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.
Men and women are equally proficient at this work, which is regarded as a pleasant light employment suitable to gossip over when detained indoors by inclement weather.
A hank of two-ply coconut cord from Funafuti, which weighs three and a half ounces, measures fourteen fathoms, the diameter of the cord is an eighth of an inch. This type is laid up tighter than others, and is the commonest pattern for general use, serving for twine and fishing-lines.
The two-ply cord, the most simple and wide-spread form of cordage, is probably the most primitive. The degraded natives of Tierra del Fuego made a two-ply cord of gut strands; a specimen of which in a shell necklace has been shown to me by the Hon. P. G. King, of this city, who procured it during the historical voyage of the "Beagle." The Australian Aborigines seem only to have known a two-ply cord, though they elaborated a complex form of it by rolling up a two-ply with another two-ply.
An ornamental form of two-ply cord is of a strand of human hair laid up with a strand of bark. Of this pattern is the string of the Funafuti dance armlet, The same pattern may be observed in the decoration of the elaborate dance masks of New Britain and of New Ireland, these masks also carry a variation of the same where a strand of red coloured bark is laid up with a strand of natural yellow bark.
A cord, not to be distinguished from the ordinary two-ply coir cord except by unravelling, was made in Hawaii, of three strands.
The treble stranded cord, "kafa," of Funafuti, is a flat braid, loosely twisted direct from the yarn and made large or small as page 290required (fig. 48). The especial use of this is for lashing woodwork, as in sewing together the planks of canoes or fastening the frames of houses. An identical cord is made in New Guinea. A hank from Funafuti of three-ply cord, weighing five and a half ounces, measures twenty-eight fathoms, in diameter it is three-sixteenths of an inch. Another example from a kafunga is half an inch broad.
Four strands are plaited, direct from the yarn, to make a round rope, "oukafakanapoua," (fig. 49) of especial strength, used for canoe rigging, deep-sea fishing, etc. This rope is very pliant and does not kink even when new. A hank of this from Funafuti, weighing one pound one ounce, contains thirty-two fathoms of cord a quarter of an inch in diameter. From the Gilbert Islands there are in the Australian Museum samples of human hair-cord woven in this pattern.
The most complex cord I have seen from the Pacific is a seven-stranded one from Hawaii. From the Marshall Islands Finsch described† a large rope laid by a curious mechanism upon a central core.
In the Ellice a rough rope, like our straw rope, was occasionally improvised from the natural matting which sheathes the budding palm fronds.
* Cook—loc. cit., i., p. 216.
† Finsch—Ann. K. K. Naturhist. Hofmus., vii., 1893, p. 158.