The Maori Canoe
The Rauawa, or Top-strake
The Rauawa, or Top-strake
Another form of the name of the top-strake is rauoa. Mr. R. H. Matthews states that "This plank is called oa when free, but rauoa when fastened in position." The Rev. R. Taylor has pahua as a page 117name for the rauawa, but apparently there is no corroboration of this.
As an old timber-worker the writer has long been puzzled as to how the Maori succeeded in splitting logs with wooden wedges or, rather, to be precise, how he managed to enter the points of his wooden wedges, for that would be a difficult part of the process. page 118The following note, taken from the account of the sojourn of Captain Wallis at Tahiti in 1767, explains an ingenious method of entering such wedges that was probably known to and employed by the Maori of New Zealand: "The tree is first felled with a kind of hatchet or adze, made of a hard greenish stone, fitted very completely into a handle; it is then cut into such lengths as are required for the plank, one end of which is heated until it begins to crack, and then with wedges of hardwood they split it down: some of these planks are 2 ft. broad, and from 15 ft. to 20 ft. long." The small entering - wedges (pipi) would be inserted in such cracks.
In olden times, says a native informant, sea-going canoes are said to have had several side-boards, fastened one above the other. This seems to refer to canoes made in the isles from which the ancestors of the Maori came. But the double side-board was occasionally used here—i.e., two rauawa, one above the other. A canoe so fitted is said to have been seen at Nukutaurua about the middle of last century.
In D'Urville's illustrations of the Maori canoe appear two representations of superior figureheads attached to hulls. In both cases two strakes are shown attached to the hull. Inasmuch, however, as only the fore part of the hulls is depicted, it is possible that the upper attachment was merely a fore wash-strake and not a continued one.
The word oa denotes the top-strake of a canoe in Samoan, and it occurs in the Melanesian area. The term appears as araoa at Tahiti, apparently, while the form rauawa appears to be a variant form of rauoa.
In his account of the natives of the island of Tana, New Hebrides Group, Cook describes the local method of securing the top-strake of a canoe as being the same as that employed by the Maori: "These canoes were of unequal sizes, some thirty feet long, two broad, and three deep, and they are composed of several pieces of wood clumsily sewed together with bandages. The joints are covered on the outside by a thin batten champered off at the edges, over which the bandages pass. They are navigated either by paddles or sails. The sail is latteen, extended to a yard and boom, and hoisted to a short mast. Some of the large canoes have two sails, and all of them outriggers."
In speaking of the kumara, or sweet potato, as seen at the Bay of Islands, Wilkes remarks: "The missionaries stated that the natives have a remarkable tradition in relation to this root—namely, that it was first brought to the Island in canoes of a different construction from their own, and composed of pieces of wood sewed together." This may possibly refer to Polynesian canoes, many of which are made of a great number of small planks lashed together. On the other hand, all superior Maori canoes had at least one attached strake.
Of some canoes seen at Queen Charlotte Sound in 1773 Forster writes: "The bottom of these canoes consisted of a long hollow trunk of a tree, and the sides were made of several boards or planks above each other, which were united by means of a number of strings of the New Zealand flax-plant, passed through small holes, and tied very fast. The seams between them are caulked with the downy or woolly substance of the reed mace [raupo]." This certainly page 120reads as though canoes with more than one top-strake were seen here; the phrase "above each other" seems to be exact.
The adding of side-boards was practised in Burmah, where war-boats 80 ft. to 100 ft. long, and up to 8 ft. in width, were seen in 1800; it was also employed by the Indians of Guiana.
In his description of the Maori method of lashing of side-boards, Colonel Lane Fox remarks that "such a mode of constructing canoes might serve well enough for river navigation, but would be unserviceable for sea craft." This was on account of such vessels being rarely watertight. It is clear that a certain amount of bailing was necessary in the Maori canoe, unless perhaps when the sea was calm; but the holes were carefully caulked, and vessels so fashioned made long voyages across the Pacific.
