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Maori and other Polynesian Canoes



The Maori were adept at making sea going double hulled canoes, as well as smaller craft suitable for rivers and lakes. They were used for transport, war, and fishing.



Maori Canoe

This waka or canoe is an example of a waka titi, a canoe used on rivers, lakes, or near the shore.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2013
Source: Display, Southland Museum and Art Gallery, Invercargill, NZ



Maori Canoe Maori Canoe
The canoe was constructed from a single tōtara trunk, and may have had an outrigger attached in a manner similar to the diagram.

Podocarpus totara is a species of podocarp tree endemic to New Zealand. It grows throughout the North Island and northeastern South Island in lowland, montane and lower subalpine forest at elevations of up to 600 m. Tōtara is commonly found in lowland areas where the soil is fertile and well drained.

The tōtara is a medium to large tree which grows slowly to around 20 to 25 m, exceptionally to 35 m; it is noted for its longevity and the great girth of its trunk. The bark peels off in papery flakes, with a purplish to golden brown hue. The sharp, dull green needle-like leaves are stiff and leathery, 2 cm long. This plant produces highly modified cones with 2 to 4 fused, fleshy berry-like juicy scales, bright red when mature. The cone contains one or two rounded seeds at the apex of the scales.

The largest known living tōtara, the Pouakani Tree, near Pureora in the central North Island is over 35 metres tall and nearly 4 metres in trunk diameter at breast height. Other large trees are known in this area, while Whirinaki forest, to the East, but also on deep recent volcanic soils, has groves of very tall tōtara (> 40m in height).

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2013
Text: Display, Southland Museum and Art Gallery, Invercargill, NZ
Source: Display, Southland Museum and Art Gallery, Invercargill, NZ
Origin: Catlins, NZ, Acc. No. M440




Maori Canoe



View of the canoe from the other end.

Waterways were an integral part of Southern Maori life as they were a source of food and could also be utilised for canoe transport when travelling between settlements and food gathering areas.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2013
Text: Wikipedia, Display, Southland Museum and Art Gallery, Invercargill, NZ
Source: Display, Southland Museum and Art Gallery, Invercargill, NZ




Maori Canoe
Maori canoes were made in many different sizes and styles depending on their purpose. The ones shown in this painting are large war canoes.

The painting is 'War Speech', by Augustus Earle, depicting an event of 1827-1828. A Māori chief standing in a beached canoe, addressing a crowd of warriors, mostly seated, with a few standing. Two other long canoes are on the beach, one with a sail is in the water, and others are pulled up close to a pā or kāinga in the left background. A dog (kurī) sniffs the ground in the foreground.

Most men are armed with guns, although one on the far right holds a taiaha. A taiaha is a traditional weapon of the Māori of New Zealand. It is a wooden, or sometimes whale bone, close quarters, staff weapon used for short sharp strikes or stabbing thrusts with quick footwork on the part of the wielder. Taiaha are usually between 5 to 6 feet (1.5 to 1.8 m) in length. They have three main parts: the arero (tongue), used for stabbing the opponent and parrying, the upoko (head), the base from which the tongue protrudes, and the ate (liver) or tinana (body), the long flat blade which is also used for striking and parrying. A gourd and flax kit (basket woven from flax fibres - Don ) are centrally placed amongst one group of men.

Earle's text reads: "A party of warriors had collected at the Bay of Islands for the purpose of making a hostile visit to a Hauraki tribe. They were detained by contrary winds; and for several days were constantly engaged in listening to speeches from their chiefs, who addressed them from a canoe hauled on shore … one [canoe], which I measured, was 70 feet long, and carried one hundred fighting men."

Date 1838
Source: Alexander Turnbull Library, (Reference No. PUBL-0015-09).
Artist: Earle, Augustus, 1793-1838
Permission: Public Domain
Text: Adapted from Wikipedia



Maori Canoe

Waka taua (war canoe) named Teremoe, 1820s - 1840s?

Made by an unknown maker of the Te Āti Hau nui a Pāpārangi (a Māori iwi (tribe) of the Whanganui River region of New Zealand.) from tōtara wood.

This photo shows the Teremoe seen from the stern.

In 1930, Teremoe was bequeathed to the Dominion Museum, one of Te Papa's predecessors, by Ema Hipango at the request of her late husband, Waata.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Display, Te Papa Museum, Wellington




Maori Canoe
Teremoe prow.

