rafts, canoes and swimming, tasmania, 1899
Ling Roth : Rafts, Canoes and Swimming, Tasmania, 1899.
Roth, Henry Ling : Navigation.
Henry Ling Roth , Marion E. Butler , James Backhouse Walker,
John George Garson, Edward Burnett Tylor:
The Aborigines of Tasmania
F. King & Sons, England, 1899.
In a detailed paper, Roth examines and analyses all the
sources available to him pertinent to rafts, canoes and
swimming of the Tasmanian Aboriginals.
Note that while Roth illustrates the three models of Tasmanian "canoes" in
the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford,(page 156), he does
not discuss these in the text.
Confusingly, he does discuss three small models of canoes made by aborigines
The lower craft, a simple unitary bundle of reeds, is
far more likely to be a type of float board, paddled by hand.
Unfortunately, in the online edition, the
in-text illustration on page 156 is incomplete, and the plates and the Bibliography are not
The relevant plate (facing page 153) and the full illustration
are reproduced here from the book, and the relevant sources from the Bibliography
are footnoted, with some adjustment.
For the Pitt Rivers Collection, Oxford University, see:
Transport and trade / by Walter E. Roth
Sydney : [Australian Museum], 1910
19 p.,  leaves of plates : ill. ; 24 cm.
Series: North Queensland ethnography: bulletin ; no.14
Caption title. "From Records of the Australian Museum,
Vol.viii, no.1." - Cover.
Call Number: N 507 AUS v. 8.
Watercraft / Alex Barlow. South Melbourne : Macmillan Education
Australia, - Barlow, Alex. Aboriginal technology.
30 pages, Wollongong
Pearson, Joseph:Relationships of
the Tasmanian Canoe-Raft
& Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania
1938, Hobart, 1939, pages 221-5, 3
Plate: Canoe [and
Baskets (bags), not shown].
Note that the extended high bow and stern
might be exaggerated, either by the model maker,
or as a result of its packaging in its despatch from
Australia, or when displayed as an exhibit.
When at [corrected in errata] Hummock Island[,]Flinders (Sec. iv. p. 171) was much
puzzled to know how the Tasmanians got there, for he was
certain the natives at Port Dalrymple had "no canoes nor any
means of reaching islands lying not more than two cable
lengths from the shore," and the island in question was
incapable of supporting permanent subsistence. It would also seem certain that the aboriginals visited
the Maatsuyker Islands on the stormy south coast, the
nearest of which is three miles from the mainland, for
Flinders noticed that the scrub and grass land had been
burnt (I. Intro, p. clxxx). Kelly found they visited Hunter's
Island, north of Cape Grim. Bass was similarly puzzled.
He met with no canoes anywhere (Collins pp. 169, 180,
188), nor did he see any trees so barked as to indicate
canoe making, yet he found that the De Witt Isles, and, in
fact, all the islands in Frederick-Henry Bay, had evidently
been visited. Neither did Furneaux nor Cook meet with boat or canoe or any
vessel to go upon the water. Nevertheless the natives did contrive constructions
which served them in their navigations. La Billardiere speaks (I. ch.
v. pp. 230-231) of native rafts "which Page 155 are only fit for crossing the water when the sea is
very tranquil ; otherwise they would soon be broken asunder
by the force of the waves." In describing one rude raft found on the western shore
of Adventure Bay, he says (II. ch. xi. pp. 80-81):
"It was made of the bark of trees; in shape nearly
resembling that which is represented in the plate [in his
book] , being as broad, but not so long by more than a
third. The pieces of bark that composed it were of the same
structure as that of the Eucalyptus resinifera,
but its leaves were much thinner.
These pieces had been held together by cords, made of the
leaves of grasses, forming a texture of very large meshes,
most of which had the form of a pretty regular pentagon." Rossel who was La
Billardiere's companion, describes them thus (I. ch. iv. p.
