made from the bark of a tree trunk. Bark boats were similar to skin boats in all aspects, but instead of animal skins they had tree barks to cover their wooden frame. Thus, technically the design of the bark boat would also consist of a wooden frame with a tree bark covering it. Bark boats were considered more durable and reliable that skin boats as tree bark is thicker and less likely to be punctured than animal skin.
It is said that bark boats came into being almost at the same time as skin boats did. For the prehistoric man, hunting an animal was an easy task than cutting down a tree with a large trunk. When handsaws or similar tree cutting tools were not invented, the trees were brought down by setting fire to their base. Those groups of men which were not successful in doing this used to rely on fallen trees for making boats. In the past, bark boats were also used for the same applications as were skin boats.
Construction and Design
Once a tree with a large trunk was chopped down, it was allowed to get dry. This process used to take minimum of three to four months. When the tree was completely dry, its bark was removed using primitive tools. The bark was procured by cutting it in long stripes from the tree trunks. These cut parts were then stitched together using fibers made from tree roots.
Once this was done, an internal lightweight structure was made inside the bark using any type of light wood. This process was the main difference between a skin boat and a bark boat. In a skin boat, the internal wooden frame was built first and then an animal skin was stretched over it. However in a bark boat, the other bark was made first and then the internal wooden frame work was done. One more difference between the two types of boats was that skin boat would get its strength from the internal wooden frame work, whereas a bark boat would get most of its strength from the outer bark.
Bark boats were made from the bark of different types of trees. However, they were mainly made from birch trees that are found extensively in Europe and North America. Some of the bark boats found in Pacific Northwest are up to 14 meter long. However, both skin and bark boat are supposed to be known as light and flimsy vessels suited only for inland water bodies and are not meant for sea. Also, though a bark boat is thicker and more reliable than an animal skin boat; both the boats have high and equal probability of getting their covers punctured.