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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Vatican boat model exhibit, Part 2

In a current temporary exhibit at the Vatican Museums, dozens of models of watercraft from numerous nations and cultures are presented to represent the diversity and interconnectedness of humanity. (See our previous post on this exhibit.) The models are displayed in glass cases (hence the poor quality of the photos that follow) with little explanatory material. 

We present our photos with the scanty information from the exhibit cards in quotation marks, and our own brief observations in parentheses. We invite readers to contribute additional information about any boat in the Comments. Only models representing craft from "outside the Western tradition" are included here. More images of other models from the exhibit will follow in a subsequent post. As always, click any image to enlarge.
"Japan: Sailing boat" (looks like it would be highly capable in surf)
"Indonesia: Sailing boat with outrigger" -- (actually two outriggers. Although the rig is set as a square sail, it appears to be hung asymmetrically on the mast and can probably be canted to form a kind of lugsail.)
"Philippines: Sailing boat with outrigger" -- (again, two outriggers. This is a banca, with a Western-style sailing rig.)
"Sri Lanka: Boat with fisherman" (We wonder if the model attempts to represent any real type of boat, or if it is purely fanciful, its shape dictated by the material available to the modeler. What's surprising and touching about this model is the paddler, who is modeled with a great deal of humanity.)
"India: Pirogue with rowers" (paddlers, actually)
"China: Boat for recreation" (and by that, we mean eating, drinking and sex.)
(background) "India: Pirogue with rowers" (again, paddlers in fact)
"Thailand: Royal boat" (identical exhibit cards for both models)
"China: Sea Junk" (The truncated bow and minimal rig are fascinating aspects of this model, which is certainly not meant to be an accurate representation.)
"Southeast Asia: River boat" (a sampan)
"China: Sea Junk with three masts"
"China: River boat"
"China: Dragon boat for racing"
(Nationality not identified)
Back row:
Left: "Raft for fishing with cormorants"
Center: "Houseboat with passenger and boatmen" (Error in labeling, as this open craft is clearly not a houseboat. The Italian label identifies it as a sampan with a passenger and a boatman)
Right: (label illegible in photo)

Front row: 
Left: "Houseboat with coxswain"
Center: "Houseboat with passenger and boatmen" (Error in labeling, as this open craft is clearly not a houseboat. The Italian label identifies it as a sampan with a passenger and a boatman)
Right: "Houseboat with fisherman"
"Samoa: Seven paddle canoe" (Noticeable similarities to a Samoan canoe in our post about Buckminster Fuller's model collection)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Solomon Islands Canoe at the Vatican

On a trip to Italy this month, we visited the Vatican Museums, eager to see masterpieces like the Laocoon group and the Apollo Belvedere. Upon entering, however, the first thing we saw was this plank-built canoe, an eye-catching introduction to an extensive temporary exhibit of boat models and paddles from around the world.

Stern view of a Solomon Islands mon canoe at the Vatican.
Stern view of a Solomon Islands mon canoe at the Vatican. (Click any image to enlarge.)
Bow of the Solomon Islands mon canoe at the Vatican.
Bow of the Solomon Islands mon canoe at the Vatican.
The Vatican's stated purpose for the exhibit is to represent of the diversity and interconnectedness of world cultures. The curators were far more interested in communicating that ecumenical message than in the details of the items on display, for we saw nothing to identify the boat or paddles on exhibit, and the models were accompanied by only scanty information. Nevertheless, we'll concentrate on the exhibit's sole full-size boat in this post, and move on to the paddles and models in subsequent posts.

We believe the canoe is from the Solomon Islands. Haddon and Hornell (in Canoes of Oceania, Vol. 2) identify four types of plank-built monohull canoes in the Solomons. Those with continuous washstrakes like the one here were called mon and were characteristic of the central Solomons, including Bougainville, New Georgia, and Choiseul. 

In contrast, canoes called lisi, with discontinuous washstrakes both fore and aft, were characteristic of the southern part of the chain (including Guadalcanal, Malaita and San Cristoval) and of the tiny island of Buka, at the chain's northernmost end. With the exception of its discontinuous washstrakes, the following image of a Buka canoe observed in 1753 by Labillardiere is very much like the canoe in the Vatican. (See also our post on a Solomon Islands canoe at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, which we now recognize as a lisi.) 

Solomon Islands "lisi" canoe from Labillardiere (1800)
"Buka Island Canoe (Solomon Islands)" from Labillardiere (1800), Atlas pour servir a la relation du voyage de la recherche de la Perouse.
(Source: University of Cambridge)
Frame and plank lashings, Solomon Islands canoe
Bent (?) frames amidships, with decorative carving at the upper ends, are lashed to cleats on the planks' interior surface. Also in view is the seat riser.
The exhibit canoe is built of long parallel planks with no keel. Each plank is gotten out with cleats left standing proud on its interior surface near the lower edges, one cleat per rib. These cleats are lashed to ribs with vegetable fiber and caulked with resin made from the "putty nut" (Parinarium laurinum).

Carved frame/thwart units in a Solomon Islands canoe
Carved frame/thwart units near the bow.
Most of the ribs are roughly round in section and appear to be bent to shape, their top ends being carved with faces that are decorated with eyes of shell inlay. The two forward-most frames and accompanying thwarts are carved from single pieces of wood, and painted, carved decorative elements appear within that perimeter. Continuous thwart risers are lashed to the ribs and run nearly the whole length of the boat, supporting multiple seats for paddlers and passengers.