"On the shore of our little bay we found some sort of canoes
(pirogues) seven to nine feet long, equally flat
above and below. Their width was from three to four feet in the middle,
diminishing to each of their two extremities, which ended in
a point. They were made of very thick bark of trees, joined
parallelly, and fastened together with reeds, or other
fibrous grasses. They were, indeed, but very small rafts, to which had
been given the form of a canoe." Peron (ch. xii. p. 225)
speaks of the canoe being "formed of three rows of bark
roughly joined together and held by thongs of the same
nature" (i.e. not of grass). The drawing he gives is almost identical with La
Billardiere's. Freycinet describes the
canoe as follows :
"Three rolls of Eucalyptus bark formed the body. The principal roll or piece was 4m. 55cm. (14ft. 11in.)
long by 1m. (3ft. 3in.) broad, the two other pieces being
only 3m. 90cm. (12ft. 9in.) long by 32cm. (12 1/2in.) broad.
These three bundles, which bore a fair resemblance to a
ship's yards, were fastened together at their ends ; this
made them taper and formed the whole of the canoe. The scarfing was made fairly compact by means of a sort
of grass or reed. So completed the craft had the following dimensions:
length inside, 2m. 95cm. (9ft. 8in.) ; outside breadth,
89cm. 2ft. 11in.); height, 65cm. (1ft. 3 1/2in.) ; depth
inside, 22cm. (8 1/2in.) ; thickness at the ends, 27cm. (10
1/2in.). Five or six savages can get into these canoes, but
generally the number is limited to three or four at a time.
Their paddles are simple sticks from 2.50 metres (8ft.
1in.) to 4 and 5 metres (13ft. and 16ft. 3in.) long, by 2 to
5 centimetres (1in. to 2in.) thick. Occasionally when the water is shallow they make use of
these sticks to propel themselves as we do with poles. Generally they sit down when working their canoes and
make use of a bundle of grass as a seat ; at other times
they keep standing. We saw them crossing the channel [d'Entrecasteaux] only
in fine weather ; it is quite conceivable that such frail
and imperfedl vessels could not make progress or even
maintain themselves in a rough sea. It seems also they have never tried to make longer
journeys than to navigate from one promontory to another, or
to cross a bay or port in the channel. They always place a fire at one end of their canoes,
and in order to prevent the fire from spreading they place
underneath it a sufficiently thick bed of earth or cinders."
(Peron's Voyage redige par Freycinet, Paris, 1815, pp.
Bonwick writes (p. 51)
"Mr. Roberts, formerly of the Bruni Saltworks, described to
me the mode of constructing catamarans in the channel.
They were of thick bark, interlaced like a beehive with Page 156 Corrijong bark string, and were strong enough not only
to carry men across that stormy sea, but even on the
Southern Ocean to De Witt and other islands, which were
visited by the natives on sealing excursions. The head and stern were raised high above the water
like horns. Each boat would hold from four to six men. Long sticks, or spears, or bark paddles, plied first on
one side, then on the other, supplied the place of oars, and
propelled this rude contrivance as quickly as an English
whaleboat. At each stroke the rowers uttered a loud 'Ugh,' like a
London pavior. The boats have been known to survive in very rough
seas. An old whaler told me he had seen one of them go across
to Witch Island, near Port Davey, in the midst of a storm. No catamarans were used on the northern side of
Models of Tasmanian canoes in the Pitt Rivers Museum,
Oxford, such as were used by the Aborigines to "cross to Maria
Island and islets in the vincinity of the mainland." Brought from Australia, in 1843, by Sir
John Franklin and presented to Eton College.