A description of methods employed in attaching top-strakes, as given by Tuta Nihoniho, now follows: The niao (gunwale) of the hull is flat on top, and the bottom of the top-strake is made flat to fit down closely on it. Ere the top-strake was finally placed on the niao, strips of the dried butt ends of the raupo bulrush were laid along the top of the gunwale, and kept in position with light temporary ties of green Phormium leaf passed through the lashing-holes. Then the top-strake is put in position. This great plank is not of a uniform width or depth throughout, being wider in the middle than at the two ends. This is so that it will fit on to the gunwale of the hull by conforming to its sheer. The top-strake is straight-hewn as viewed from above, hence when placed in position the middle part only is resting on the niao (gunwale) of the hull; the two ends are some distance out from the hull, owing to the hull being contracted at both ends, whereas the top-strake is straight. In order to draw in the two ends of the long plank it is first securely lashed to the hull in the middle, and a temporary piece of timber is placed across inside the canoe between the two top-strakes, the one on the other side having been fixed in a similar way. The ends of this cross-piece are butted against the two top-strakes so as to keep them in position. Other such temporary cross-pieces are inserted as required. When the fitting of the canoe is finished such temporary cross-pieces are removed. At each end of each strake a post is set in the ground near the side of the canoe, and at each a rope is tied to the post, passed round the end of the strake, brought back to the post, and secured. (See fig. 36, p. 121.) A twitch-stick is then used as a tourniquet, placed between the two ropes, and turned round and round so as to twist the ropes together, which has the effect of drawing in the end of the strake and jamming the cross-pieces in position, and allowing of more lashings to be inserted and secured. page 121These lashings are merely temporary ties that serve to hold the strake in position while the permanent lashing, a tedious process, is being done; the former are then removed. The temporary lashings are put about every 3 ft., but the permanent lashings are much closer together: those of the "Heke-rangatira" canoe, in the Dominion Museum, are 9 in. apart.
But prior to the lashing being done the two sets of battens laid to cover the join of top-strake and hull, outside and inside, are placed in position, because the lashings are passed over both battens (kaho) and hold them in position.
Before applying the tourniquet process to draw in the ends of the top boards, the first part of that labour might be performed by means of fastening ropes to the two ends, passing such ropes across the canoes, when two parties of men tail on to the ropes and haul in different directions. When all possible advantage has been gained by this method then recourse is had to the mechanical process above described whereby to complete the task.
When the permanent lashings of the top-strake are all fixed, that timber is firm and rigid as though it were a part of the hull; while the lashing on the thwarts, especially when they were scarfed and the shoulders butted against the inside of the two top boards, caused them to act as so many stalwart braces, and the vessel became as rigid as though hewn out of a single log.
The haumi might be looked upon as the weakest part of any canoe fitted with that item; but it must be borne in mind that the salvation of the haumi is represented by the two heavy top-strakes so firmly attached to it and the main part of the hull, and that the lashing of the haumi to the main part of the hull is quite a minor safeguard. Also, however long the canoe, in no case would there be any join in the top-strake anywhere near the join of the haumi. In the con-construction of any item on such lines the vital process is to break joints. When primordial man evolved the art of breaking joints he had indeed wrought better than he knew. The Maori recognized the advantage of the above process as clearly as do the bricklayer and the stonemason.
The kowhao, or lashing-holes, are then caulked with tahunga (syn. hune and tahune), the pappus of seeds of Typha angustifolia. This material is dipped in water and thrust into the hole, wherein it is tamped with a small stick struck with a light mallet.
The outside of the hull of a canoe is hewed to a smooth surface, so as to cause as little friction as possible. When fitted up, the outside of a high-class canoe was in former times painted a dull red with ochre mixed with oil.