When Teremoe came to the Museum, it was reconstructed as a waka taua (war canoe) by Thomas Heberley, the Museum's resident carver.

He added the tauihu (prow) which came from Matata in the Bay of Plenty, and the taurapa (stern post), which came from Papitonga, Horowhenua. He also carved the rauawa (upperside planking).

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Display, Te Papa Museum, Wellington




Maori Canoe
This stern post is said to have been part of the war canoe Kahu-tia-te-rangi, used by chief Te Rauparaha during campaigns against South Island tribes in the 1820s and 1830s. In particular, Kahu-tia-te-rangi was deployed in the siege of Kaiapohia. Ngāti Toa prevailed and razed the settlement in retaliation for the death of their paramount chief, Te Pëhi Kupe, and seven other chiefs.

At the base of the taurapa sits a carved human-like figure - puhi-kai-ariki - an ancestral atua (deity) who oversees the crew. From under puhi-kai-ariki extend two curved, rib-like forms that run about three quarters of the length of the taurapa. These represent the dual life principles of ira-atua (the gods) and ira-tangata (humankind). A manaia (stylised beaked figure) sits upon the taurapa.

The taurapa forms the stern-piece of a waka (canoe), particularly a superior class of waka such as a waka-taua (war canoe). The principal taurapa design pattern is the pitau (black tree fern: Cyathea medullaris ) or takarangi (dizzy) spiral.

Ngāti Toa and Te Arawa tribes, tötara wood (single slab) using steel tools.
Dimensions: 2050mm x 390m x 195 mm
Catalog: ME014331

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Display, Te Papa Museum, Wellington
Additional text: http://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/object/61122




Maori Canoe Maori Canoe


Maori Canoe

A beautifully adzed and finished small dugout canoe, possibly used by the Maori for transport and fishing in small rivers and lakes.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2007
Source: Display, Wellington Airport




Maori Canoe


This elaborately carved Taurapa (canoe stern post) is thought to be about 400 years old. The carver's use of the unaunahi (fish scale) pattern, and a pair of small dorsal fins to the rear, suggest it represents some sort of sea creature. Its stylised head features a long mouth full of V shaped teeth.

It was found in 1996 on the west coast of Stewart Island at The Gutter, Te Hapua, Mason Bay, a safe haven along this treacherous piece of coastline. The intricate open-weave carving that would normally stand along the top of the taurapa is missing, but otherwise the piece is intact.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2013
Text: Wikipedia, Carrington et al. (2008), Display, Southland Museum and Art Gallery, Invercargill, NZ
Source: Southland Museum and Art Gallery, Invercargill, NZ




prow
Tauihu

An elaborately carved canoe prow from the Sir George Grey collection that is held in the Auckland Museum.

Grey was twice Governor of New Zealand from 1845 to 1868.

Note that in this case the hands have five fingers, instead of the 'normal' three for such carvings.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Display, Auckland Museum




Maori Canoe


This taurapa (stern post) was recovered with a canoe thwart and other pieces, evidently the remains of a wreck. There was a village in the adjacent sand dunes. They may represent a settlement by people associated with Tukiauau or other Ngāti Mamoe. Kāti Mamoe, or Ngāti Mamoe, is an historic Māori iwi. Originally from the Heretaunga (Hastings) area they moved in the 16th century to the South Island which at the time was occupied by Waitaha. Many of our carved taonga (treasures) are related to waka (canoe) culture and highlight the importance of water travel, fishing and food gathering from the sea, lakes and rivers.

Attributed to Kati Mamoe, Matai wood. Acc. No. Z.4566

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2013
Text: Wikipedia, Carrington et al. (2008), Display, Southland Museum and Art Gallery, Invercargill, NZ
Source: Southland Museum and Art Gallery, Invercargill, NZ




Tauihu (canoe prow) Tauihu (canoe prow)
Waka (canoes) were often decorated with tauihu (carved prows).

(left) New Zealand
Oldman Collection
Acc. No. D50.412

(right) Waiau River, Southland
Gift of Mr Morrison
Acc. No. B62.125

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2013
Text and source: Display, Southland Museum and Art Gallery, Invercargill, NZ




Kauroti and kaurima fire making kit
Tauihu (canoe prow)

1750
Artist Unknown

This beautifully carved tauihu is the prow of a waka taua (war canoe). It is a fine example of the pītau style of tauihu, recognisable by the carved figure at the front, with its protruding and defiant tongue, and arms stretched out behind with clearly realised hands and fingers. The figure represents Tūmatauenga (the god of war), who is tasked with warning his brother Tangaroa (the god of the sea) that humans are crossing Tangaroa's domain in a war canoe. It is a very early example of tauihu construction and carving.

