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Inflatable Animal Skins

Written by: George Chittenden : 15 Dec 2019

This rather unusual photo was taken by photographer James Ricalton in 1903, on the bank of the River Sutlej, in Himachal Pradesh, India. The photo features a group of men who are busy inflating bullock-skins in order to float across the river. To cross they would lie on their stomachs with their feet in the water, and they would also use a paddle in their hands. Surprisingly these inflatable vehicles could carry a passenger, who would sit up-right.

Inflating bullock-skins to cross a river

Inflating bullock-skins to cross a river

It makes you think about how humans used their environment to overcome obstacles in the past doesn’t it? To create an inflatable device like this, extreme care was taken when skinning the animal. Ideally the skin needed to be removed in one piece and then all openings except one were sealed. The last hole was obviously used to inflate the device. I wonder if techniques like this are still used by remote tribes nowadays.

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