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Samoan Material Culture

The Lobster Pot Trap

The Lobster Pot Trap

The lobster pot type consists of rounded traps made of 'ie'ie aerial roots by single pair twining. The traps are set with the entrance on top. There are three variations of the trap; the fish pot, the crab pot, and the crayfish pot.

The fish pot (fanga i'a or fanga puapua'i). In eastern Samoa, the trap (Pl. XLII, C) used to catch vertebrate fish is termed fanga i'a (i'a, fish). In western Samoa it is always alluded to as fanga puapua'i. The term puapua'i means the smell of the newly disturbed coral sand and rocks such as is produced when the sea bottom is scooped out or cleared of small rocks to form a bed for the trap. The smell of the puapua'i attracts fish to the trap and causes them to enter in search of the food they expect to find in disturbed ground. The puapua'i itself is the bait and no material bait is used.

The prepared 'ie'ie (sala) is used. The straight warp elements (fa'atu) are single while the twining weft pair (ta'ainga) contains two single elements. As the entrance projects into the trap it has to be made first and the bottom last, which is the opposite to the tu'u'u trap described in figure 261.

Figure 261.—Fish trap (fanga i'a) single-pair twine:

Figure 261.—Fish trap (fanga i'a) single-pair twine:

a, The two single weft elements (1, 2) are tied together at one end with coconut fibre. A long strip of root (3) is placed between the weft elements at its middle and a half turn made around it. The end (3) of the long root forms the first warp. b, The lower end (4) of the long strip is bent upwards and placed between the weft elements. c, Another half turn is made with the weft elements and the warp (4) is fixed in position. A fresh warp (5) is placed in position between the weft elements and dealt with in half turns of the weft as with the first doubled warp (3, 4). The technique is continued until 8 doubled pieces have added 16 warps to the twined weft. d, The twined row is bent around into a circle but in the figure, the doubled back warps are shown diverged outwards to emphasize the technique of the twined row. The wefts are twined around the first warp (1) close to the commencement turn and the opening is fixed. In the figure only 8 warps are shown. page 451e, The twining continues around the 16 warps but diverges out so as to get its proper spacing from the first round (1). It simply continues in a spiral as in the case of the tu'u'u trap. As the same number of warps continue to be entwined a tube results. The second row (2) twining may take each warp in turn as they are in the first commencing round. Here the warps are parallel in the first outer weft space. f, It may, however, be easier to form a less abrupt bend where the warps are doubled back. Instead of taking each warp in turn as they are in the first round (1), they may be crossed. The two limbs of the same piece instead of being adjacent in the second round (2) are diverged so that there are two other warps, one from either side, between them. The warps are thus crossed in the first interspace. After the second round they remain parallel. The tubular funnel is continued for three to four rounds of twining. The funnel itself is called the pu and the outer opening is the ngutu. From the ngutu, the trap must be gradually opened out by the addition of fresh warps to form the gradual slope and surface that leads to the funnel entrance. This upper surface is called the malae from g, idea that the fish play about there and then enter the house. (See Plate XLII, D.) g, Fresh warps are added in a different manner to that in the tu'u'u trap, where a piece was simply doubled round the twining of the preceding twined round and the two parts formed adjacent warps on the round being twined. In the completed rounds (4' and 3') three parallel warps (1, 2, and 3 are shown). On the twined row (5') which is being made just outside the ngutu outer opening of the funnel, the warp (1) has been included in the twine. A fresh warp (4) is pushed down under the work so that its middle is approximately about the level of the completed round (4'). The fresh warp (4) is included in the twine of the fifth row. h, After including the fresh warp (4) the next warp (2) is included. The other end of the new warp (4) is pulled up beyond the last round (4'), crossed over the warp (2) and returned under the twined row (4') to form a second fresh warp (5). This is included in the twine as well as the next warp (3) and the twined row continues normally until fresh warps have to be added. The addition of the two new warps (4 and 5) has spread out the trap and will increase the circumference of the twined row (5'). Fresh warps are added symmetrically to the twined round to keep the trap increase symmetrical. When the malae is of sufficient size, the warps are gradually curved to form the sides. Fresh warps are added on different rounds until the trap reaches its maximum diameter. It is then sloped towards the bottom by bringing warps closer together.

In the fish pot figured (Pl. XLII, C), the funnel started off with 18 warps and is 4 inches across the inner opening and 4.5 inches deep. Fresh warps were added till they reached the maximum number of 47 with a maximum trap diameter of 18 inches. The warps were decreased by bringing two together until the trap had reached a total depth of 11 inches and the last turned row left an opening 5 inches by 4 inches in cross diameter. The opening is left patent to form the muli of the trap. The edge of the muli opening is treated in two ways: a, the warps are cut off 3 inches from the last twined row which was closed in against the preceding round of twining. The ends of the weft elements are twisted round to the outside and stayed against the nearest warps, which prevent them from springing back. Each warp element is bent down at right angles, twisted to the right to the inner side of the warp immediately on its right and to the outer side of the next. This is done successively in the same way as the finish of the opening of the tu'u'u trap before it is bound. The first holds securely without further assistance. b, A more elaborate finish is to leave one or both of the weft elements long. After treating the warp ends by method a, some strips of vine are run around the circumference to cover the warp ends. The warp ends are then lashed with spaced turns around the thickened rim hold everything in position. (See Plate XLII, E.)

The trap is set in likely looking pools or passages from the reef. The spot selected is cleared of stones until the coral sand is reached. The open bottom of the trap is fitted against the sand. Stones are packed and fitted page 452around the trap to raise them to just above the middle. Any large interstices between the stones are filled in with smaller stones to close open crevices into which the fish could go. The stones thus built up not only anchor the trap firmly but seem to attract the rock-frequenting kinds of fish for which the traps are primarily intended.