In the Hobart Museum there are three small
models of canoes made by aborigines. Each of the three is made of three bundles of bark-
thick in the middle and tapering to each end, like a
Tenerlffe Cigar. One of these cigar-shaped bundles forms the floor or
keel ; another bundle of similar shape and size is on each
side of the keel and raised above it, to form the sides. The three bundles are firmly bound together with coarse
tough grass fibre, partly knotted, forming a sort of rough
open network, very irregular. The bow and stern are finished off with thin projecting
rolls of bark, bound to the main part with a tough grass,
tightly served round them (See Peron Col'd. Plate xiv). In the largest model, the two side rolls or bundles
(which are slightly curved on the floor piece) measure 21
in.; the beam measurement is 6 inches; stem and stern
project 6 inches and 13 inches respectively from the body of
the canoe. I cannot say which is the stem, and which is the stem.
The two largest models are made of bundles of the
thick fibrous bark of the " Stringy-bark Eucalyptus" (E.
Obliqua) and bound with Page 157 grass.
This grass is very tough and course, and resembles the
"cutting grass," (Cladium Psittacorum. Nat, Ord,
Cypetaceae), but is smooth, without the cutting edge
of that plant. The smallest model is evidently very much older than
the others. It measures 23 inches in length over all, and has very
little projecting stem or stern (like the largest figure in
Peron*s Col'd Plate). It is formed of three bundles of the velvety bark of
the paper-barked tea tree (Leptospermum), and is
bound together with a network of fibre, partly knotted, in
the same manner as the others. But in this model the fibre is not of grass, but of
strips of the bark of a shrub — probably "Currijong" (Plagianikus
The model canoe in the British Museum [see page 153,
above] was obtained from Dr. Milligan, in 1851, and is
made of three bundles of bark of leptospermum and melaleuca
roughly bound together by an extremely crude sort of network
of partially twisted grass, the grass being merely wound
round the bark and partly knotted. Length, 2 feet 6 inches. Mrs. Meredith says (p. 139):
"They were formed of many little bundles of gum-tree bark,
tied with grass, first separately, and then bound together
in the required form, thick and flat, without any attempt at
the shape of a boat or canoe, and not keeping the passenger
above water when used, but just serving to float him on the
surface. In, or rather on, these, the natives sat and
paddled about with long sticks, or drifted before the wind
and tide ; and in calm weather frequently crossed over from
the mainland to Maria Island ; on such occasions they
provided a little raised platform on the raft, on which they
carried some lighted fuel to kindle their fire when they
arrived there." Robinson, who, according
to Calder, called this raft a machine, said it was
only used by the natives of the south and west coasts. He describes it as "of considerable size, and something
like a whale-boat, that is, sharp sterned, but a solid
strucflure, and the natives in their aquatic adventures sat
on the top. It was generally made of the buoyant and soft velvety
bark of the swamp tea-tree (Melaleuca sp.),
and consisted of a multitude of small strips bound together.
. . . Common sticks, with points instead of blades, were all
that were used to urge it with its living freight through
the water, and yet I am assured that its progress was not so
very slow. My informant, Alexander M'Kay, told me they were good
weather judges, and only used this vessel when well assured
there would be little wind and no danger, for an upset would
have been risky to some of the men, who . . . were not
always good swimmers " (Calder, J. A. I. pp. 22-23). In Knopwood's Diary (21st
June, 1804), describing the visit of Collins to the Huon
river, we read that three of the natives in "cathemarans or
small boats made of bark that will hold about six of them."
Bonwick reproduces (p.
50) an account given him by a convict, in which it is stated
that a handled axe was used in order to get sheets of bark
off the tree, out of which a real canoe was made. But all the above authorities state that the vessels
were made of bundles of bark, and from their descriptions
are not canoes at all, and their testimony is safer than
that of Bonwick's informant, who, by his mention of a
handled axe, shows that he could not have been speaking of
Tasmanians, excepting such as had been in contacf with
imported Australians and Page 158 their methods. G. W. Walker (MS. Jour.
5, Dec. 1832) mentions that at the Arthur River, a large and
deep river, when Cottrel was trying to induce a tribe to
surrender, a Sydney native made a rude canoe of
bark to cross the river.
