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George's Polynesian model at Assembly

Discussion in 'Scale and Miniature Canoe Models' started by Roger Young, Jul 5, 2012.

  1. Roger Young

    Roger Young display sample collector

    Folks at the recent Assembly, held at Paul Smiths College, last week, may recall George walking around with a strange looking outrigger canoe from the South Pacific tucked under his arm. He didn't know a whole lot about it, only that a New Zealand friend had given it to him before returning home. I invited him to bring it to our seminar on model canoes.

    At our discussion, it was displayed, and I suggested that this was a Polynesian-style outrigger, and likely came from the area of Tonga or Tokelau. When I got home, I was able to spend a few moments looking through my copy of "Canoes of Oceania", by Haddon & Hornell, the great research 'Bible' on canoes from the South Pacific islands, much as Adney & Chapelle's book "The Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America", is the authoritative work for our continent. I was also able to consult with a friend in California, who confirmed my thinking.

    Indeed, this would seem to be from Tokelau. The shape and style of the outrigger and the way it is attached, are all clues, along with the overall main hull shape. The treatment of the stern or 'tail' is somewhat unique, sloping down as it does. Perhaps this is a local variation, or maybe the carver was just working with a piece of wood that 'restricted' what otherwise might have been a higher stern. This model is well made and has neatly sewn planks for its hull. A nice little model, all-in-all. Likely made as a cultural replica for the tourist trade, or to be bartered. Probably post-WWII in date.

    So, George, there is your answer. I'm sorry, I didn't get your email address before I departed, so am answering here, and also letting any other curious on-lookers in on the complete answer.


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    Last edited: Jul 5, 2012
  2. georgieb

    georgieb New Member

    Dear Roger, I just found your letter today and I appreciate the information on my model. My email is I still have the model and your information gives it much more meaning. I don't think I will ever meet anyone else who knows anything about this model, so I am glad to have met you and hope to see you again. Sincerely, George Seeley.
  3. georgieb

    georgieb New Member

    I can now verify that Roger is absolutely correct. After quite a bit of research I found that this model is a very detailed replication of those canoe made on the Tokelau Islands. Their canoes were unique in design due to the lack of large trees and the type of fishing they performed. The slope you see at the stern is exactly as seen on the original canoes. These islanders fished for very large fish quite far from land and the sloped stern has something to do with their fishing methods. The model is correct down to the smallest detail including the manner of lashing separate trunk of trees together to make one hull. The model was given to me by a long-time resident of New Zealand who got the model in New Zealand many years ago. I have discovered that the greatest population of Tokelau Islanders is actually located on New Zealand. At one time Tokelau was regarded as the nation with the smallest population in the world, approximately 6,000 right now, and at least 3/4 live in new Zealand. Thus it is not surprising that this model came to me from a former resident of new Zealand. There is much more I could say about this model-- but I won't unless I hear that others want to know more about it. I mainly want to say that I am very thankful to Roger for approaching me at Assembly and showing interest in the model. It was his interest that ultimately lead me to do further research and find that this is probably a very desirable antique that would probably be valued highly for its extreme detail by a population closer to New Zealand. I have found that the National Museum of New Zealand recently acquired a Tokelau Island model but it is of much more recent vintage and has far less detail than this model. I am truly appreciative to finally know what I have. I wish it could go to wherever it would be appreciated more. Perhaps I should gift it to the above museum. Thanks Roger! (I am at:
  4. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

    How about an article for the Journal? :)

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