Historic Descriptions of Marshall Islands Canoes
compiled by Dirk H.R. Spennemann
Canoes at Mili Atoll (1788)--by Thomas Gilbert
Canoes at Mili Atoll (1876)--by James Lyle Young
This document tries to compile historic observation on the nature, consrcution and sailing abilities of Marshall Islands canoes. The texts reproduced here have been extracted from other documents mounted on this site. This page will be added as time and opportunity permit.
Canoes at Mili Atoll (1788)
While Thomas Gilbert's account of the first European contact with the southern Marshall Islands does not contain any descriptions of the appearance of Marshall Islands canoes, he furnished an illustration.
Canoes at Mili Atoll (1876)
The canoes here are of a different character to any of those of the people South of the Equator; they resemble those of the Gilbert Islanders in having the side furthest from the outrigger viz. the side which is always to leeward - flat, while that next the outrigger is rounded, but they are not like the Gilbert Island canoes, built of narrow planks of uniform width, but large irregularly shaped pieces of wood (breadfruit timber) like the Fijian or Tongan canoes. Their sails are like those of Polynesian canoes and are made of pandanus matting, in narrower breadths than those of the latter; their mast is stepped in the usual manner; but it is supported by a number of stays, (in the large canoes 10 and 12) leading from the masthead to the sticks which connect the outrigger and the hull. (The Southern canoes have generally only one stay to the outrigger from the masthead). The small spars which connect the hull and outrigger, do no as in the canoes of the Southern groups, project horizontally from the hull and fasten at right angles to short uprights driven into the outrigger, but are curved and insert directly into the centre of the outrigger proper.
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