“The poetry of the earth is never dead.” – John Keats

As outdoor adventurers and survival-minded individuals, we often look at nature as an obstacle to overcome — after all, its merciless forces often seem intent on killing us, or at least making it tougher to survive comfortably. However, there's also a beauty and elegance to our process of overcoming nature. Even with the simplest of hand tools as our only aid, humans have become very efficient at turning natural materials into tools for survival.

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We're really enjoying the recent uprising of short films which document traditional or so-called “primitive” craftsmanship. The Viking-era lime bast rope video we shared recently is a good example of this genre. Today, we stumbled upon a video from the Northmen Guild called The Birth of a Dugout Canoe, and it's one of the best we've seen yet.

This 18-minute documentary is free of flashy graphics and patronizing narration, and simply follows along step-by-step as Latvian master woodworker Rihards Vidzickis builds a traditional dugout canoe. Pour yourself a beverage, kick back, and watch as his weathered hands transform a log into an expertly-crafted vessel:

It may seem like an incredible amount of effort to make a boat, but the level of care and attention to detail is awe-inspiring. It's no wonder that it took decades for Rihards (Richard) to attain these woodworking skills. The video description states, “Richard’s father is also a wood worker and carpenter and has led his son into the beautiful world of working with wood. Richard has gone through all the traditional steps of becoming a master woodworker – starting from an apprentice, then journeyman and then receiving his Master degree in Latvian chamber of crafts.”

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Even the paddle was masterfully hand-sculpted from local wood.

While lashing together a simple raft may suffice in a survival situation, we have tremendous respect for this rare breed of master craftsmen. It's also cool to see organizations like the Northmen Guild supporting their livelihoods — if you want to buy some traditional products handmade by Rihards Vidzickis or other similarly-skilled individuals, you can do so at Northmen.com. For more videos like this one, check out the Northmen Vimeo channel.

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