Pacific Canoes

After rafts GLOSSARY rafts - floating platforms made from logs tied together , Pacific dugouts GLOSSARY dugouts - canoes made by digging out the centre of a log were some of the first boats in the world... and a technological breakthrough that allowed people to explore the Pacific.

Thousands of years ago, when melting ice flooded South-east Asia and formed tiny islands in a large sea, the Pacific Islanders had to develop better canoes to carry people and link communities. By adding an outrigger GLOSSARY outrigger - side float to the single hull GLOSSARY hull - the body of a boat dugout, they stopped it from rolling over. By adding sails and more wood to the sides of the hull, they made the canoe fast and safe enough to explore the open sea to the east. By making the outrigger the same size as the main hull (a double hull), they made a canoe that could survive storms better and carry more things like crops and animals [See figure 1].

Outriggered vakas GLOSSARY outriggered vakas - canoes made of a single hull and side float were good for fast trips to nearby islands and for chasing tuna. The stronger and more stable double hulls were ideal for settling GLOSSARY settling - moving to occupy new islands. Most sails were triangular. Their shape was good for sailing across and into the wind and for giving a lot of lift to the canoe. Some were quite small - made for safety, not racing. After all, a large sail increases the chance of a canoe capsizing GLOSSARY capsizing - turning over .

By comparison, boats in other parts of the world (for example, Europe, Africa, and China) were mostly used to carry heavy goods like metal and cattle along the coasts. They had to be large and so needed many sails. The more sails they had, the more ballast GLOSSARY ballast - the heavy weight placed low in the hull of European boats to keep them upright they needed to stay upright in the wind [See figure 2]. As a result, they were slow. They didn't need to be as seaworthy GLOSSARY seaworthy - well built, reliable at sea as Pacific canoes because they could stop on land every night.

Surf on the map above to discover the different types of Pacific canoes according to the island they are from.

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