The upper part of the sides of the dugout hull (termed niao by Tuta) is usually called the henga, the former name being reserved page 125for the true gunwale of the completed vessel—that is, the top of the top-strake. In this account the strips of raupo, or bulrush-leaf, are placed within the join, while in Mr. Matthews's description of fitting up a canoe they are placed outside, being arranged horizontally along the join-seam both outside and inside the canoe, where they are clamped and confined by the battens covering the join. The top-strakes were hewn out of clear, straight-grained timber, and the straight plank had to be bent when placed in position, to conform to the curve of the sides of the canoe. In this connection a passage from a work entitled Adventure in New Zealand, by E. J. Wakefield (London, 1845), may be here quoted. When Colonel Wakefield, his nephew, and "Dicky" Barrett visited Te Whare-pouri at Nga Uranga (Port Nicholson) in 1839 they found him busily engaged in hewing out a canoe. "The bottom [hull] of this vessel consisted of a single tree hollowed out, and was sixty feet long. The long planks to be added on to the sides were placed between pegs stuck into the ground so as to give them the requisite curvature." Unless these planks were so bent and confined when the timber was green, and allowed to remain until it was seasoned, it is not clear as to what advantage would be gained by this process. The tourniquet process (commonly termed, "twitching"), mentioned above, seems to be called manene in some places.
Williams gives taka as the name of the batten placed over the outside of the top-strake joint, and paewai as the inner one: also aukaha as both noun and verb—the lashing-cord employed in securing the top-strake, and the process of lashing with it.
The same authority gives tokai as the name for a "strip of wood covering the joints of a canoe," also of the pieces of wood that support the floor or deck of a canoe.
An old canoe in the Dominion Museum of the waka tete type is 49 ft. in length and 4 ft. in width in the middle. The two top-strakes are 9 in. wide, or deep, in the middle, and 5 in. at the ends. Each is composed of a single plank, the upper part of which is 1½ in. thick, but 2 in. below the thickness is reduced to 1 in. These planks extend to within 16 in. of the bow end of the canoe, and 12 in. of the stern end, leaving room for the prow and stern pieces to be fitted on. The outer battens covering the join are, however, continued to the very end of the hull, as was usual. The name of this canoe is "Waiapu." (See fig. 42.)
The top-strakes of "Te Heke Rangatira," the largest canoe in the Dominion Museum, are, unfortunately, not genuine, and do not represent any Maori form. They are 14 in. in width, and the (alleged) planks carry the same width throughout from stem to stern, which may represent a European top-strake but certainly not a Maori one. (See fig. 14, P. 63.) This canoe is now in the Canterbury Museum.
In volume 41 of the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute Dr. Newman describes a purupuru, or caulking-implement, found by a person when digging a drain at Taradale. It is of whalebone, page 128and shaped like an English marlinspike, being 14 in. long, and tapering off in a quadrilateral form, not in the round, for some part of its length. Another such implement, made of greenstone (nephrite), is said to have been seen.
Any leakage through the kowhao, or lashing-holes, is known as aurukowhao; and an old saying is He aurukowhao, apa he takerehaia (It is but leakage through the lashing-holes, it is not as though it were a split keel), which is uttered in reference to any minor trouble or accident.
Mr. White gives papatai as a specific name for "raupo put on the sides of a canoe," apparently under the batten. The covering battens are called tokai among some tribes, apparently, while Matthews, a northern writer, terms them pokai.page 129
White feathers of the albatross were used in decorating canoes, as for placing under the ties of the battens covering the joins of the top boards and hull. Such ornaments were not confined to the orthodox waka taua, but were also used on waka pitau, and sometimes fishing-canoes were so adorned. This note was given by Tuta Niho-niho, who thus describes the old method of adorning the black-painted outer batten by means of placing white seabird-feathers at each lashing, the quill ends being gripped by the cord. Tuta also seemed to recognize some difference between the waka taua and the waka pitau, terms which are generally supposed to be synonymous. As pitau is applied to a scroll, it is possible that the latter name was only applied to a canoe possessing that style of carved ornament, though it would also be a waka taua.
