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The Coming of the Maori

Maori Voyaging Canoes

page 200

Maori Voyaging Canoes

With this Polynesian background, the account of Takitimu canoe by Te Matorohanga (81, p. 205) may be considered because it purports to be a description of a canoe built in Hawaiki in approximately 1350 A.D. In this description the use of the term korewa creates considerable confusion. If the school of Te Matorohanga used it to denote an outrigger in general
Fig. 43. Polynesian canoes.a, double canoe, Tonga (Hornell after Cook, 51a, fig. 192); b, outrigger canoe, Mitiaro, Cook Islands.

Fig. 43. Polynesian canoes.
a, double canoe, Tonga (Hornell after Cook, 51a, fig. 192); b, outrigger canoe, Mitiaro, Cook Islands.

as Best (17, p. 269) thought likely from the native text, the statements connected with it lead to some extraordinary implications. In the building of the canoe in Hawaiki, a single hull is describea as being made with two end pieces (haumi), one being joined to each end of the hull by blunt joins (haumi tuporo). The statement follows that outriggers (nga korewa) were attached, evidently to each side of the hull, at sea when it was known that a gale was approaching. This implies that the Takitimu set out from Hawaiki as a single canoe without any attached outrigger. She, however, carried two sets of booms, floats, and connecting stanchions page 201as extra parts. Then when an approaching storm was indicated, the cross-booms were lashed to each side of the hull, and the floats were attached to the outer ends of the booms with the connecting stanchions by men perched on the booms or swimming in the sea. Or maybe the floats were lashed to the booms first and then thrust out before the inner ends of the booms were lashed to the hull. The picture of a single canoe leaving Hawaiki on a long sea voyage and then being converted into a double-outrigger canoe at sea before an approaching storm outrages every principle of Polynesian canoe-building technique and is not only unconvincing but absurd on three counts: the single canoe, the double outrigger, and the attachment of the outrigger at sea. It is exceedingly strange that so many details as to the proper names of the various parts of the canoe equipment should have been handed down, supposedly from the period when the Takitimu left Hawaiki, and yet that the common names of kiato and ama for the booms and the float should be forgotten and strange names such as korere and korewa should have been introduced into Polynesian canoe-building technique. These new terms appear to have been coined by the Matorohanga school to describe a structure conjured up by the imagination to replace a picture that time had effaced and that memory could not recall.

The other narratives of the voyaging canoes did not attempt any description of the type of vessel though the reference to a house on Te Arawa might be regarded as an argument in favour of that vessel being a double canoe. Another uncertain piece of evidence is the belief that two stone posts at Kawhia were set up at the ends of the Tainui canoe and thus indicate a length of 70 feet. In spite of the lack of details, it may be safely assumed that the voyaging vessels which brought the three waves of settlers to New Zealand were either double canoes or single-outrigger canoes or perhaps both.