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Samoan Material Culture

Sea Eel Trap

Sea Eel Trap

The sea eel trap (fanga pusi) consists of a shallow rectangular box made of vertical and longitudinal sticks lashed together with sennit braid and has a self-acting entrance at one end. (See Plate, XLIII, C.) The making of the box and the lashing technique is described under figure 269.

The self-acting mechanism of the trap has to be placed in position before the top of the box is lashed on. It consists of two parts; a wooden entrance tube and an inner part formed of coconut fabric. The wooden tube is dealt with in figure 270.

The inner part of the self-acting mechanism and the closing in of the upper part of the box with provision for an exit opening is described under figure 271.

page 467
Figure 269.—Lashing of sea eel trap (fanga pusi).

Figure 269.—Lashing of sea eel trap (fanga pusi).

The type specimen figured is 22 inches long, 13 inches wide and about 5 inches deep. The wooden rods forming it vary from 0.3 inches in diameter at the ends to 0.5 inches at the sides and bottom. The bottom is formed of 22 rods each 20 inches long. There are four crossbars 14 inches long, one at each end and two intermediates evenly spaced. The crossbars are laid across the longitudinal rods, which in position total 10.5 inches in width, and are arranged to project evenly on either side beyond the edges of the longitudinal rods. The bars are tied to the rods in pairs with two half hitches passing diagonally round the crossing of the rod pair with the crossbar. a, The cross bar (1) is shown tied to two pairs of longitudinal rods (2, 3, and 4, 5). One end of the braid has been fixed to the end of the bar and after one pair of rods is lashed, the braid goes on to the next pair. b, The braid (1) descends on the middle line of the crossbar and turning to the left far corner (2) makes a diagonal turn around the back of the two rods, reappearing of necessity, at the right near corner (3). It forms the first diagonal half hitch by passing over and then under the first loop at (4). c, The second diagonal half hitch must take in the remaining two corners. The braid therefore passes around the left near corner (5) passes obliquely around the two rods and appears at the right far corner (6). From here it crosses the middle to pass through its own loop at (7) and thus form the second half hitch. From here it passes on to deal with the next two rods in the same way and so continues until all the rods are lashed to the crossbars. d, Sometimes a third half hitch is taken around the two rods before passing on. This makes two half hitches in one direction. After forming the second half hitch in the last figure, the braid, instead of passing on, makes a half hitch in the opposite diagonal to the last made. The braid, therefore, turns from the last hitch at (7) to the left far corner (2). From there it passes diagonally over the back of the rods to appear at right near corner (3). From here it of necessity passes over the other turns to pass under its own loop at (8) to complete the third half hitch. The three hitches are used where extra strength is required.

The sides are formed of 8 longitudinal rods, 22 inches long and covering a width of about 4 inches. Four crossbars are used, the two end ones being 5.5 inches long and the two intermediates, 4.5 inches long. The end bars are placed so that when the sides are fitted to the bottom, they will be just external to the end crossbars of the bottom. This is rendered possible by the side rods being an inch longer at each end than the rods of the bottom. The bars are further arranged that the intermediates are flush with the top edge so that they project half an inch beyond the lower edge or what is to be the lower edge. Their situation is further arranged that the projecting lower ends will rest against the sides of the projecting intermediates of the bottom. The end bars also are arranged to have a half inch projection above and 1 inch projection below. The lashings are made with two diagonal half hitches. The two ends are slightly different as the front end has the entrance hole. The back end consists of 26 short vertical rods nearly 6 inches long lashed to a fairly thick crossbar (0.6 inch diameter) at the bottom, a thinner crossbar at the top and one intermediate about an inch below the top bar. The two lower cross bars are 12.5 inches long and the upper top bar, 13 inches. As the 26 vertical rods cover a width of slightly over 10 inches, the crossbars project well out on either side to afford supports for lashing the sides.

The front end is slightly wider, the crossbars being 14 inches long. It is also slightly deeper, the vertical rods being 6.5 inches long. Besides the top and bottom crossbars, there are two intermediates, the upper being less than 0.5 inch from the bottom bar in page 468the middle and less at the ends. The upper intermediate ends flush with the sides of the vertical rods but the other three project as at the back.

The entrance hole is formed in the middle between the two intermediate crossbars by cutting the vertical rods as shown in figure 270 b. The hole supports the outer end of a tube composed of wooden laths. The hole narrowed by the tube end is 3 inches in diameter transversely and a little over 2 inches vertically. The box part of the trap is assembled by turning the bottom with the crossbars underneath and then fitting the sides and ends to it with their crossbars to the outside. The projecting ends of the crossbars are lashed together where they fit against each other both at the bottom and the sides. Three thick longitudinal rods are lashed on the outside to the crossbars of the bottom, one at either side and one in the middle. These project for 7 inches beyond the front end of the trap. They afford extra support for lashing at the sides and form a rest to protect the close lashings of the bottom rods from wear against the rocky bottom on which the trap is set. To the long ends of the 3 undermost longitudinal rods a crossbar is attached as a handle. (See Plate XLIII, C.)

