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Sail from a model canoe from the Kapingamarangi Atoll, Micronesia

Date: 1969-1976
Dimensions:
Overall (laid flat): 570 x 620 x 20 mm
Medium: Wood, cloth and plant material
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from David and Barry Lewis
Classification:Models
Object Name: Model sail
Object No: 00048185
Place Manufactured:Kapingamarangi

User Terms

    Description
    David Lewis (1917-2002) collected these models in 1969 and 1976 during research for his work on indigenous Pacific ocean travel and navigation. Traditionally, such models as these were used by Pacific Island peoples to teach navigation skills.

    Lewis's efforts to understand and create awareness of indigenous pacific navigation skills formed an early part of the growing trend of re-creating historic vessels and re-tracing voyages. It was also instrumental in creating a revival of traditional indigenous boat building skills and navigational lore in many islands across the Pacific.

    Five models of water craft were contructed by indigenous people and include canoes and outriggers from various Pacific Islands. The Kapingamarangi canoe is from the Federated States of Micronesia, and was given to Lewis by Hawaiin artist 'Herb' Kane in 1976.

    The four other models were collected by David Lewis and his son Barry in 1969. The Poluwot wa from the Caroline Islands was made by the son-in-law of the ppalu (navigator) Hipour. The Te Puke, was collected from Temoto province in the Solomon Islands and built by, according to Lewis, one of the last two te puke builders. The Kiribati was collected from Nikunau Island and the Ninigo from Papua New Guinea.
    SignificanceDavid Lewis (1917-2002) collected these models during research for his work on indigenous Pacific ocean travel and navigation. Traditionally, such models as these were used by Pacific Island peoples to teach navigation skills.

    Lewis's efforts during the 1960s to understand and create awareness of indigenous pacific navigation skills and knowledge formed an early part of the growing trend of re-creating historic vessels and re-tracing voyages. It was also instrumental in creating a revival of traditional indigenous boat building skills and navigational lore in many islands across the Pacific.

    Five models of water craft including canoes and outriggers from various Pacific Islands, constructed by Indigenous boat builders. 4 were collected in 1969 by David and Barry Lewis as part of David Lewis' research into traditional and historical Indigenous ocean voyaging and navigational methods that formed part of his seminal 1972 work We, the Navigators.
    The 5th model is a Hawaiian canoe, collected in 1976.



    1. Kapingamarangi canoe, Federated States of Micronesia, 950mm long, from Herb Kane collected 1976.
    2. Poluwot wa, Caroline Islands, 950mm long, collected by David & Barry Lewis in 1969, made by the son-in-law of the ppalu (navigator) Hipour.
    3. Te Puke, Solomon Islands, 700mm long, collected by David & Barry Lewis in 1969.
    4. Kiribati, Nikunau, 540mm long, collected by David & Barry Lewis in 1969.
    5. Ninigo, Papua New Guinea, 470mm long, collected by David & Barry Lewis in 1969.
    HistoryDavid Lewis (1917-2002) collected these models during research for his work on indigenous Pacific ocean travel and navigation. Traditionally, such models as these were used by Pacific Island peoples to teach navigation skills.

    An adventurous New Zealander, in 1960, with little preparation, Lewis entered the first single-handed transatlantic yacht race. He had long been interested in the navigation methods of historical Polynesian migrations across the Pacific. In 1964 he began to investigate how these voyages over the horizon may have been performed and he successfully sailed from Tahiti to New Zealand without using a compass, sextant or chronometer.

    Ever since the first European voyagers arrived in the Pacific in the 18th century there had been many and varied theories about the peopling of the Pacific Islands. Sailors had also long wondered at how islanders could navigate so well without instruments. Many explorers and sailors were fascinated with the construction methods and abilities of indigenous water craft that allowed an active policy of exploration, rather than accidental discovery, across the Pacific.

    Lewis's efforts during the 1960s to understand indigenous pacific navigation formed an early part of the growing trend of re-creating historic vessels and re-tracing voyages. One of the most prominent of the early efforts in so-called experimental archaeology was the 1947 journey across the Pacific from South America of Thor Heyerdahl and crew in the balsa wood raft the KON-TIKI. Whilst Heyerdal focused on reconstructions and the use prevailing currents, David Lewis was interested in traditional navigation methods. Importantly, Lewis was concerned to learn from Indigenous people.

    With some support from the School of Pacific and Asian Studies at the Australian National University, Lewis went to an island in Micronesia that he had heard still made canoe voyages without modern instruments and asked to be taught their navigational lore. He spent several years during the late 1960s visting other islands and seeking out traditional methods - which most people had assumed had been superseded by modern navigational technologies.

    Lewis was accepted as a student by several indigenous navigators and he learnt about nautical almanacs of celestial navigation that were memorised and handed down orally. His work has been considered an important anthropological study. He recorded and published his research in his widely read and highly regarded We, The Navigators in 1972 and The Voyaging Stars in 1978.

    Lewis generated further interest among scholars of the Pacific about the history of oceanic migration. He was also instrumental in a revival of traditional boat building skills and navigational lore in many islands across the Pacific. He inspired further experimental archaeology across the region, including the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS), founded in 1973 by nautical anthropologist Ben Finney, sailor Charles Tommy Holmes and Hawaiian artist Herb Kawainui Kane (who is linked to the collection of one of the models).

    The PVS wanted to show how ancient Polynesians could have purposely settled the Polynesian Triangle using non-instrument navigation. In 1976 what was the reportedly the first dedicated voyaging canoe to be built in the Hawaiian Islands in over 600 years - the Hokulea - successfully sailed to Tahiti by Micronesian navigator Mau Piailug, using no instruments. Since this voyage, the Hokulea and her sister canoe the Hawaiiloa have undertaken voyages to other islands in Polynesia, including Samoa, Tonga, and New Zealand.

    David Lewis went on to single-handedly circumnavigate Antartica and published another bestselling book about his adventures attempting this feat, called Ice Bird.
    He continued to be associated with Antartica and in 1975 set up the Oceanic Research Foundation and worked with businessman/adventurer Dick Smith in scientific exploration in the area. David Lewis died in 2002.


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