Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Up the creek without a... canoe???

Up the creek without a… canoe???

Imagine being shown a beautiful traditional Tasmanian bark canoe and being asked “Can you build us one of those?” No instructions in any language, much less an allen key…

It seems that this is pretty much what a small team of indigenous boat builders were faced with when they got together to build one – but with the ultra-modern help of a CT scanner, the result was the Toillinne Bark Canoe Project, the first full size bark canoe built by Tasmanian Aborigines in 170 years, winning the actKM Award for 2007, and "a HIGHLIGHT!" of the actKM conference for Melanie. Melanie says that, accepting the award at the actKM conference dinner on behalf of the Tasmanian Museum and Gallery (TMAG), Tony Brown and Tony Burgess related how the boat builders rebuilt from scratch a fully functioning bark canoe. Without even anecdotal information in existence, the team had to rely on CT scans of an1840s model bark canoe on show in the Tasmanian Museum. An added complication was that Tasmanian bark canoes were of a completely different design to those on the mainland!

From collecting the bark, to fumigating it, to painstakingly constructing it section by section, to successfully testing it on the Derwent River, this is "a story of indigenous knowledge once lost and now recovered, to be shared and stored for future generations." (Thanks for this story, Melanie! You were obviously ready to sail away into the sunset...) Cheers, Kathy

Story and pictures at