In the case of first-class canoes the outer side of the top-strake was adorned with carved designs, that known as manaia being a favoured one. Such carvings covered the wide lower part of the plank, while the outer side of the narrow and projecting upper part (tuangi) was carved with a different design, such as the pakura on "Te Heke Rangatira" canoe. The top-strake would finally be painted red with a paint composed of red ochre and oil.
Of some canoes seen at Whangarei in 1827 D'Urville writes: "We met the three canoes of Rangi, which were coming off. The largest was ornamented both fore and aft with plumes and tufts of hair, and the whole length of its topsides sculptured in bas-relief, painted in red, often enriched with shell, the whole executed in the best New Zealand taste."
Nicholas, writing in 1815, has the following: "The canoe … was very handsome, the head and stern being curiously ornamented with rich carving, and embellished with the feathers of the emu, parrots, and other birds. The bottom part of the canoe was made out of one tree excavated to the necessary length: and the sides were raised by planks, making the depth about two feet. The planks were fastened page 130to the sides of the bottom part with strong cord, holes being bored above and below, about six inches apart, and the intermediate space filled with down of the bullrush, which was no bad substitute. I estimated the length of the canoe at thirty feet, and the breadth was four feet six inches between the gunwales. All their canoes are generally built on the same plan, differing only in dimensions and certain adventitious embellishments."
The emu-feathers must have been absent, and parrot-feathers would apparently be a rarity, as connected with canoe-adornment. If only 30 ft. in length the craft was a very diminutive one for a waka taua.
The top-strake is usually called rauawa; Te Rangi-hiroa says, sometimes awa (see Dominion Museum Bulletin No. 3, pp. 92-99). In the dialect of Niue, or Savage Island, we find oa as the name of the top-strake, and also at Mangaia, in the Cook Group.
The Maori method of securing the top-strake of a canoe, as shown in the diagram, was that practised in eastern Polynesia, whence it was introduced into New Zealand. In the western region of Polynesia, however, a different method obtained in some islands, for these folk had borrowed the Fijian mode of attaching the strakes. (See fig. 45.) This was so at the Tongan, Samoan, and Ellice Groups. In this method the planks and hull were not pierced with holes, hence no lashing appeared on the outer side, and no batten was used. On the inner side of each plank the hewers, in dressing them with the adze, left cants or raised rims on the edges, and one was formed on the inside of the top of the hull. When the plank was placed in position on the top of the hull the two projecting rims were in close contact, and holes were made through these for the lashing-cords to be passed. Thus the inner rims of the planks were lashed together, no lashing passing through the body of the plank itself. Many of the island canoes were built up in carvel fashion by attaching several tiers of planks to a low dugout hull, all fastened together in the manner described. There is no proof that this method was ever employed by the Maori of New Zealand.
H. Hamilton, photo
The intention of the writer of this paper was to collect illustrations of the development of the built-up ribbed boat as exemplified in many parts of the Pacific; also of the development of the decked vessel, the cabin: with different forms of paddles, of prow projection, of methods of securing outrigger floats, &c. All this interesting comparative work has had to be abandoned owing to the long postponement of the preparation of illustrations.
In this account there is no evidence that any method of interior-rim lashing was employed by Tahitians. Ellis, in his detailed description of Tahitian canoes, shows that the planks were lashed together in the Maori method.
Colonel Lane Fox also quotes Wallace in his statement that the natives of the Ke Islands, west of New Guinea, employed the raised-rim method of fastening planks: "The planks here, as in the Polynesian Islands, are all cut out of the solid wood, with a series of projecting ledges on their edges on the inside. But here we find an advance upon the Polynesian system, for the ledges of the planks are pegged to each other with wooden pegs." In referring to Wallace's work, however, we find that no mention is made of any flange, cant, or raised rim formed on the edges of the planks that form the built-up sides of these canoes. There is a series of projecting pieces left along the centre of each plank, to which the ribs are lashed, but these ribs are not inserted until after the side-planks are secured in position. These side-planks are fastened together by wooden trunnels driven into holes bored in the edges of the planks—apparently a butt joint, though this is not made clear in Wallace's account. The available evidence does not make the matter clear.
