The Massim islands of Papua New Guinea are home to a unique collection of colourful outrigger canoes used for trade. They’re vital to the significant inter-island and community exchange of precious artefacts known simply as Kula.
Located in the Solomon Sea off Milne Bay in eastern PNG, these remote islands remain dependent upon traditional and contemporary versions of their original single outrigger sailing canoes for trade and communication. The Australian National Maritime Museum’s Historic Vessels Curator David Payne spent August 2017 on assignment with research colleagues travelling by launch through the Massim islands, meeting the communities and documenting their stunning canoes.
Back in Australia, David then developed his field notes and dimensions into accurate plans, the first time this has been done for many of the craft the team located. These large-scale drawings capture the canoes’ intriguing construction, their sail and rig layout, and the wonderful carving details. A dozen different canoe types are on show and the drawings reveal each canoe’s individual characteristics.
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