Long-distance dugout canoe pair due to reach Tallinn Friday afternoon

Dugout boats in Soomaa (photo is illustrative). The design, added to a UNESCO list last year, is native to the region.
Dugout boats in Soomaa (photo is illustrative). The design, added to a UNESCO list last year, is native to the region. Source: Sandra Urvak

Two adventurers making a journey up the western Estonian coast from Pärnu in a traditional dugout canoe are set to arrive in Tallinn Friday afternoon.

The men, Dane Thomas Frank and Estonian Jevgeni Dernovoi, recently started their voyage, inland, in the Soomaa national park, making their way down the Pärnu river, to the Baltic cost.

The project was the brainchild of Thomas Frank, who has made similarly lengthy journeys in dugout canoes in the past, and who wants to test out his hypothesis that dugout canoe designs native to the Soomaa region of southwest Estonia could have spread far beyond, including to his native Denmark, and foreshadowing Scandinavian explorations of the eastern Baltic and the rivers of present-day Ukraine and Russia.

The specific dugout boat, called haabjas in Estonian, was added to the UNESCO list of cultural heritage late last year. A haabjas dugout is usually made of a single piece of aspen, and it is such a vessel that Frank and Dernovoi – the latter an adventure sports leader – are making their journey.

The pair are due at the Seaplane Harbor marina in Tallinn at 5 p.m. Friday, and will be prepared to meet the public and answer questions about their voyage so far, their future plans, and will showcase the dugout canoe.

The voyage is a dress rehearsal for one which will traverse the Baltic, as far as Denmark, and has tested the seaworthiness of the vessel ahead of that.

Ambassador of Denmark to Estonia H.E. Kristina Miskowiak Beckvard will be welcoming the pair, along with Hele Kiimann, Head of Research of the Estonian Maritime Museum, and Jaan Keerdo and Aivar Ruukel, dugout canoe experts. 

Frank and Dernovoi's voyage from Soomaa began on May 27. The coastal distance from Pärnu to Tallinn is around 150km, possibly longer given the highly indented nature of Estonia's western and northwestern coastline.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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