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Ethnology of Manihiki and Rakahanga



The old types of canoes have completely disappeared, even to the small dugouts used in fishing. The people are good artisans and quickly picked up the European methods of woodwork, with the result that imported sawn timber was used for making canoes. The craftsmen were no doubt influenced by the scarcity of timber in their own islands. The use of sawn planks influenced shape and technique, and the information obtained about the original types of canoes is scanty and inadequate. Missionary influence led to abandonment of the annual migrations between Manihiki and Rakahanga, page 147 and the old-time double canoes in which the voyages were made disappeared early as a consequence. Many models, however, of double canoes were made by the old men for sale or to give as presents, and some general idea of the shape of the hull and some of the technical details may be obtained from them.

The canoe hulls were made of tou and whano, the largest trees that grow locally. The tamanu, so much used in Cook Islands, did not grow on the two atolls. The outrigger booms were made of whano, the float of tou, and the connecting pegs between them were provided by the tough ngangie shrub. Although it is generally held that coconut wood is unsuitable for canoes, a small dugout hull of this wood was observed on Rakahanga. Sennit braid was used for the lashings and coconut husk for the calking. The bark of the ngahiu shrub, which fringes the shores of the islands, was used for plugging the lashing holes.