Figure 270.—Sea eel trap, formation of entrance tube:

Figure 270.—Sea eel trap, formation of entrance tube:

a, the wooden tube is formed of 14 wooden laths, 7 inches long, 0.5 inch wide and about 0.2 inch thick. A thin flexible hoop of wood (1) is run around the latter about 0.25 inches from the ends. The laths are then fastened to the hoop singly with the diagonal two-hitch knots described. Another hoop is run around the other end where the tube is slightly narrowed (2). b, The outer end of the tube is fitted from the inside to the opening in the front end of the box. The hoop fits close up against the inside of the end wall and the 0.25 inch ends of the laths fit against the circumference of the opening. The tube is flexible and adapts itself to the opening. Two firm lashings (3) are made around the upper intermediate crossbars and the tube hoop while two similar lashings (4) are made around the hoop and the lower intermediate. A side lashing (5) is also made around the hoop and two vertical rods on the right of the opening. These fix the tube firmly in position at its outer end which is sufficient to keep the tube elevated off the bottom at its inner end.

Figure 271.—Sea eel trap, self acting mechanism:

Figure 271.—Sea eel trap, self acting mechanism:

a, A sheet of lau'a'a (1) 9.5 inches long and about 14 inches wide is placed under the inner end of the tube (2) with its front edge in front of the rear hoop (3). b, The far edge of the sheet is folded over to meet the near edge and the front part is carefully folded in tubular form around the tube. It is then tied (4) in front of the rear hoop to prevent it from pulling off. The long end of the lashing braid is carried back under the sheet and brought up through a hole cut through both layers of the sheet at (5). Another hole is made through both layers at (6), the braid passed through and again brought up through both layers at (7). The long end (8) is then drawn back obliquely and tied to the side of the trap. Another page 469piece of braid (9) is tied to the braid at (6) and also run obliquely back to be attached to the side wall. A piece of braid (10) is run through a hole made at (11) and tied obliquely back to the other wall. The braid end which passed through the holes (5, 6, and 7), stitched the free edges of the sheet together. The sheet which formed a continuation of the tube at its front is flattened out at its rear end into a narrow transverse slit (12) 7 inches long and its maintenance kept up by the oblique outward pull of the braid cords (9, 8, and 10). They also keep the end hanging above the bottom. In any case as there is no stiffening hoop to continue the tubular commencement, there is a natural tendency for the material to flatten out. c, A longitudinal section of the inner part of the tube and the fabric part with the same numbering as b, shows how the tube flattens out.

The top of the box is now made with two longitudinal crossbars and transverse rods. The two bars are fitted so that they will rest on the inner side of the side walls. The lashings are made leaving a gap in the middle of four inches by not adding any transverse rods in that part. The top is then turned over to place the marginal longitudinal bars on the under side. A mesial longitudinal bar is then lashed to the rods in the true upper surface. Two side longitudinal bars are also added to the upper surface and merely lashed here and there. The top is fitted in position and the projecting ends of the longitudinal bars lashed to adjacent projecting ends. The trap is now complete except for a door to close the upper opening.

The upper opening is the exit opening for extracting the fish. Some wide slats of wood are made and thrust in under the three upper longitudinal bars. They rest on the sides like the other rods forming the top and the longitudinal rods keep them down. As many are made as will close the gap. The trap is baited and the door slats are tied to the middle longitudinal bar.

The trap is set in the lagoon for sea eels. Attracted by the bait the eel finds the trap and enters the tube. When it reaches the fabric part it easily pushes its way through the slit opening, which readily widens in a vertical direction. Once the eel is in, however, it cannot find, let alone pass through, the slit from the inner edge side. The slit is in space and the fish keep going around the sides. The trap mechanism thus acts like a valve which can be passed through from one side by pressure but falls back after the pressure is removed. It is simple and ingenuous and marks a departure from the rigid inner openings of the other self-acting traps.

The material used in the trap described is wooden sticks. The lafo creeping plant with a cane-like stem, used in sugar-cane thatch sheets, is also used for sea eel traps. The old style of trap is rapidly disappearing as ordinary wooden boxes of sawn timber, nailed together, are much easier to secure and prepare. Numbers of such traps were in use in Tutuila and Savaii. The trap secured was obtained at Fasitoouta in Upolu. The dome cylinder type of 'enu, the bamboo double entrance trap, and the sea eel trap were obtained in Upolu after efforts in eastern Samoa and Savaii had failed.