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Samoan Material Culture

The Small Dugout Canoe

The Small Dugout Canoe

The paopao dugout is in active general use throughout the group for fishing or transport inside the reef and is an indispensible part of every male adult's equipment in life. In fine weather, they are used in alafanga fishing with the paala hook trolled from a line outside the reef. (See Pl. XXXVIII, A.)

The timber for the hull is papaongo, pipi, fau, 'ulu, tamanu, and mosooi. A tree with a trunk of suitable size is selected in the forest, cut down and roughly shaped to lessen the weight. The stern end is invariably shaped to a knob with a constricted neck. Around the neck, a rope is tied with which to haul it to the village. While at Tau, a roughly shaped hull of tamanu was floated round from the village of Amouli, a few miles away. Two men accompanied it, without a canoe, but simply swimming beside it and propelling it in that manner outside the reef. Opposite the channel at Tau, one of them swam in with the end of the rope which was tied to the constricted neck described. The villagers went down and assisted in hauling it in by the rope page 373as there is an outward set through the channel which the primitive method of propulsion used could not overcome.

The hull was subsequently dubbed out at Tau with short-handled steel adzes. After the outside of hull, bow, and stern had been shaped, the hold (liu) was hollowed out. The process of hollowing out the solid trunk in one piece (fu'e fua) is in contradistinction to hollowing out the inner side of the planks of a plank canoe (fufu'e). The shape and the amount hollowed out is guided by experience. When hollowing the hold, the carpenter often taps the side of the hull with his knuckles to judge by the sound if more wood should be removed. He hollows down until by percussion he gets the normal note of the required thickness. The shape of the hull of a Savaii paopao is shown in figure 219.

Figure 219.—Paopao canoe, 16 feet, 8 inches in length:

Figure 219.—Paopao canoe, 16 feet, 8 inches in length:

a, width between outer edges in inches; the projecting part of the bow (1) is 12 inches long and the similar part of the stern (2) much shorter. The width of 4.5 inches at either end gradually increases to 14.5 inches in the middle. The upper edge on either side has an inside thicker flange (3) for the middle 7.5 feet. The inside flange to strengthen the upper edge for the support of outrigger booms lashed through holes made below the flange, is a constant feature. b, Longitudinal section through middle line, showing inside depth of the hold. The shallow forward bow projection (1) running back to a bluff almost vertical descent (4) to the keel part is characteristic. The hollowing of the hold slopes back from the bow leaving a solid part (5) for resisting the waves. The bow slope meets the deepest part of the hold (14 inches). The hold slopes back to 12.75 inches in the middle and to nothing at the stern. The long upward sloping stern ends in a knob (2) with a constricted neck derived from the hauling knob on the log and retained as a characteristic feature.

In preparing the log, the removal of the wood to clear the upper edges of the canoe leaves a plane surface which is above the greatest diameter of the log. In further shaping the log, though the ends are narrowed to form the bow and stern, the middle part of the hull retains the original contour of the log. In excavating the hold, the dubbing out in the middle part thus follows to some extent the original curved circumference of the log with the result that the greatest width of the hold is below the upper edges. This is a characteristic feature of the Samoan paopao but naturally where the hull narrows towards the ends, the greatest width works upwards to the upper edges. The narrowing of the hold at the upper edges has been held by some writers to be so characteristic of Melanesian dugouts as to form a diagnostic point of page 374difference to Polynesian canoes but figure 220 illustrates that the narrowing is due to the use of small logs which affects the technique of both races.

The solid parts of the bow and stern that project beyond the edge of the hold vary in length. In a Tutuilan canoe 15 feet long, the solid bow was 17 inches in length and the stern 7.5 inches. In some canoes, the upper surface of the solid bow and stern parts were in the same plane as the upper edges of the sides, while in others the edges were cut down at a slight slope fore and aft to place the canoe edges at a lower plane.

Figure 220.—Cross sections of log and canoe hull:

Figure 220.—Cross sections of log and canoe hull:

a, cross section of log, showing greatest diameter (1) below the surface (2) adzed off to form upper edges of the canoe; b, section through middle of a Tutuila canoe, 15 feet long, with inside depth in middle of 11.5 inches; the greatest width (3) corresponds to the greatest diameter of the log and is 4 inches greater than that at the upper edges (4); the inside flanges (5) are also shown.