Waka taua were truly impressive vessels. They could be up to 45 metres long and were the exceptional battleships of their day. They were expressively ornamented, with a well-defined and smooth-running hierachy among the kaihautū (leader) and the kaihoe (paddlers). They were also tribal statements of power, prestige, and war prowess.

Dimensions: Width 195 mm, height 420mm, depth 200 mm

Oldman Collection. Gift of the New Zealand Government, 1992

Photo and text: http://www.googleartproject.com/collection/te-papa/artwork/tauihu-canoe-prow-unknown/362204/#




tattoed mask tattoed mask
Pākurukuru

Ngāti Maru (Thames)

Pākurukuru is the term for the figurehead of a canoe. In 1821 this pākurukuru was made for a Ngāti Maru war canoe built to fight the Ngāpuhi people in retaliation for those killed in an attack on Te Tōtara Point at Thames.

Ahurei and Te Pūhi, two notable chiefs of Ngāti Maru, were killed in this attack.

Catalog: 5998

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source: Display, Auckland Museum




canoe canoe
Extravagantly decorated canoe, with an anchor stone below it. It is known as Te Toki a Tapiri.

The first settlers of Aotearoa, New Zealand, came here in the sea-going, double hulled waka of eastern Polynesia. In New Zealand, huge trees of easily worked timber were available, and extensive inland waterways and sheltered harbours encouraged the development of single hulled vessels, including massive decorated war canoes capable of carrying up to 120 men.

Waka taua (war canoes) were important symbols of the tribal unity and chiefly power. Their names, like those of decorated houses and pataka, storehouses, recalled important tribal ancestors.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Display, Auckland Museum






canoe canoe
Canoe sternpost from the canoe above, decorated with a seated warrior with what appears to be a very elaborate penis.

The eyes have been inlaid with pāua or abalone shell, and the face is covered with tattoos.

Clothing appears to consist only of a belt, with either breeches or tattooed thighs. The knees are marked with concentric ovals. There are just three toes on each foot, and three fingers, with possibly a thumb.

Donne (1927) says that Rua . . . is the father of the art of carving, and that tradition says that Rua had but three fingers on each hand, and as a tribute to his memory, the Maori carvers of note all portrayed their human figures with three fingers only on each hand. This figure conforms to this tradition, and, in addition, has but three toes on each foot.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source: Display, Auckland Museum




canoe





The complete sternpost from the canoe above.

The workmanship and attention to detail are staggering.

This beautifully carved taurapa (sternpost) is part of the renowned waka (canoe), Te Toki a Tapiri. In one tradition, spiders were said to have carved the stern and prow of the first waka. That is why the web-like spiral form (known as mata kupenga) features so prominently on the stern and prow of many canoes.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source: Display, Auckland Museum
Text: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/photograph/12610/taurapa-canoe-sternpost




canoe canoe


Prow of Te Toki a Tapiri

For an excellent account of the history of this craft, go to:

http://timespanner.blogspot.com.au/2011/11/te-toki-tapiri.html

Photos: http://timespanner.blogspot.com.au/2011/11/te-toki-tapiri.html




canoe
Prow of Te Toki a Tapiri

Te Toki a Tapiri is the last of the great Maori war canoes. With the hull adzed from a single huge totara log, the canoe is 25 m long, and can carry 100 warriors. It was built in about 1836 for Te Waaka Tarakau of Ngati Hahungunu, who lived near Wairoa in Hawke's Bay, and it is named after Tapiri, a famous ancestor of Tarakau.

Before it was finished, the canoe was given to Te Waaka Perohuka of the Rongowhakaata people of Poverty Bay. Tarakau received in exchange a famous cloak. The prow, stern and side strakes were carved near Manutuke on the Waipaoa River. In 1853 Perohuka presented the canoe to Tamati Wak Nene and his brother Patuone of Ngapuhi, to mark the end of Ngapuhi raids on the East Coast.

Te Toki a Tapiri was brought to Auckland, and later sold to Kaihau and Te Katipa of Ngati Te Ata at Waiuku. Government forces seized the canoe in 1863 when war began in the Waikato, although Ngati Te Ata had not taken up arms. Compensation was paid to Ngati Te Ata at the end of the war.