According to Dove (I.
p. 251), a species of bark or decayed wood, whose specific
gravity appears to be similar to that of cork, provided them
with the means of constructing canoes. The beams or logs were fastened together by the help of
rushes or thongs of skin. This sounds something like Jeffreys'
account. He says :
"Their canoes have been very inaccurately described, but in
fact, they do not appear to have very frequent use for these
vessels, as they but seldom visit the coast. . . . When,
however, . . . they come to . . . the sea, a large river, or
a lake, they make canoes from the adjoining woods. These, when formed, are not unlike a catamaran, and are
sufficiently large to support from six to ten persons in
crossing the largest rivers.
These canoes are formed by the trunks of two trees about
thirty feet long, and laid in a parallel direcfiion, at a
distance of five or six feet from each other, and are kept
in that position by four or five lesser pieces of wood,
fastened at each end by slips of tough bark. In the middle is a cross timber of considerable
thickness, and the whole interwoven with a kind of
wicker-work. This flat and completely open canoe, or rather float,
is made to skim along the surface of the water, by means of
paddles, with amazing rapidity and safety. The natives are frequently seen on them near the
southern mouth of the Derwent, between Isle Brune and the
main, when the canoes are often found deserted, after they
have answered the immediate purpose for which they were
constructed " (pp. 126-128). But Dove's account appears to be made up out of two
accounts, one as to making the vessels out of bundles of
bark, and one as to the making out of logs. It seems to be probable that the aborigines made use of
logs in crossing rivers and narrow straits, and may
occasionally have fastened two together. The Eucalyptus wood is too heavy to float, and few
Tasmanian woods have sufficient buoyancy to serve for rafts
unless very dry. In any case, Jeffrey's wicker-work must be a touch of
imagination, or very superficial examination as at a
distance the illustration might possibly give the impression
of wicker-work to a careless observer, and the speed he
speaks of is extremely doubtful. Cotton informs J. B Walker
"I never heard of a canoe. We were told by our elders that the aborigines got dry
Oyster Bay Pine logs each, and a leafy branch, and when the
wind favoured, crossed thus the Schotten Passage to Schouten
Island, and also to Maria Island. I always heard that in crossing a river the aborigines
used a bundle of bark, or a suitable log if procurable." Ratzel's statement (Valkerkunde, 2nd Germ. Ed.
I. p. 352) that the aborigines had small canoes made of
"outspread skins (Kleine Kahne aus ausgespannten Fellen)"
is unsupported by any authority.
West tells us (II. pp.
"Lieut. Gunn found and preserved for several months, a
catamaran, sufficiently tight and strong to drift for
sixteen or twenty miles: each would convey from four to
seven persons ; " . . . and that " Taw, the pilot of
Macquarie Harbour, saw the natives cross the river ; on this
occasion a man swam on either side of the raft, formed of
the bark of the "swamp tree."
The latter mode Page 159
of propulsion is also
recorded by Backhouse when
speaking of the rafts (p. 58) : " On these, three or
four persons are placed, and one swims on each side,
holding it with one hand."
We have just seen above that
in the use of their floats a native swims on each side,
holding the float with one hand, and under the heading
fishing we have read of some of their powers of swimming and
diving. Calder and Kelly [adjusted in errata] says (J.A.I, p. 23): "Some of the men, unlike
the women, were not always good swimmers, though most of
them were perfect." La Billardiere "wishing to
know whether these islanders were expert swimmers, one of
our officers jumped into the water, and dived several times
; but it was in vain that he invited them to follow his
They were very good divers, however, . . . for it is by
diving that they procure a considerable part of their food"
(II. ch. X. pp. 51-52).
Later on he was more successful, and thus describes a diving
"Hitherto we had but a faint idea of the pains the women
rake to procure the food. . . . They took each a basket, and
were followed by their daughters, who did the same.
Getting on the rocks that projected into the sea, they
plunged them to the bottom in search of shell-fish.