Many of the Savaii canoes were ornamented with rectangular knobs projecting upwards in the mesial line at the bow and stern. Additional ornamentation was formed by cutting nicks in the upper edges on the inner side of the solid bow and stern parts. (See fig. 221.)

Figure 221.—Paopao canoe ornamentation:

Figure 221.—Paopao canoe ornamentation:

a and b, raised knobs; c, serrated edge: a, upper surface of bow, 8 inches long, four knobs (1) in middle line, each not quite 2 inches long, 1 inch wide, 0.75 high, four-sided with inward slope forming smaller upper surface. Note downward slope (2) from bow piece to upper edge of side. b, Stern of same canoe as (a), length of stern upper surface, 9 inches, four rectangular knobs (1) in middle line, raised stern hauling knob (3) 3.25 inches wide and 3.25 inches deep. c, Bow with four knobs (1) in mesial line of bow, raised serrations (4) behind bow formed by leaving the upper edges a little raised and cutting "V"-shaped nicks.

The occasional knob ornamentation of paopao canoes follows the orthodox treatment of bonito canoes in which the knobs form stands for pule shells. As such shells were not easily obtained in Samoa, it is improbable that they were used in the paopao canoe.

Topsides. The typical dugout paopao has no added topsides (gunwale) or oa. In Leone and other parts, however, topsides 2 inches deep had been page 375added but the method is not characteristic. There is nothing, however, to bind a carpenter down to a set rule. If he feels that topsides would improve his canoe, he simply adds them in the manner to be described on page 390.

As the canoe is for use within the calm lagoon, bow and stern covers to roof over parts of the hold and prevent waves breaking in are not necessary and consequently are not used.

The outrigger. The outrigger structure consists of two cross booms ('iato), a float (ama), and connecting pegs (tu'itu'i). (See Pl. XXXVIII, A.)

The booms. These are preferably of milo wood. In the 15-foot paopao from Leone the fore boom was 4 feet, 6 inches long and the aft boom an inch longer. The aft boom was lashed across the gunwales 2 feet 9 inches from the commencement of the hold at the stern, and the fore boom, 3 feet 9 inches from the bow commencement of the hold. There was thus 6 feet 5 inches between the two booms.

In the typical paopao single fair-sized holes are bored through the sides of the canoe just below the inside upper flange, or about an inch below the edge and directly below the booms. The method of lashing is described on page 393.

The float. This is made of fau and is 10 feet 6.5 inches long, sharpened at the fore end and cut off square an inch behind the aft peg connections of the aft boom. The vertical distance between the upper surface of the float and the under surface of the fore boom was 12 inches and between float and aft boom 7 inches. The float was selected from a pole of appropriate size and usually receives no trimming except at the pointed fore end. In this particular canoe two flat upper side surfaces were trimmed to form a mesial upper ridge between them. The float was approximately parallel with the middle line of the canoe.

The above measurements give an approximate idea of the canoe for comparative purposes. As will be seen in describing the more elaborate bonito canoe, measurements were not made beforehand, but the set of the outrigger was judged by eye and after lashing the parts together the superfluous ends were cut off.

The connecting pegs. These are of two types; separate pegs, and the branched boom. Separate pegs consist of two pairs to each boom. They are made of ironwood rods a little over half an inch thick. The inner pair are connected with the float by pointed ends stuck into' holes on the upper surface of the float to the canoe side of the middle line of its long axis. The upper ends incline inwards, one on either side of the boom to which they are lashed. The outer pair are fixed similarly below to the outer side of the middle line of the float, and above they incline outwards to embrace the boom to which they are lashed together. Below, the two sets of holes are between 1 and 2 inches apart across the middle line. The individual members of each pair are page 376roughly about the same distance apart on the float as they are on the boom; namely, something between 2 and 2.5 inches. They may be a little wider apart below but it is characteristic of this type to have lower ends of the same pair not widely diverged on the float. The holes in the float are about an inch deep.