In 1869 Te Toki a Tapiri was the highlight of a regatta on the Waitemata Harbour celebrating the visit of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh. Ngati Whatua of Orakei under Paora Tuahaere later cared for the canoe until it was presented to Auckland Museum by the Government in 1885.

Photo: http://timespanner.blogspot.com.au/2011/11/te-toki-tapiri.html
Text: Display, Auckland Museum




anchor anchor

Anchor stone decorated with a carved face.

Large waka or canoes carried anchors at the bow and the stern. Anchor ropes were plaited from ti (cabbage tree) leaves. The face carved on this punga suggests that it was an important one, probably belonging to a chief, and with its own special name.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Display, Auckland Museum






The largest canoes

Waka taua  were the biggest canoes, ranging from 9 to over 30 metres long. Vessels holding up to 100 people were observed by James Cook during his voyages in the 18th century, while other commentators observed equally substantial waka in the 19th century.

Waka taua were also the most ornately adorned and carved. They were sometimes referred to as waka pītau, which describes the perforated, spiral carving that supports the carved figurehead in the tauihu (prow).

The historian Hoani Nahe recalled two Ngāti Maru waka taua – Otuiti and Okunui – in the late 1800s, which he described as the largest he had ever seen. They could hold five ranks of men from the bows to the stern where three men would sit, two of them alternating with paddlers as they became tired. Hulls often consisted of three sections held together by a haumi (mortise and tenon joint) and lashed in place.

Text above: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/waka-canoes/page-3



bailers
(left) Tiheru, waka taua bailer, from Ngati Porou (East Cape).

(right) Tiheru, waka taua bailer, from Te Ati Awa (Wellington). This bailer has carving confined to an area at the base of the handle.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Display, Auckland Museum









Tikopia



canoe
Rakeitonga

Vaka tapu, sacred canoe.

Tikopia

Presented by Bishop Wood 1916, catalogue number 12992.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source: Display, Auckland Museum




canoe canoe

The vaka tapu was built by Pu Auekofe for Te Ariki Taumako, the chief of the Taumako clan of Tikopia. It is famous in Tikopian tradition and made long ocean voyages to Anuta and Vanuatu. In 1953 it was rigged in the Auckland Museum by Pa Rangimarape, Pa Motuanga, Farava and Koroimoana, Tikopian crewmen from the Melanesian mission ship Southern Cross.

Named after an ancestor of Te Ariki Taumako, as a vaka tapu this canoe has its own spirit guardians. In seasonal canoe rituals, appeals are made to these spirits to protect fishermen and to ensure a successful harvest from the sea.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source: Display, Auckland Museum




map

Map showing the origin and range of the canoe.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source: Display, Auckland Museum




canoe canoe

Vaka tapu canoe outrigger, showing the supports and lashings used.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source: Display, Auckland Museum









Cook Islands



This vaka (outrigger canoe) from Manihiki in the northern Cook Islands is one of only three such vaka that survive in museums worldwide. It is called Tauhunu after the village on Manihiki. Made about 1900, of wood, plant fibre, and pearl shell.



Tauhunu canoe

Originally, Tauhunu would have had an outrigger for stability. It would have been paddled mostly, but it could also have been sailed, mainly inside the lagoon. Removing the outrigger would have allowed it to be used as part of a double canoe.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015     Source and text: Display, Te Papa Museum, Wellington



Tauhunu canoe


Tauhunu is made from wood lashed together with sennit (coconut husk fibre) and is decorated with inlaid pieces of pearl shell. Canoe building continued on Manihiki until recently, but modern vaka do not match the quality of workmanship of Tauhunu.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015     Source and text: Display, Te Papa Museum, Wellington, and http://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/object/265913
Dimensions: 8860 mm (Length) x 430 mm (Width) x 1050 mm (Height) Catalog: FE010421



Tauhunu canoe


Tauhunu was displayed at the New Zealand International Exhibition of the Arts and Industries, held in Christchurch in 1906. It was sent there by Lieutenant-Colonel Gudgeon, a New Zealander who was Resident Commissioner in the Cook Islands at the time. It was bought for the Dominion Museum, Te Papa's predecessor, in 1907.

