Aleutian Islands

Resurrecting a Wondrous Craft

George Dyson has set himself a task even more difficult than preserving the wisdom of a vanishing culture: reviving an art that is already lost. The son of a Princeton physicist, Dyson, 38, was fascinated by 18th century accounts of Aleutian kayakers, who were said to have sustained speeds of 10 knots on the open ocean in their 15-ft. to 30-ft. craft, defying the apparent limits imposed by the length of the boat and human endurance. For two decades, Dyson, a self-taught boatbuilder, has worked to rediscover the technological secrets of these fabled vessels, or baidarkas, as Russian colonists called them.

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