Trip to Fort Ross, second time

We tried to visit Fort Ross on the northern California Coast last year only to find that the park is closed during the week.  This time all was perfect.

Fort Ross
I was fascinated by the views of the fort through the poured glass windows, with their bubbles and warps.

Fort Ross was established by the Russians to harvest (steal) sea otter pelts and grow wheat for their Alaskan colonies.  They brought Native Alaskans (slaves) who knew how to hunt sea otters.  The Alaskans hunted with kayaks and atlatls so that they could sneak up on the otters.  One shot from a Russian gun would have chased all sensible otters in the area away.

Oola and the Wild Card learned how to throw the atlatl from Ranger Hank.

Ranger Hank
Friendly and Knowledgeable Ranger Hank

What is an atlatl you ask.  It’s an ancient weapon, found all over the world, which makes it possible to throw a projectile verrry far, verrry fast, so as to acquire dinner.

The Wild Card used his luthier’s skills to make one when he got home. Ancients would have used stone tools.  The Wild One is not qualified on stone tools.  He used his band saw.

The Wild Card’s approximation of an Atlatl

Some atlatls have very long, sproingy dart shafts.  The shaft on this version is short, as were those of the Aleuts, so that they could be manageable in a kayak.  It’s also thick because it came from a hardware store instead of from a tree branch.

Note the elegant feathers.  The Wild One did not have any feathers, so — the geese being unwilling — he used masking tape.  Feathers are necessary to drag the rear end and make the sharp end go straight to the target.  He put the nut on the tip to add weight and to make the pointer end of the dart less dangerous.

The Aleut’s atlatl would have a detachable sharp head which would lodge itself in the seal or sea otter and kill it.  And the detachable point was connected by a piece of string to a toggle which could get caught in the kelp.  Or to a float so that the hunter would know where the animal was and pull it out of the ocean.

The Wild Card throwing his atlatl in the DeFremerey Park.
The Wild Card throwing his atlatl in the DeFremery Park. The sapling shivers in fear.

The Wild One says throwing with the atlatl is an extension of his fast ball throw. He thinks that you can use your baseball or rock throwing skills to gain accuracy pretty fast.

Oola thinks it is pretty cool.

Oola throws the atlatl.
Oola throws the atlatl.

Her form is very good already.  She found the shoes necessary because of the resident geese — who were not much impressed with the whole exercise.

Canada Geese
Suspicious Canada Geese in DeFremery Park in West Oakland.  These geese have nothing to fear from the Wild Card or Oola, unless the winter is very hard and that Cratchit fellow keeps coming around.

Back in Fort Ross, Oola and I had petted a sea otter pelt.  I have never felt fur so silky or soft.  Those critters paid a high price for their valuable beauty.  They were nearly made extinct in the 19th century.

By jandove



  1. If you have not viewed Werner Herzog’s documentary “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” about an examination of Chauvet Cave, in southern France you need to. Contains the oldest human-painted images yet to be found on Earth…and there is mention of an atlati
    or weapon very similar.



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