Photo: https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/asset-viewer/vaka-canoe-tauhunu/RwEoRwpsb2QiRw?projectId=art-project
Text: Display, Te Papa Museum, Wellington, and http://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/object/265913








Chatham Islands



The Chatham Islands are a special case in the development of watercraft. Not having trees big enough to create 'normal' canoes, they came up with what amounts to a cross between a raft and a rowing boat, for the relatively short distances between the islands of the archipelago. They were not suitable for long distance sea voyages, so that the Chatham Islanders were cut off from the rest of Polynesia once the ocean going watercraft in which they arrived reached the end of their life.

As well as the watercraft, I will include in this section some of the other relics of their former life.


chatham islands


Chatham Islands.

The Chatham Islands form an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean about 680 kilometres (423 mi) southeast of mainland New Zealand. It consists of about ten islands within a 40-kilometre (25 mi) radius, the largest of which are Chatham Island and Pitt Island.

The archipelago is called Rēkohu ('misty sun') in the indigenous language Moriori, and Wharekauri in Māori. It has officially been part of New Zealand since 1842, and includes the country's easternmost point, the Forty-Fours.

The last major Pacific Islands to be settled, the Chatham Islands are thought to have been first occupied by Polynesians about 800 to 1000 years ago. In isolation they developed a unique culture and became a people who call themselves Moriori.

Positioned at 44° S, 176° W, the Chatham Islands have large resources of fish, but the climate is certainly not tropical, so that agriculture as practised by other Polynesian islanders is difficult or impossible.

Photo: Google Earth
Text: Wikipedia and http://www.discoverthechathamislands.co.nz/visit/history/




Moriori settlers

Three or four canoes of East Polynesians brought the first humans to the islands in the 1400s. Some came via New Zealand, and at least one canoe may have come a little later directly from eastern Polynesia.

There was most likely no further contact with these homelands. The settlers developed into the Moriori with distinct lifestyles, material culture and language.

Moriori lived as hunter-gatherers. Overall, most food came from netting off rocky shores. They also trapped eels, snared birds and hunted seals, which they used for food and made clothing from their skins. Moriori did not continue to use waka (canoes) as there were no suitable trees for building them, but developed wash-through craft rather like rafts, which were well-suited to navigating the rough waters around the island group. They carved images on rocks and trees, some of which survive.

Moriori had few vegetables, except preserved kernels of the kopi (karaka) tree, which they detoxified. The presence of that resource may explain why Moriori flourished in much greater numbers – reaching about 2 000 – than Māori in the vast expanse of the South Island south from Kaikōura, who had few crops and no karaka trees.

Text above: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/chatham-islands/page-3

stick waka

Unsinkable Waka

The wild seas of Rēkohu (the Chatham Islands) washed right through craft like these, without swamping them.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Display, Te Papa Museum, Wellington




stick waka


Waka built like this, but fifteen metres long, carried fifty people.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Display, Te Papa Museum, Wellington




Text below adapted from http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-BesCano-t1-body-d4-d9.html

Permission: Title: The Maori Canoe, Author Elsdon Best, Publication details: A.R. Shearer, Wellington, Part of: The Published Works of Elsdon Best, Licence: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand Licence.

Canoes of the Chatham Isles

The Moriori folk, natives of the Chatham Isles, possessed no timber from which they could hew out canoes, hence they were compelled to construct rude craft composed of flax-stalks, fernstalks, and seaweed built up on a timber keel. The following notes on these primitive craft, which were but little more than floats, were obtained by the late Mr. A. Shand.

1. The waka puhara, or korari, had two keels (poles or small beams); thus it was flat-bottomed. The stern-post was called a koua, and carved, and the two pieces of wood projecting from the stern were called the puremu, and were also carved. The bottom and sides were formed of dry flowering-stalks (korarl) of Phormium tenax lashed to a slight wooden framework. Through these materials, of course, the water passed freely, thus the so-called canoe was always full of water - i.e., full so far as it was sunk in the water. These craft were made up to 30 ft. or 35 ft. in length, 4 ft. wide, and 4 ft. deep.

2. The waka rimu. This was a vessel much the same as No. 1, but sides and bottom were covered only with pieces of rimurapa, or bull-kelp. Deighton states that the frame was so covered both outside and inside.

