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The Maori Canoe.

We cull the following interesting particulars respecting Maori canoes from a paper on the subject by Mr. R. Barstow in the last volume of the “ Transactions of the New Zealand Institute” :—“ When a tree had been selected, either by an individual rangitira or a hapu who had determined to build a war canoe, it was first necessary that a sufficient stock of food to supply the workmen employed upon it should be available. If the tree grew in a place distant from the pah, a special cultivation as near as possible to the modus operand! might be made for the purpose, otherwise a patch of kumara, or other esculent was planted and set aside. Then the future canoe had to he draughted ; certain naval architects were the Symons and Reeds of their day, and were fetched from a distance to design a craft which was required to possess extra speed, and many a the elders took place over the prepared model, ere the shape was finally settled. When stone axes and fire were the only means of felling the tree, the task of bringing down a totara four or five feet through must have been tedious. The first iron hatchets used were those procured from Captain Cook, and those obtained a century ago when Marion’s crew were ashore and slaughtered while getting out a spar. Probably it was not until 30 years later that iron axes became sufficiently abundant to supersede those of stone entirely. Some care was needed that the tree in falling should not be broken or shaken. An accident of this kind is by no means uncommon, and many fine spars are now lost in this way. The destruction of a specially large tree after the labor of felling it must have indeed been a calamity. When an outlying tree of sufficient scantling could be found, it was preferred to one forest grown, as British shipwrights consider hedge grown better than plantation oak ; yet in most instances the totara or kauri tree stood in the forest miles from the sea, and so far from cultivations that relays of women are needed to carry up provisions fpr the work people ; a road for hauling out by would also need preparing ; secrecy, too, was often needed, for a hostile tribe would be only too glad either to attack the pah weakened by the absence of many of its men, or to surround and cut off the party while engaged at wox-k. At last, however, incessant labor has felled the tree, cross-cut the log, and dubbed down the side to somewhat near its destined shape, and fire and adze have partially hollowed out the hold, dry rewarewa wood being used for charring ; the amount of charring done at this stage depending upon the distance to which the canoe has to be hauled and the danger of its splitting on its journey. In peacable times there is a great feast, and all the friendly neighboring tribes contribute hands to haul' out, by dint of vines over rollers or skids, the weighty mafia. The workmen pull together over the sleepers to the songs of the women. It is not always fated to reach the water. At the foot of Wairere Hill, in Wangaroa Harbor, there lay, some years ago two sides of a mighty canoe which had been fashioned on the elevated plateau above the bay. Whilst a party of some thirty slaves were engaged in lowering it down the steep hill-side, a vine broke, and the canoe rushed headlong to the bottom,

■; n ; i'roui end to end A cry of de»r : ..! tiie slaves brought ,„• r 0 • .uid iusr.-v 11. ■ ..c ...1 : ilclcd > -•- ‘ <->.« _un.uc.-y slaves i c iLeir :w;le -i. or ..lisfutune.

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Permanent link to this item

http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AG18791202.2.26

Bibliographic details

The Maori Canoe., Ashburton Guardian, Volume I, Issue 29, 2 December 1879

Word Count
623

The Maori Canoe. Ashburton Guardian, Volume I, Issue 29, 2 December 1879

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