A model of an outrigger canoe of the Gilbert Group shows the lashing of the haumi joins and of the successive strakes as passed right through the planks, and the lashing shows on the outside in all cases. (See fig. 47.) A number of ribs are neatly arranged inside the hull, and the side-planks are secured to these knees by means of lashing passed through the planks and showing on the outside. The hull is a small one, and is composed of three pieces.
An interesting outrigger canoe of Manihiki Isle in the Dominion Museum shows two modes of joining and lashing. The hull, which is page 134in three pieces, is lashed as in the case of the Gilbert Island craft. The three planks composing the top-strake are butt-joined and lashed in a similar manner. But the joining of the hull and top-strake shows no lashings on the outside, the connection being made by means of an extremely ingenious and neat rim or cant lashing. In this small craft we have illustrations of both methods. (See fig. 150, p. 294.)
A curious mode of attaching the top-strake of the canoe of Niue, or Savage Island, is described by Te Rangi-hiroa in Dominion Museum Bulletin No. 3: "This board is known as the oa, and corresponds to the Maori rauawa, or awa, as it is often called. The lower edge of the oa is grooved, and the inner lip, which is elongated, and projects downwards, is drilled for lashing to the hull, the holes thus not showing on the outer surface of the oa. The groove of the oa is known as the kaupuoa." No information is to hand as to whether or not this method is employed at other islands. In some notes on a model canoe from Mangaia, in the Cook Group, published in the same work it is stated that the top-strake is called oa, while in a canoe-hull formed of two pieces the foremost one is called aumi, both of which are Maori names.
Dr. Elmore informs us that a curious method of fastening together the side-boards of a canoe is practised in the Solomon Group. These vessels are carvel-built, and the edges of each plank are chamfered or bevelled off so as to leave a slot like a shallow V along each join, on both sides. In order to lash these planks together holes are bored near the edges, and cords passed through as in Maori vessels. No covering batten seems to be employed, but after the lashing is completed the long groove of each join, on both sides, is filled up with a tenacious gum, presumably a vegetable product, this gum projecting somewhat as a slight ridge all along the seams.
Interesting reference to canoes are met with in old native traditions. Thus in the legend of Rata we note the following remarks concerning the making of his canoe. This occurred in Polynesia, whence that vessel is said to have made a long voyage to a far land:—
Na, ka mahia te waka, a ka oti te tarai te haumi, te kei, te ihu, nga rauawa. Ka oti nga taumanu, te tauihu, te rapa, me te karaho, te puneke o te ihu, te utuutu-matua, te whakarei o te kei, nga mea katoa mo te waka taua; nga korewa, nga ta wai, nga hoe, nga whiti, nga tokotu, nga huapae, nga ra, nga taura, nga punga e rua, whakawhenua, nga punga korewa, nga toko waka, nga hoe whakaara o te ihu, nga hoe whakatere o te kei.
(Now was made the canoe; the haumi, the stern, the bow, the top-strakes were hewn out. Completed were the thwarts, the figurehead, the stern-piece and the flooring, the puneke of the bow, the utuutu-matua, page 135whakarei of the stern, all things pertaining to the war-canoe; the out-rigger floats, the bailers, the paddles, the awning cross-rods, the awning stanchions, the longitudinal spars, the sails, the cordage, the two ground-anchors, the sea-anchors, the canoe-poles, the lifting-oars of the bow, the steer-oars of the stern.)
Here we have evidence that the vessel was an outrigger canoe provided with a mahau, or awning. (See fig. 48, p. 136.) The whakarei of the stern is mentioned as though it were a different item to the stern-piece (rapa). Puneke is apparently a variant of punake. The reciter omitted some items, as the outrigger booms, &c. Huapae is usually applied to the fore-and-aft spars lashed across the booms, and parallel with hull and float. In another account we find "Ka oti te tamau rawa nga hokai me nga huapae" ("The making-fast of the booms and longitudinal spars was completed").