When they had been down some time, we became very uneasy on
their account. ... At length, however, they appeared, and
convinced us they were capable of remaining under water
twice as long as our ablest divers.
An instant was sufficient for them to take breath, and then
they dived again.
This they did repeatedly till their baskets were nearly full
" (II. ch. x. p. 57).
In Banks Straits Kelly (p. 13) records the old chief,
Tolobunganah swimming out to his boat. Backhouse mentions that "two white
men being in danger of drowning on a raft, some of the
native women . . . swam to the raft, and begged the men to
get upon their backs, and they would convey them to the
shore ; but the poor men refused, being overcome with fear "
(p. 147) ; and on another occasion that " two women waded
and swam from Green Island to the settlement - a distance of
three miles" (p. 8g). Meredith mentions that "a native
woman, to avoid being captured, rushed into the sea, where
she swam and dived for some time, before she could be
induced to come ashore" (p. 205). Davies speaks of the women "being
generally, if not at all times, the divers" (p. 413).
With the exception therefore of Calder, no writer speaks of
the men as swimmers.
As related above Lloyd saw a party of
aboriginals in the water spearing sting-ray tor sport. Ross, in "Hobart Town Almanack, 1836 "
(p. 146), describes a mob of blacks, about sixty in number,
cooking and feasting from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., " when they all
of a sudden, naked as they were, rushed into the broadest
and deepest part of the river, in front of my cottage, and
splashed and gambolled about for at least an hour."
The river was the Shannon, one of the northern tributaries
of the Derwent, and the tribe was the Big River tribe.
NAVIGATION [from the
Flinders, Matthew: Voyage to Terra Australis,
. . . prosecuted in the years 1801-3, in the Investigator,
the Porpoise, and the Cumberland. 2 vols. 4to and
folio Atlas. London, 1814.
in Colonies and
Slaves: Colonies and Slaves,
House of Commons Papers. Session 14th June to
20th October, 1831. Vol. xix. Fol. [London].
Contains, No. 259, V. D. Land, 23rd September, 1831 :
" Copies of all Correspondence between Lieut. Gov.
Arthur and H. M. Secretary of State for the Colonies,
on the subject of Military Operations lately carried
on against the Aboriginal Inhabitants of V. D. Land."
It includes a Report of a Committee which sat on the
Aboriginal Question at Hobart, the minutes of the
Executive Council relating to the Aborigines, and the
evidence amongst others of Messrs. Bedford, Brodribb,
Burnett, E'spie, Hobbs, Kelly, Knopwood and, O'Connor. This portion appears to be a reprint by the
Colonial Office, London, of the Report published in
Hobart in 1831, entitled, " Correspondence ... on the
subjeft of the Military Operations lately carried on
against the Aboriginal Inhabitants of V. D. Land."
Collins, David. An Account of the English Colony in New
South Wales, 2 vols. 4to- London, 1798-1802.
In Vol, ii. is an abridged account of the discovery of the
Straits, taken from Bass' own Journal.
The information about the Tasmanian Aborigines, is very
Flinders, in the introduction to his "Voyage" says-:
"He leaves the description of the Tasmanians to be given by
his friend, Bass."
It would therefore seem that Collins must have
considerably abridged Bass' account.
On the other hand, as Collins enters so fully into the details
of the life of the Australian aborigines, it is not likely he
would have left out any important information about the
Tasmanians, had Bass give such in his journal,
ii. pp. 167 and 187. Furneaux
Cook, Jas. Capt.: [Second
Voyage] Voyage toward the South Pole and round the
World, in H.M.S Resolution and Adventure, in the years
1772-1775. 2 vols.
40. London, 1777.
Vol. I. pp. 113-115,
contains Capt. Furneaux's observations on huts and implements. Cook, Jas. Capt.
to the Pacific Ocean in H.M.S. Resolution and Discovery, in
the years 1776-1780. 3
vols. 40. London, 1785. [First edition
Vol. I, pp. 06-103. Cook's observations.
