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Samoan Material Culture



The use of the bait float in shark fishing has been described. Wooden floats are used with nets and the line of a squid lure. All are termed uto. A green branch tied to an eel line also acts as a float and is termed fa'autouto (to act as an uto). Two special floats are here described:

1.Flying fish float (uto nialolo). According to Fepuleai Ripley, a particular bone in the flying fish (malolo) was tied to a line at an angle to form a crude hook. The short length of line was tied to a wooden float and the bone baited with a variety of coconut called niu uto. A number so prepared were set in line outside the reef and the fisherman watched from one end of the line. When a float moved out of line, he knew that a fish was on. He paddled down, removed the fish and reset the float in line again. The method was apparently unknown in Manua and Savaii yet Pratt (23, p. 300) gives tanga-tanga as the buoy of the bait for flying fish, pangi as the bait for flying fish and pangiuto, to fix the bait for flying fish. As pangiuto is compounded of pangi (flying fish bait) and uto (float) it is evident that the bait for flying page 428fish was fixed to the float. Pratt also gives the following saying: "Ua saluia le pangi." (The malolo bait is now visible in the morning light.)

The implication is that the secret is out. Ripley, to support his account which was derived from his father, quoted the saying: "E fano le malolo i lona au." (The flying fish perishes through its own sharp point.) He contended that au was the sharp bone used to catch it, which was obtained from others of its species. The saying was applied to anyone who brought trouble upon himself. I quoted the proverb in Savaii to talking chiefs but they did not know it. On returning from Savaii to Leone, I took Ripley a flying fish obtained on the passage over and asked him to pick out the bone and make the hook. He was unable to do so as he had never seen it done. He called in Le Oso, the senior talking chief of Leone, and laid the flying fish before him. But Le Oso was no fisherman. He knew the saying, however, and expounded it to cover up his ignorance of a lost fishing technique. The au, he explained, was the liver and it was the liver that was used as a bait to an ordinary hook and did not signify the bone at all. Inquiries about the kind of hook baited with the au failed to elicit a satisfactory reply. Ripley had the courage to stick to his statement but regretted his inability, to make the appliance. The above is mentioned at length to show that correct information is not always with the older people. Some local method may be known to a family and transmitted to young men when older people with a wider knowledge of the past may be ignorant of it. Present Samoan evidence was against Ripley, and. Le Oso's explanation of the au also accounted for Pratt's information which did not deal with the point on which the fish were caught. Fortunately the missionary, John Williams (43, p. 448), described the method of using the floats and in addition described the pointed fish bones used with the floats. They were used as gorges (p. 490) and Ripley is fully vindicated in spite of Le Oso and the ignorance of the method that prevails in other parts. Ripley thought the bone was tied in a slant to the line but it is not slanted until the bait is put on.

2.Net with Single Float. Kramer (18, vol. 2, p. 170) and Demandt (9, p. 54 figure a small net of the 'upenga sumu type (p. 478) with a large uto float attached above the crossing of the four curved sticks which act as spreaders to the rectangular net.