As for the utuutu-matua, the term matua is applied to the deepest part of the hull of a canoe, and it is possible that the above term denotes the bailing-place at that part. Utu signifies "to dip up." A remark in the first volume of White's Ancient History of the Maori tends to support this view: "Rata went to the plug of the utuutu-matua and pulled it out" (see page 67, Maori part.) The translation of this passage at page 77 of the English part is misleading.
At the risk of being tedious, another extract from tradition is given below, as recited by Te Matorohanga some fifty years ago:—
Mana e rangahua mai he tohunga tarai whakarei tere moana, haumi, rauawa tu tahi, tu rua, tu toru, tu wha, me nga pairi, me nga karawhi, me nga paewai, me nga huapae, me nga tokotu, me nga taumanu, me nga karaho, me te tauihu, me te rapa, me te haumi o te ihu, me te haumi tauaro o te kei, me te kauhora takapau, me nga torowhiti, me nga kauawhi o te mahau whakarei, me nga korewa, me nga tataa, e rua pae wai, e rua tataa tarawai, me nga turuturu kauawhi o nga rauawa, me era atu whakarawe o te waka pairi e oti ai te kauhora i te Moana nui a Kiwa…. nga uhirau, me te kauawhi pehi o runga o nga torowhiti, te whakarei kauhora moana, me nga punga whakawhenua e rua, me nga punga korewa e rua, me nga punga terewai e rua, kia kotahi mo te kei, kia kotahi mo te ihu, hei punga tutoro. Ko nga hoe whakatere e rua, me nga hoe whakaara o te ihu o te waka, me nga hoe whakaumu, me nga hoe tairanga—ma ratau enei e mahi mai.
(His the task of seeking experts at hewing out ocean-sailing vessels— hull-extensions, single, double, triple, and quadruple side-boards and wash-strakes, and ribs, and battens, and the longitudinal spars, and the stanchions (or masts), and the thwarts, and the flooring-timbers, and the figurehead, and the stern-piece, and the fore haumi, and the after haumi; and [making] the flooring-mats, and the awning roof-rods, and the awning-battens, and the outriggers, and the bailers (two small and two large), and the side-board supports, and other fittings of the waka pairi… the awning-coverings and the battens on the cross-rods, the whakarei kauhora moana, and two ground or holding anchors, and the page 136two sea-anchors, and the two sounding-weights (one for the stern and one for the bow) to sound with, and the two steering-oars, and the two lifting-oars of the bow of the canoe, and the whakaumu paddles, and the tairanga paddles—theirs be the task of making.)
The reference to side-boards as being double, triple, &c, is interesting, and a common usage in Polynesia. The karawhi and turuturu are said to be forms of ribs or braces inside the hull, to which the side-boards were attached. The term tokotn was applied to the stanchions supporting the awning-roof, but masts are sometimes so named. Haumi tauaro is a new expression to me. Torowhiti, whiti, and whiti tu seem to be all names applied to the curved rods supporting the awning. Of the two series of kauawhi mentioned, one appears to be the light roof-battens of the awning, but the other is as yet unexplained; they may have been tatarni, or clamping-rods secured outside the uhirau, or awning-mats. The expression whakarei kau-hora moana is unknown to me, and whakarei seems to carry some meaning other than those found in dictionaries. The punga terewai was a stone weight attached to a cord and used for sounding purposes, also to detect currents. The expressions whakaumu and tairanga imply deep and light paddling, and possibly were applied to paddles of different sizes.
In one account of the "Takitumu," a vessel that reached these isles from eastern Polynesia about five hundred years ago, it is said that "she was built up by means of six strakes," and this would mean that the true hull was very low-sided, a common feature of canoes of that region.
It is interesting to note references to the double outrigger in the extracts given above. There is some further evidence extant as to page 137its former use in Polynesia. For example see the Journal of the Polynesian Society, Vol. 32, p. 200, for a paper entitled "Did Polynesian Voyagers know the Double Outrigger?"