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The Atoll of Funafuti, Ellice group : its zoology, botany, ethnology and general structure based on collections made by Charles Hedley of the Australian Museum, Sydney, N.S.W.

Simple Fish-hooks

Simple Fish-hooks.

Of the old-fashioned hooks carved in one piece no actual specimens exist to-day on Funafuti. A few of bone and pearl shell, which had survived till our visit, were carried away by the Expedition, and I am partly dependent for my information upon models of extinct types made for me by old men.

An old type, the "matou tifa,"* which I saw in the possession of a native, but failed to procure, is figured (fig. 30) from a pencil drawing made on the spot. It was of pearl shell, about two inches in diameter and a third of an inch thick. So excessive is the curvature that the inner margin describes three-quarters of a circle. The base is expanded to afford a grasp for the fishing-line, the tip is tapered gradually to a sharp point, distant a third of the circumference from which is a sharp backwardly directed barb.
Fig. 30.

Fig. 30.

Such hooks were seen by Captain Cook in Tahiti, and the manufacture of them he thus describes:—"The manner of making them is very simple, and every fisherman is his own artificer: the shell is first cut into square pieces, by the edge of another shell, and wrought into a form corresponding with the outline of the hook by pieces of coral, which are sufficiently rough to perform the office of a file; a hole is then bored in the middle, the drill being no other than the first stone they pick up that has a sharp corner: this they fix into the end of a piece of bamboo, and turn it between the hands like a chocolate mill; when the shell is perforated, and the hole sufficiently wide, a small file of coral is introduced, by the application of which the hook in a short time is completed, few costing the artificer more than a quarter of an hour." Finsch gives a description which corresponds with Cook's, and illustrates his remarks with diagrams of half-made hooks from Nukuor in the Carolines.

* In Mariner's Tongan Vocabulary, fist-hook is "matow."

Cook—loc. cit., p. 219.

Finsch—loc. cit., p. 333, pl. iii. figs. 9, a., b.

page 266
Another antique form, called simply "tifa," of which I was fortunately able to secure an authentic example, is shown by fig. 31. It is osseous, formed probably from the carapace of a turtle, a third of an inch thick, and an inch and a half in diameter, and weighs two drachms forty-nine grains. I was informed that such hooks were occasionally made of hard coral. From the preceeding it differs in the shape and position of the barb. When the hook lies before the observer, with the barb pointing downwards, the hook has somewhat the form of a C. A hook of this type is figured from Fakaafu by Lister.* Hooks resembling this form are figured by Finsch, but here the ends are reversed, what forms the barb in the Ellice hook being the point of attachment of the fishing-line in the Caroline one, and vice versa. On the other hand various Tahitian hooks figured by Edge-Partingbon agree with mine. As Finsch remarks, it is difficult to understand how fish were caught with these blunt and clumsy hooks, but that they effectually served their purpose is certain.
Fig. 31.

Fig. 31.

A small comma-shaped tortoise shell hook is called "faba" in Funafuti. Though an inch in length, it is barely a millimetre thick, weighing three grains. The specimen figured (fig. 32) is a model of an extinct species, made for me on Funafuti. Though there are vague references in literature to small turtle shell hooks in the Pacific, I have not been able to find a figure or description corresponding to my specimens. Keate tells us that the Pelew Islanders made their fishing hooks of tortoise-shell, one of which he figures.§
Fig. 32.

Fig. 32.

Some of the hooks in the Australian Museum, wrought from turtle shell, show evidences of having been bent by heat, but the Funafuti ones seem to have been carved cold.

* Journ. Anthrop. Inst., xxi., 1892, pl. ix., fig. 2.

Finsch—loc. cit., pl. iii., figs. 5, 6, and 7.

Edge-Partington—loc. cit., ii., pl. xxi.

§ Keate—op. cit., p. 311, pl. ii., fig. 4.