Dr. Anderson's account of the Tasmanians. Ibid pp. 111-11.7.
Billardiere, Jacques Julien de: An
Account of a Voyage in Search of La
Perouse in the years 1791, 1792, 1793.
vols. 8vo. Plates 4to. London,
This expedition paid two lengthened visits
to Tasmania under the command of Bruny
D'Entrecasteaux, in the ships Recherche
Rossel, E. P. E. de: Voyage
D'Entrecasteaux, 2 vols, 4-to. Paris,1808.
This is another account of the. expedition described by La
Peron, Francois, and Freycinet,
Louis: Voyage de Decouvertes aux
le Geographe, le
Naturaliste, et le Casuarina.
2 vols, and atlas,
4to., Paris, 1807-1816*,
and atlas of Maps, 1812. The
first Vol. is by Peron, 1807, the 2nd was edited by Freycinet
after Peron's death (1816). 2nd ed. 4 vols. 8vo. and Atlas
4-to, Paris, 1824.
Thesevolumes .contain a complete
account of the voyager's transactions in
Tasmania; the atlases contain coloured
portraits of the Tasmanian Aborigines,
drawings of their implements, canoes,
This was Baudin's Expedition.
Bonwick, Jas.: The
of the Tasmanians.
8vo. pp. viii. + 406. London, 1870.
- Daily Life and Origin of the Tasmanians.
Svo. pp. x. + 304.
- The Lost Tasmanian Race.
121110. pp. vi. + 216. London, 1884.
Charles, Mrs. My Home in Tasmania during a
Residence of Nine Years. 2
vols. i2mo. London, 1852.
who, according to Calder, Calder, James Erskine.: Some Account of the
Wars, Extirpation Habits, &c. of the Native Tribes of
Tasmania. i2mo. pp. 114 + iii. Hobart, 1875.
Compiled (inter-alia) from the Government
Archives (17 large volumes in MS. at Hobart) which include
G. A. Robinson's despatches.
And also from the recollections of McKay and others whom
Calder personally interviewed.
- Some Account of the Wars of
Extirpation, and Habits of theNative Tribes of Tasmania. Journal
Anthropological Institute, 1874 III. pp. 7-28.
A different account from the foregoing.
- Boat Expeditions round Tasmania,
1815-16 and 1824. Papers of Legislative Council of
Tasmania. Hobart, 1881.
Contains: First Discovery of Port Davey and Macquarie
Harbour by Capt. Jas. Kelly; and J. Hobbs' Boat Voyage round
Tasmania, in 1824.
- Language of the Aborigines of Tasmania. Papers
and Proceedings RoyalSociety
of Tasmania for 1876
(1877). pp. 7 and 72.
Knopwood, Robert, Rev.
Shillinglaw, J. J.:
Historical Records of Port Phillip. 8vo. pp. 142.
Contains Journal of the Rev. Robert
Knopwood, 24th April, 1803 to 31st December, 1804.
Knopwood was the first Chaplain of the Settlement at Hobart.
His Journal (pp. 65-141) contains references to the
Also in Colonies
Walker, Geo. Washington:The Life and
Labours of G. W. Walker, edited by Jas. Backhouse and
Chas. Tylor. 8vo. pp, xii. and 556.
Tasmanians, pp. 43, 46, 97-125. et passim,
- Journal-in MS.
1832-1840 v. Walker J. B.
Thos. Rev.: Moral and Social Characteristics of the
Aborigines of Tasmania as gathered from intercourse with
the surviving remnant of them now located on Flinders'
Island.Tasmanian Journal I. pp.
Jeffreys, Ch. Lieut.: V.
D. Land. Geographical and Descriptive Delineations of the
Island of V. D. Land. 8vo. pp.