3. The waka pahi was a deep-water vessel, used in making trips to the outlying islands. It was built up on two keels of matlpou wood, about 30 ft. in length in the case of the largest specimens. Of such the koua, or stern-pieces, of akeake wood would be about 12 ft. high, while the pur emu projected about 10 ft.; width about 8 ft., and depth about 5 ft. The rimurapa, or kelp, was used in its construction, as in the case of the waka rimu.

4. The waka ra was made of bracken-stems (Pteris) and the dry flower-stalks of Phormium, in much the same form as a Maori mokihi. The sides were low, and apparently this craft was used only in a ceremonial manner. Rude images of men, from twelve to twenty four in number, were placed in it, each with a paddle tied to its hands, and the rude vessel with its singular freight was set adrift upon the ocean. One authority states that it was so launched from the place on the eastern side of the main island where a cave is seen, at a time when a westerly wind was blowing. It was from that cave that spirits of the dead were believed to depart on their journey to the spirit-world. This curious act is said to have been equivalent to a propitiation of Rongo-takuiti, who represented seals and blackfish; it amounted to a request that that being send the people an abundance of such food-supplies.



The following remarks on canoes of the Chatham Isles are from the late Mr. Shand's monograph on the Moriori people, published as volume 2 of the Memoirs of the Polynesian Society:

'In the matter of canoes the Moriori differed essentially from all other branches of the race; in fact, they possessed none, properly so called, but used a kind of built up craft, very clumsy, especially for pulling, but otherwise very safe so long as the fastenings were sound. In heavy weather they were not liable to fill and capsize like a Maori canoe, being really, from their construction, more rafts than canoes.

Their sea-going ancestors from far Hawaiki would have scorned the use of such a vessel, and certainly could not have undertaken a distant voyage in one; the material of which they were composed would not have held out. On the other hand, considerable ingenuity was shown in utilising such unpromising material as they were possessed of. The absence of canoes arose from the fact that the islands possessed no timber of a sufficient size and quality to make canoes from. The flooring of their rafts was made of korari, the flower-stalks of Phormium tenax, with kelp placed in the crate-like frame beneath, to render the vessel buoyant.

The kelp was of the large broad-leaved kind, and was inflated with air; it was taken out on landing, dried, and reinflated as before. Notwithstanding the flimsy character of these vessels, the people were accustomed to cross from Chatham Island to Pitt Island, a rough sea strait of twelve miles in width, and to undertake far more dangerous voyages to the small off-lying islands, some of which are fifteen to twenty miles away from the main island, although closer to Pitt Island. It very often happened, however, that these raft-canoes and their crews were caught in a storm and were carried out to sea, there to perish.

They were large enough to carry sixty to seventy people, and were propelled by paddles (hiwa), which, contrary to the method of all other Polynesians, were used by the crews sitting with their backs to the bows, as with Europeans, and by making use of a support, or thole-pin, against which the paddle worked. They carried fire with them for warmth, which was placed on stones and earth on the floor of the raft-canoe. Their raft-canoes never had sails. The larger and sea-going ones were called waka pahii, or pepe.'

The account of the canoes of the Chatham Isles furnished by Lieutenant Broughton, discoverer of the group, is as follows: 'The canoes we examined were more in form of a small handbarrow without legs than anything to which they can be compared, decreasing in width from the after to the fore part. They were made of a light substance resembling bamboo, though not hollow, placed fore and aft on each side, and secured together by pieces of the same wood, up and down, very neatly fastened with the fibres of some plant in the manner of basketwork.

Their bottoms, flat, and constructed in the same way, were two feet deep and eighteen inches in breadth; the openings of the seams on the inside and bottom were stuffed with long seaweed; their sides meet not abaft, nor forward; their extreme breadth aft is three, and forward two feet; length, eight and nine feet. In the stern is a seat very neatly made of the same material, which is movable. They appeared calculated alone for fishing amongst the rocks near the shore; were capable of carrying two or three persons, and were so light that two men could convey them anywhere with ease, and one could haul them into safety on the beach. Their grapnels were stones, and the ropes to which these were made were formed of matting, worked up in a similar way with that which is called French sinnet. The paddles were of hard wood, the blades very broad, and gradually increasing from the handle.'

Evidently this voyager did not see any of their larger vessels, such as are described above.