The booms are perfectly straight so the connecting pegs fill the distance between the booms and the level at which the float is placed. In most of the paopao examined for this feature, the outer pair of connecting pegs are longer than the inner pair on the same boom. This is not so noticeable with the aft boom, where the distance between the boom and the float is shorter. Thus in the paopao from Tutuila, with an aft vertical depth of 8 inches between boom and float, the outer pair of pegs was 15 inches long, and the inner 14 inches, a difference of only one inch. With the foreboom, however, where the vertical depth between boom and float was 14.5 inches, the outer pair of pegs was 22 inches long as against the 18 inches of the inner pair—a difference of 4 inches. In the bonito canoe, as we shall see, the inner and outer pairs are usually of the same length, so the difference in the common paopao may be due to less careful work. As stated, the relative position between float and boom is decided without the pegs. The pegs are afterwards lashed on to maintain the relative position, and one craftsman may merely place them against the boom and lash them in position without considering the other pair; another craftsman, after fixing the inner pair, may measure the outer pair by laying them against the inner pair and so arrive at equal lengths and equal angles. The relation of the upper ends of the outer pair of pegs to the outer end of the boom does not come into consideration. There is no fixed outer end to the boom until the upper ends of the outer pair are lashed to the boom. The outer part of the boom is then cut off 4 inches to the outer side of the lashing. This, however, may be after technique due to sharper tools.

The complementary lashing. The peg type of connection keeps the float off at the proper distance but, owing to the insecure connection below, something is needed to keep boom and float from coming apart. This additional connection, by lashing with braid, is complementary to the peg connection. It is easy to pass turns of braid vertically round both boom and float but if the turns are taken under the float, they will be subjected to much wear and tear, as the canoe is dragged up on the reef or shallow parts within the lagoon. In the paopao canoe, therefore, the braid lashing must not pass under the float. To obviate this, a transverse hole is bored through under the median ridge on the upper surface of the float. This is the reason for shaping the upper surface of a paopao float. If it is not shaped, then a hole must be bored downwards and inwards on either side of the middle line to meet. Through the hole, a number of turns of braid are passed which loop over the boom, the hole being directly under the boom. After sufficient turns, transverse turns page 377are taken round the descending and ascending limbs of the lashing and knotted. The lashing, which is called li, thus keeps the float attached to the boom and by passing through a hole through the upper surface of the float, is saved from wear on its under surface. The details of lashing the pegs to the boom are described on page 398.

The branched boom. This is of milo selected with a small branch of the right size to form a connecting peg. The lower end of the branch is sharpened and inserted firmly in a hole made in the upper surface of the float. An example was seen at Tutuila but the presence of a complementary braid lashing was overlooked. In the Cook Islands, a similar type of boom connection prevails, but complementary braid lashings are always used with it. The branched boom was not noticed outside of Tutuila.

The seat. The paopao is a one-man canoe. A seat (nofoanga) about 6 inches wide is dubbed out of any convenient wood and the outer ends usually cut away on the under surface to fit over the gunwale of the canoe and so lock it into position. When a man hauls up his canoe, he usually picks up the seat and carries it into his house together with his paddle. The position of the seat is in front of the aft boom. The canoe will of course hold two in an emergency, but the gunwale edge comes down to the water line. For more than one the larger soatau dugout was made. A longitudinal pole is sometimes tied to both booms towards their outer ends.

The float is deeper forward in construction, but when the canoe is in the water with the weight of the occupant more astern, the aft part of the canoe sinks down and the float is then level in the water as the bow part of the hull is further out of the water.

The outline of the hull in a well made canoe is regular. Most paopao not so regular, may look very badly made as the side edges are often twisted to one side or the other. Much of this irregularity may depend on the timber, or on the individual craftsmen. The paopao canoes are made by the householders who are not expert carpenters. A master builder while enumerating the canoes made by the carpenters' guild omitted the paopao. On my mentioning it, he smiled and said, "The paopao is not a canoe." Neither is it from the expert point of view. In the eyes of the guild they rank with the cooking houses and are beneath their dignity to build. Hence, unskilled labor gets employment to its own content for no one would pay the price of skilled labor for either paopao or cooking house.

Rod rests. In Savaii, a good deal of rod fishing for smaller fish takes place inside the reef. A forked rest is lashed to the fore boom together with a connecting peg to carry the far end of the rod while the butt end rests on the aft boom. A feature of these rests was that the fork was much higher than the bonito rod rest, one measured with a double fork having the forks 20 and 29 inches respectively above the boom.