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Voyages in the Southern Hemisphere, Vols. II - IIIVoyaging Accounts
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Endeavour Voyage Maps
James Cook
Joseph Banks

Of the Canoes and Navigation of New Zealand


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CHAP. X. Of the Canoes and Navigation of the Inhabitants of New Zealand; their Tillage, Weapons, and Music; Government, Religion, and Language : With some Reasons against the Existence of a Southern Continent.

THE ingenuity of these people appears in nothing more than in their canoes: they are long and narrow, and in shape very much resemble a New England whale boat: the larger sort seem to be built chiefly for war, and will carry from forty to eighty, or an hundred armed men. We measured one which lay ashore at Tolaga: she was sixty-eight feet and an half long, five feet broad, and three feet and an half deep; the bottom was sharp, with strait sides like a wedge, and consisted of three lengths, hollowed out to about two inches, or an inch and an half thick, and well fastened together with strong plaiting: each side consisted of one intire plank, sixty-three feet long, ten or twelve inches broad, and about an inch and quarter thick, and these were fitted and lashed to the bottom part with great dexterity and strength. A considerable number of thwarts were laid from gunwale to gunwale, to which they were securely lashed on each side, as a strengthening to the boat. The ornament at the head projected five or six feet beyond the body, and was about four feet and an half high; the ornament at the stern was fixed upon that end, as the stern-post of a ship is upon her keel, and was about fourteen feet high, two feet broad, and an inch and an half thick. They both consisted of boards of carved work, of which the design was much better than the execution. All their canoes, except a few at Opoorage or Mercury Bay, which were of one piece, and hollowed by fire, are built after this plan, and few are less than twenty feet long: some of the smaller sort have outriggers, and sometimes two of them are joined together, but this is not common. The carving upon the stern and head ornaments of the inferior boats, which seem to be intended wholly for fishing, consists of the figure of a man, with a face as ugly as can be conceived, and a monstrous tongue thrust out of the mouth, with the white shells of sea-ears stuck in for the eyes. But the canoes of the superior kind, which seem to be their men of war, are magnificently adorned with open work, and covered with loose fringes of black feathers, which had a most elegant appearance: the gunwale boards were also frequently carved in a grotesque taste, and adorned with tufts of white feathers placed upon a black ground. Of visible objects that are wholly new, no verbal description can convey a just idea, but in proportion as they resemble some that are already known, to which the mind of the reader must be referred: the carving of these people being of a singular kind, and not in the likeness of any thing that is known on our side of the ocean, either "in the heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the waters that are under the earth," I must refer wholly to the representations which will be found of it in Plate XV.

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© Derived from Vols. II-III of the London 1773 edition: National Library of Australia call no. FERG 7243, page 462, 2004
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