168. London, 1820. Cotton informs
J. B Walker:
Walker, James Backhouse: Notes onthe Aborigines of Tasmania, extracted from the
manuscript Journals of George WashingtonWalker,
and Proceedings RoyalSociety
of Tasmania for1897 (1898) pp. 5-I75-
vocabulary taken down by G. W. Walker at Flinders' Island in
West, John, Rtv.: The
History of Tasmania. 2 vols. 8vo. Launceston, 1852.
Vol. I. pp. 1-98 contains the best account
of the aborigines which had appeared so far.
Backhouse, Jas.: Narrative
of a Visit to the Australian Colonies. 8vo. London,
Backhouse spent nearly four years in
Meredith, Charles: Verbal
Remarks on the Tasmanian Aborigines, Papers and
of Tasmania for 1873 (1874). Davies, R. H.: On the Aborigines of
V. D. Land., Tasmanian Journal ofScience.
II. pp. 409-420. Launceston and London, 1846. Lloyd,
George Thomas: Thirty-Three Years in Tasmania and
Victoria, being the actual experience of the author,
interspersed with historic jottings.
8vo. London, 1862.
in "Hobart Town Almanack, 1836 " (p. 146) Ross,
James, L.L.D.: The Settler in V. D. Land
fourteen years ago. Ross' Hobart Town Almanack for 1836.
Roth, Henry Ling:
Marion E. Butler , James Backhouse
John George Garson, Edward Burnett
Tylor] The Aborigines of Tasmania
F. King & Sons, England, 1899.
Robert Brough Smyth: The Aborigines of
Victoria: With Notes Relating to the Habits of the
Natives, Volume 2. Government Printer, 1878.
Aborigines of Tasmania.
WEAPONS, IMPLEMENTS. ETC.
The character of the weapons made by the natives of
Tasmania, the absence of ornament, their using their clubs
as missiles, and throwing stones at their enemies when all
their clubs were hurled, or when they desired to keep their
clubs for protection, indicate a condition so much lower
than that of the Australians, that one is not unwilling,
with Dr. Latham, to seek in other lands than those from
which Australia was peopled for their origin.
Their implements were a vessel of bark, very neatly made,
for holding water, and baskets of different forms, like
those used by the natives of Australia.
The native names of the baskets were Treena, Tillti, and Trugkauna.
Large shells were kept for holding water and for conveying
it to the sick.
The natives necessarily had occasionally to cross rivers and
arms of the sea.
Dove says that "the contiguous islands of the Straits were
frequently visited by the tribes located on the northern
coasts of Tasmania.
A species of bark or decayed wood, whose specific
gravity appears to be similar to that of cork, provided them
with the means of constructing canoes.
The beams or logs were fastened together by the help of
rashes or thongs of skin.
These canoes resembled, both in shape and in the mode by
which they were impelled and steered, the more elegant
models in use among the Indians of America.
Their peculiar buoyancy secured them effectually against the
usual hazards of the sea."
From another source I learn that when, during their
excursions in the autumn, which were supposed to be from
west to east, and in the spring from east to west, and they
came to an arm of the sea, or a large river, or a lake, they
made a kind of raft, somewhat like the catamarans of the
people of Torres Straits.
This raft was formed of the trunks of two trees, about
thirty feet in length, and laid parallel to one another, and
at a distance of five or six feet.
The logs were kept together by four or five smaller pieces
of wood, laid across at the ends, and finstened by slips of
tough bark. In the middle was a cross timber of considerable
thickness, and the whole was interwoven with a kind of
wicker-work, this raft was propelled by paddles with amazing
Such a vessel - if vessel it can be called - would carry six
or ten persons.
When it had served its purpose, it was usually abandoned;
and when Tasmania was first colonized, the whites not
unfrequently discovered these rafts or their remains on the
sea-shore, or on the banks of the rivers and lakes.
The names of the canoes were Malanna, Mungana, and Munghana.
Mr. Hull says that there were formerly many accounts of the
drowning of natives who embarked in these catamarans for the
purpose of visiting the neighbouring islands.
Their bodies were found on the beaches.