The following account of the so-called canoes of the Moriori folk is taken from the journal of the 'Chatham', published in volume 2 of McNab's Historical Records of New Zealand:

'Here we found two canoes, if they may be allowed that name, for so little did they resemble anything we knew of that kind that had they been found inland instead of on the sea-beach I believe we should have thought of various other uses before we had hit on the one for which they were really intended. In shape they were not unlike the body of a common wheelbarrow; their sides were made of small sticks lashed tightly with withes upon one another about eight or nine feet long. The widest end about three feet, the other about two, and narrowing downwards, left a flat bottom better than a foot broad. Their depth was nearly two feet, and compactly filled with seaweed almost to the top. The paddles were a rough piece of wood rudely made into a flat form without the least neatness. The whole of their construction made it pretty evident that they were most probably used merely in the bays and amongst the rocks for fishing'

When the ancestors of the Moriori folk of the Chatham Isles made the voyage from New Zealand to that group they did so in large seaworthy canoes, as is shown in tradition. At the Chathams they found no timber large enough to make canoe-hulls. During the seven hundred years or thereabouts that these folk occupied the Chathams they evolved the frail craft we have described - an illustration of how new forms may be invented under the stern law of necessity.

Although the Moriori used no form of double canoe, yet they seem to have preserved in tradition a dim knowledge of them as known when their ancestors lived in New Zealand or elsewhere. Some interesting traditions of the voyage of the immigrants to the Chathams are contained in volume 2 of the Memoirs of the Polynesian Society.

The following notes applying to one of the raft-canoes described above have come to light: they were written by the late Mr. A. Shandin 1889:

'The model is one of the large sea-going canoes which were used to go from Chatham to Pitt and the various outlying islands - to the latter to get fur-seals for clothing, and the young of various seabirds before they were quite ready to fly, as well as for going out to fish round the coast. Owing to the lack of suitable timber on the island to make anything like a Maori canoe, they devised and made this raft-canoe, if it may be so termed, capable of carrying fifty or more, stuffing the inside with large bladders of blown-out kelp, which were taken out on landing at their destination, to be dried for future use.

'As will be perceived, the water washing through the body of the canoe made progress rather slow: but, being skilful and daring navigators, they took advantage of the tides, which run very strongly round the coast, such carrying them generally in close proximity to their destination. Further, they say that, owing to their peculiar construction, these boats were safer in rough weather than a Maori canoe or a whale-boat - not shipping water, or, when spray came over, it ran off without doing mischief; and requiring a very heavy gale to capsize them. In going to a distance they plaited large baskets (kona), which they filled with earth, on which to light a fire and cook food, taking also a large supply of firewood with them as well as drinking-water. Everything being tied necessitated their taking lashing-materials with them wherewith to make necessary repairs. The paddles were used oar-fashion against projecting pins, while at the stern two or three steersmen, according to the size of the canoe, sat directing others with such commands as 'To tu,' 'To waho,' 'Here ka raw'—this more especially when landing on surf beaches. The large sea-going canoes were called wakapahi.'

stick waka
Having settled the islands around 1500 AD, the Moriori ceased their long-distance sea travel, but instead built rafts for inter-island travel, as in the replica pictured here. This waka korari (wash-through craft) had a base of kelp and sides of bound reeds. It could partially submerge, which enhanced its stability, especially in rough seas.

Photo and text: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/object/37789/replica-moriori-raft
Source: This canoe is now part of the display at Te Papa Museum, Wellington




Text below from: Hornell (1946)

Except in rafts of the largest size, the Moriori relied for buoyancy on fern stems and rolls or pads of flax stalks tightly packed upon the bottom and against the sides of the open cratework that formed the framing of the hull. Flax stalks quickly become sodden and lose their buoyancy, so rafts of this kind could be used only for inshore fishing. In the larger vessels, the waka pahii, which made the long journeys between the islands, 12 miles or more apart, additional and more reliable buoyancy was obtained by replacing a great part of the flax bundles by inflated bladders of the bull kelp (rimu). For the most part these were packed upon the floor of the raft, confined in place by rods of supplejack crossing from side to side.

These kelp-bladder floats were made from a giant seaweed having large flat leaves, filled with vesicular tissue resembling honeycomb in appearance. By inserting a knife at the place where the 'leaf' has been cut from its stalk, this soft filling is easily broken up, thereby converting the leaf into a potential bladder, a couple of feet long and 8 or 9 inches wide. After inflation the orifice is tied or stopped up. When dry these bladders retain their shape, becoming hard and buoyant. A number disposed on the bottom and around the sides of a crate-framed craft would function similarly to the air chambers fitted in modern lifeboats.

