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THE CANOES OF OCEANIA

 

Canoes have been an essential feature of Oceania life for thousands of years. From the large voyaging canoes to the simple fishing canoes, they have provided food and transportation for Pacific Island people. Their construction varies according to the available material. In Melanesia, where large trees are available, they are normally a dug-out canoe which involves hollowing out the trunk of the tree. In Micronesia, where these trees are not available construction was quite different and normally involved joining together planks of wood with glue, often made from the sap of the breadfruit tree and are tied together using coconut fibre. 

I do hope that you find the following pictorial images of our Oceania Canoes to be of some interest.

         

 

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A replica Polynesian Voyaging Canoe constructed in Hawaii using the traditional craftsmanship and materials. These canoes had been used to verify the recorded sailing feats of our forefathers who sailed similar canoes across vast expanses of the Pacific Ocean between the Central Pacific Islands and Easter Island.

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Micronesian fishermen display their
skill in casting a net from an outrigger canoe.

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Carving a canoe from a single tree trunk, Papua New Guinea

A traditional outrigged canoe, Marshall Islands, 1920

A closer view of the same above canoe (Marshall Islands)
 showing details of the construction and rigging as well
as the traditional  clothing of the fishermen, 1920.

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Melanesian war canoe

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Canoe transport, Solomon Islands

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Solomon Islands war canoe

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River sailing in Fiji using a canoe constructed from a large tree

Samoa war canoe, pre-1920

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Early war canoe

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Using the canoe for transport, Gailes, Papua New Guinea

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Tabiteuea (Kiribati) locals sail a swift 96 feet, three mastered outrigger canoe. Its width is five and a half feet, freeboard five feet, and draft three feet. The outrigger is a single log about 49 feet long and 2 feet in diameter lashed to the hull amidships by thirteen 20 foot pieces forming a scaffold. The masts are 40 feet high. Since the deck is only half covered, it is possible to "go below" at any point. A red flag floats from each masthead. Like the smaller craft, it is constructed without metal, all parts being tied together with coconut fibre.

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From the outrigger, the huge steering oar looks small. However, for the Kiribati lads who clamber out on the framework to keep the speeding craft on an even keel clear vision of the steersman is vital. An unexpected puff or flaw could easily fling them overboard.

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At high tide on the ocean beach Kiribati fishermen boldly launch their
flimsy canoes - they brave the open sea without any thought of danger.

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Early image of a Samoa war canoe

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Early image of a Samoa fishing canoe

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Micronesian sailors and navigators travel
large distances in these simple rigged sailing canoes.

Sailing in Tahiti

New Caledonia canoe

 Pohnpei canoe, Federated States of Micronesia

Kiribati Canoe

Canoes of the Kiribati Islands

(E-mail: jane@janeresture.com -- Rev. 28th March 2012)