ningher canoe

The story behind building a traditional Tasmanian Aboriginal canoe – Dark Mofo 2014

ningher, the ‘catamaran’ – 1830

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from the journals of George Augustus Robinson,

13 February, 1830 – Port Davey
Proceeded on towards the entrance of the first river at Port Davey on the eastern side 20 This river, the natives acquainted me, I had to cross. How to accomplish this was the question, as it was then blowing hard from the north-west and a heavy sea was rolling into the river. The natives informed me that I must cross in a catamaran. Ordered the men belonging to the escort party to make one, but they said they knew nothing about it. Requested the natives to make one…

15 February
Strong wind from the north-west. Natives finished the catamaran. Four of the men carried it on their shoulders, the distance of a mile. There it was launched and I proceeded across in it… being ebb tide the rest of the people forded the river higher up, but as the tide was flowing fast I was obliged to send the catamaran and a female aborigine for one of the people as it was out of his depth. These catamarans are ingeniously constructed of the bark of the tea-tree shrub and when properly made are perfectly safe and are able to brave a rough sea. They cannot sink from the buoyancy of the material and the way in which they are constructed prevents them from upsetting. The catamaran is made of pieces of bark… which when collected in a mass are tied together with long grass, called LEM.MEN.NE. The southern natives call the tea-tree NING.HER.


Author: tawatja

cultural history and heritage researcher, Tasmania

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