These vessels were rowed with rude oars and provided with several thwarts formed of short lengths of fern stalks lashed athwart supporting rods of supplejack.

bull kelp bull kelp

Bull Kelp, Durvillea antarctica

(left) floating straps in a coastal environment.

(right) Cross-section and cut-away view of sun-dried kelp (Durvillaea antarctica), showing its internal honeycomb structure. Kelp found on Muriwai beach, near Auckland, New Zealand.

Photo (left): B. Navez
Permission: GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

Photo (right): Avenue
Permission: licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.




bone awls

Bird bone awls from the Chatham Islands.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Display, Te Papa Museum, Wellington




fish hooks

Matau, fish hooks from the Chatham Islands.

The sea has always provided most of the food resources for the Moriori people of the Chatham Islnads. These hooks are made of whalebone from stranded whales. Hooks and lures were also made of wood, sometimes with a bone point.

The larger of the fish hooks from the Chatham Islands are more like the ones from Pitcairn Island and Rapanui (Easter Island) than Māori hooks from Aotearoa. This lends support to the local traditions, which say that some Moriori ancestors came to Rēkohu direct from Hawaiki, without landing in Aotearoa.

Hawaiki is a place of great importance in Māori tradition, and appears in many songs, proverbs and whakapapa (genealogies). In tradition, the ancestors of Māori came to New Zealand from Hawaiki, navigating the seas in their canoes.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Display, Te Papa Museum, Wellington
Additional text: www.teara.govt.nz/en/hawaiki




nautilus shell

Nautilus shell from the Chatham Islands

On loan from a private collection

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Display, Te Papa Museum, Wellington




beater

Patu aruhe, fernroot beater.

On loan from M. Solomon.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Display, Te Papa Museum, Wellington




clubs

Toki, ceremonial clubs.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Display, Te Papa Museum, Wellington




pendants

Pendants made of bone and whalebone.

The object labelled as 259 on the upper left of this image may be found under the Te Papa catalog number ME000259, and is listed as being of bone, the gift of Miss Shand, 1896.

The object labelled ME11304 on the lower left may be found under the Te Papa catalog number ME011304, and is described there as being made from a tooth, with dimensions 75 x 80 x 12 mm, the gift of Lady Kinsey and Mrs Moore, 1936.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Display, Te Papa Museum, Wellington
Additional text: http://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/Object/128179
http://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/object/103799




Moriori god figure Moriori god figure Moriori god figure

Tuwhatu (?), Moriori god figure.

This pumice atua figure was found in a tree on Rēkohu (Chatham Islands) and is believed to represent Tangaroa, god of the sea. Fish and other offerings were placed before it which, along with other rituals, ensured success in food gathering.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Display, Te Papa Museum, Wellington




clubs

These ceremonial clubs have an elegant shape which is distinctively Moriori. They look like albatrosses, or perhaps seals, which are both very important to the Moriori.

Moriori still wear albatross plumes with pride. To voyage to the offshore islands where the birds nest, and to climb the towering, rocky cliffs to gather hopo (albatross) chicks as a special food, used to be a critical test of skill, strength, and courage for young Moriori men. But for meat, and also skins for clothing, Moriori relied on the large herds of seals in the area.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Display, Te Papa Museum, Wellington




adzes
Adzes

The distinctive style of Moriori adzes supports Moriori tradition, which says there was no contact between Rēkohu (Chatham Islands) and Aotearoa for many generations, until outsiders arrived two centuries ago.

But there is a mystery involved. Hundreds of beautiful Moriori adzes are known, and there exists a large area where they were made - but why so many?

These days, timber is scarce on Rēkohu, and surviving wood carvings are rare. There are oral histories of very large canoes or dugout waka. Is there a piece missing from the jigsaw puzzle of Moriori history?

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Display, Te Papa Museum, Wellington




wooden stakes wooden stakes




Moriori whare

These planks of akeake, Olearia traversii, stood upright, side by side, at the front of a house on Rēkohu. This style of building was unique in the Pacific. Also unique are many of the carving patterns and motifs, providing further evidence of the distinctiveness of Moriori culture.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Display, Te Papa Museum, Wellington




References

  1. Donne, T., 1927: The Maori Past and Present, London, Seely Services Co.
  2. Hornell, J., 1946: Water Transport Origins & Early Evolution, republished by Cambridge University Press, 12 Feb 2015 376 pp.


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