Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Art of Dugouts

Only one dog on this canoe! photo by Rebekah Drew

I counted again. Yes, there were definitely seven dogs perched in the prow of the tiny canoe. We waved at the father and children as they glided past, seemingly unperturbed by the wagging, happily panting canines face first into the breeze. Apparently it was the Gulf Province version of hanging their heads out the car window....

Canoe-making in Gulf Province is not only a necessary skill for everyday transportation, but it’s also an art form, passed on from fathers to children. While I and my teammates were on a three-week survey of several languages in Gulf Province in August, we observed canoe-making in every village we visited—and some were quite prolific dugout shipbuilders! Enjoy!

photo by Susie Pederson

Thanks to a major flood only a few weeks earlier, many giant logs had been captured and floated to the villages for carving. Sometimes young men would gather dozens of logs together and float them on the tides to later sell. We saw one barge with a little sleeping shelter (and of course a dog) on top of the logs!

photo by Hanna Schulz

Some take the log up the side streams, away from major currents.

photo by Hanna Schulz

Here they are starting to shape the underside and sides (the cracks are patched with pieces of tin or wood).
photo by Hanna Schulz

Shaping the stern! Despite using what looked like large and awkward axe, the canoe-builder was extremely precise in his cuts, and could wield that axe like a conductor’s wand.

photo by Hanna Schulz

Time to hollow out the middle!

photo by Hanna Schulz

In between work, the canoe is covered with branches to prevent the tropical sun from drying out the wood and causing splits.

photo by Robbie Petterson

This one is almost completed. Now they add decorative carving and prepare it against termites.

photo by Hanna Schulz

 They build a fire under the boat using dry coconut leaves. This produces a greasy soot which coats the bottom of the boat which protects it against worms and termites.

photo by Hanna Schulz

Some canoes are tiny, and might only fit one person.

photo by Hanna Schulz
Others are huge and could pack 50 or more people inside!

photo by Rebekah Drew

Some canoes have a flat stern, where a motor could be attached.

No matter what, all canoes require outstanding balance to maneuver!

Not all canoes look the same throughout Papua New Guinea. Canoes that are made for ocean travel often have outriggers--like this one that I rode on in Madang Province.