World War II Dugout Canoes


New Member
Hello everyone!

My name is Timothy Dodson and I am a Maritime Archaeologist. Adrian Myers a PhD student at Stanford University and colleague of mine is currently doing his research on the WWII Whitewater PoW Camp in Manitoba Canada. Here is the Project's Web Site so you may take a look at it.

The reason I am contacting your group is that while interned at the camp the PoWs built several Dugout canoes. They would use them to paddle around Whitewater Lake. The canoes ranged in both size (1 & 2 men) and propulsion method ( Paddle and Sail).

I have a few questions and maybe your organization could be of some help.

Have you heard of PoWs building canoes?
If so do you know of any other instances of PoWs Building Canoes?

If so do you have any information on them?

Historical accounts said that the PoWs got the idea to build canoes from a article that was circulating around the camp depicting Native Indians building birch-bark canoes. Do you have any historical articles of this nature from the 1940's?

Thanks for your time and I am looking forward in hearing from you in the near future

Hi Tim,

I don't have any real answers for you-- just some thoughts.

It seems the POW camps in Canada and those near where I live, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, were similar. The prisoners were healthy young men who weren't hard-core Nazis, and many apparently enjoyed their time in the woods. They were involved in logging-projects here as well.

This is a link to a locally-produced documentary on the POW camps of this area, which has been aired several times during fundraisers.

No mention of canoe-building of any kind by POWs in our area, although there are many bodies of water here that the prisoners could have paddled. I can see prisoners (with some free time) deciding to build dugouts so that they could enjoy the place where they were staying. This could have been somebody's brainstorm, with or without seeing any information on birch bark canoes.

It seems more likely to me that someone would find an article on building a wood-canvas canoe in a hobby magazine such as "Homecraft"-- we know these were around at that time. Maybe one of the bark builders will jump in with information on this, but my understanding is that there wasn't a lot of information available on how to build a birch bark canoe. Or perhaps what the prisoners had that inspired the dugouts was something as simple as a picture on a postcard.

Some of the birchbark builders who post here may know more.

cool site, Tim! Unusual to have an archaeological dig on such recent history.
Is there any way to add descriptions to the photos??