Some pieces of branching coral are built up over the outer entrance by interlocking their branches and at the same time leaving plenty of room for fish to get through to the opening. The coral house (fale'amu) keeps the big fish away from the trap entrance, which they might break in pursuit of smaller fish. Fish enter the trap to take refuge, from larger fish as well as in search of food. The setting of the trap takes place under water and the fisherman has to dive about collecting and piling the necessary stones.

The trap is visited at low water. The fisherman dives down to see if there are any fish. If so, he clears away the coral house and the stones immediately around the trap which kept it down. The hand is inserted through the funnel opening and grasps the rim of the muli opening, the wrist being bent down to close it. The trap is lifted and the contents emptied into a basket through the bottom opening.

Before the trap is reset it is washed to get rid of any slime or seaweed that may adhere to it. The hand is then waved backwards and forwards over the sand at the bottom to stir it up. This also brings out the puapua'i smell. The trap is then put back and the stones and coral house replaced.

The crab pot (fanga pa'a). Crab pots seen in use at Nuuuli. Tutuila, were exactly the same in shape and make as the fish pots except that they were stronger. Strength was obtained by using double elements. Bach warp consisted of two strips of sala treated as one element by both being enclosed in each half turn of the weft twine. The weft consisted of four strips, a pair acting as a single element in the twine. Ordinary fish pots may be used for taking crabs but in places where crabs are abundant, they are made stronger. The opening at the bottom was also present. Even the lobster pot shaped 'enu is sometimes used. In the large shallow lagoon with a soft muddy bottom at Nuuuli, crabs are abundant and it was there that the method of setting the traps was demonstrated.

Crab pots differ from the fish pots in being baited. The best bait are the tupa crabs with large red claws which are dug up out of their holes in the beach. These are broken up into suitable pieces between stones. A family were seen baiting a trap by three stages. One woman was tying slip knots on strips of fau bast, with an overhand knot around the standing part. A boy put pieces of crab through the loop and pulled it taut. Another woman attached the bait to the trap by lowering a piece down into the trap on one page 453side of a twined row, letting down another on the other side and then tying the ends of the fau together in a reef knot over the twining in such a way that the bait hung clear of the bottom. The bait was hung from all parts of the roof of the trap.

Three traps duly baited were taken out on a paopao canoe to a still arm of the lagoon at high tide. We went out for about a hundred yards to where the water was waist deep. The fisherman glanced ashore and picked up a landmark. He made a depression in the soft mud with his feet and placed the bottom of the trap in the hollow. He felt about with his feet and if unsuitable increased the size of the hollow. Though the trap was open structurally at the bottom, this fitted into the depression. In addition, a flat stone inside the pot was placed over the bottom opening to serve both as cover and as anchor. Hence, the crab pot was anchored from the inside and not by heaped stones on the outside as were the fish pots.

Each trap had a float consisting of a section of dry coconut husk (pulu) tied to the top of the trap with a strip of fau bark 4 or 5 feet long. The husk was a quarter section of the whole husk and when split in this way to make floats (uto) is termed fa'autouto.

The three traps were set about 20 yards apart and in the same straight line. After setting the last trap, another shore observation for landmarks was made. The line of the traps is important not only for the purpose of picking them up readily, but also to settle any argument that may subsequently arise with another man who may set traps close at hand.

The pots were set in the evening and picked up early next morning. The traps are taken home with their contents as they have to be rebaited. At home, the stone covering the bottom opening is pushed to one side and the crab shaken through the bottom opening. It is astonishing how a large crab will slip sideways through the comparatively small hole when it feels the opening beneath it.

A trap broken in places was seen mended with wide strips of pandanus and banana leaf threaded through the neighboring parts on either side of the hole. The repairs looked flimsy but the pot caught crabs.

Crayfish pot (fanga ula). The crayfish is termed ula and the sea crayfish, ulatai, to distinguish it from the small fresh-water form (ulavai). The trap, used only for the sea crayfish, takes the name of fanga ula. Though vai means water, in which both species live, vai as an adjective always refers to fresh water.

The crayfish pot is of the same type and technique as the fish pot. It is, however, stronger than the crab pots seen at Nuuuli. Another feature is that there is no hole left patent at the bottom. In the type fanga ula shown in Plate XLIII, A, the individual warps vary in the number of strips used, the range being from two to six. The weft pair starts off with two of each weft page 454element in the turning of the funnel which increases to three on the body. Where the joins in the weft occur, the twining is, of course, thicker.

In the type pot, the funnel has very little slope, the inner opening having about the same dimensions as the outer. From the outer funnel opening, the bottom is very flat, there being little of the gradual slope seen in the fish pots. This has been purposely done, by doubling a loop forming two fresh warps around every alternate original warp and bending back every original warp abruptly at an angle instead of a curve. Thus, the warps are doubled in number at the outer opening and not gradually as in the fish pots. The weft twine ranges from 1 to 1.5 inches apart but the warps are more widely spaced ranging from 2 to 3 inches apart. The last weft round forms an ellipse, 4 inches by 3 inches in cross diameter. The warp ends cross each other over the opening and a few longer elements are doubled around them and caught under elements to keep them together. The upper surface has the curve flattened more by narrowing the warp spaces and bringing two elements together sooner than in the fish pots.

The crayfish pot is baited with alili (Turbo) which has a hole broken on one side to expose the fish. It is set in the same way as the fish pots by heaping stones around it, but the coral house (fale'amu) is not made over the opening. A young crayfish is sometimes placed in the trap as a decoy for it is said to make a noise which attracts the adults.