Bow detail of Solomon Islands canoe
Bow detail showing a carving of a horned beast (or demon?) at the waterline, extensive shell inlay, and cowry shells lashed to the forward surface of the stem well above the waterline.
The most distinctive feature of the canoe is its tall, elaborately decorated prow and stern. The outboard surfaces of these features are inlaid with thousands of pieces of carved shell in circle and cross patterns, and the decks feature diamond-pattern shell inlays. A grotesque painted and carved animal head (a goat? a demon?) sits right at the waterline on the cutwater with its horns on either side of the stem. Cowry shells are lashed to the fronts of both the stem and sternpost high above the waterline. The stem is capped with a painted carving of two parrot-like birds facing one another over a bulb-topped post that might represent fruit on a tree. The sternpost also features a painted carving at the top of an obscure geometric design.

Stem-head decoration of Solomon Islands canoe
Carved stem-head decoration

Canoes of the Solomon Islands by R.J.A.W. Lever.
"Canoes of the Solomon Islands," from The Maori Canoe by Elsdon Best
Canoes of Oceania, Vol. II: The Canoes of Melanesia, Queensland, and New Guinea, by A.C. Haddon and James Hornell

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Buckminster Fuller's Model Boat Collection, Part 2

In this post we look at the remainder of Buckminster Fuller's model boat collection that was recently donated to Penobscot Marine Museum. See our previous post for the first half of the collection.

Chinese junk model for inland use at Penobscot Marine Museum
Chinese junk. Lightweight wood, possibly bamboo. This model has enough detail so that it might be possible to associate it with a specific type, even though some of the features are overly simplified (e.g., the capstan) and others appear to be out of scale. The rigging and the house, however, have received a good amount of care and seem to reflect accurate observation of a real vessel type. The masthead devices, if accurate, may help in identification. 

Chinese junk model for inland use at Penobscot Marine Museum
With the hull's extreme tumblehome, the vessel is clearly a bulk carrier, and the scale of the house indicates it's a fairly large one. I believe the deck planks, laid athwartships, would lift off on the real ship to facilitate loading and unloading. Three heavy wales at the waterline strengthen the hull and serve as fenders. The three-masted, fully-battened balanced lug rig is supplemented by one long sweep on each side, which I believe makes this a vessel intended for river/inland use.

Deckhouse detail of Chinese junk model for inland use at Penobscot Marine Museum
Deck beams extend through the sides of the house. Housetops are made of woven material, probably meant to represent bamboo or palm leaf matting.

Stern detail of Deckhouse detail of model Chinese junk for inland use at Penobscot Marine Museum
Details of mizzenmast, deckhouse, transom and the large balanced rudder of complex construction. 

Foremast device on Chinese junk model
Masthead device on foremast

Mainmast device on Chinese junk model
Masthead device on mainmast (mizzen is similar).

Ma-Yang-Tzu junk from Ships of China by Valentin A. Sokoloff
Although there are many differences between the present model and this image of a Ma-Yang-Tzu junk from Ships of China by Valentin A. Sokoloff (not the least being the single mast of the Ma-Yang-Tzu versus the three-masted rig on the model), there are a number of similarities that indicate a possible relationship, including: heavy round cross-beams at deck level; sweeps on both sides; the capstan well aft of the bow; a barrel-backed deckhouse with a raised barrel-back coachroof; a tall athwartship "horse" (located over the deckhouse, forward of the coachroof on this vessel); red-topped pins sticking up from the transom; and a balanced rudder with an acute angle at its lower aft corner.
The Ma-Yang-Tzu is a river vessel, and the heavy cross-beams reinforce it and provide points of attachment for the tow line for upstream travel. The pins on the transom are for storing spare towlines.

Model Chinese seagoing junk at Penobscot Marine Museum
Chinese seagoing junk. With its deep rocker and high gunwales, this model represents a seagoing junk. Much of the rigging is in disarray but otherwise the model is in good condition. Although some details are out of proportion (for example, the weight of the sail battens and of the rail around the aft deck), there may be enough accurate observation here to facilitate identification with a real ship type.  The color scheme on the sides, the design on the transom, the colorful pole-mounted device on the aft deck, and the shape of the oculus are especially promising in this regard.
The vessel is a three-masted rig with fully battened lugsails that have a distinctly ovoid shape. The foremast has a forward lean; the mainmast is approximately vertical; and the mizzenmast rakes aft. 

Stern detail of model Chinese seagoing junk
Stern details, including painted transom design, unbalanced rudder, and heavy wales at the waterline.  

Deck detail of model Chinese seagoing junk
There is a capstan aft of the foremast and a tall windlass at the aft end of the main deck, probably used for raising sails. Two tall “horses,” (please advise concerning the correct term in the Comments) one each aft of fore and main masts, appear to be tying-off points for running rigging. There are deck hatches fore and aft of the mainmast. 

After deck detail of model Chinese seagoing junk
"Horse" aft of mainmast;, windlass; crossbeams beneath the aft deck extend through the sides of the hull. Is the pole-mounted device on the aft deck a lantern or a symbol identifying the vessel's port of call or purpose? 

Model of small Chinese junk at Penobscot Marine Museum
Small junk, China. This model, somewhat less detailed than the previous one, represents a smaller, simpler vessel. It has a single deck with lower gunwales and what might be termed a schooner junk rig, with two masts, the forward one shorter and raked sharply forward. The mainmast has a slight forward rake. Both masts are set with fully battened lugsails. The foresail has a straight, vertical luff and a moderate amount of roach to the leech. I believe the mainsail is similar. As on the previous model, the rigging is in disarray.
There is a capstan just aft of the foremast, and a windlass just aft of that. Also as on the previous model, there are deck hatches immediately forward and aft of the mainmast.

Bow detail of model of small Chinese junk
Bow detail. The bow transom is painted red. Atop it is a heavy beam tying the gunwales together and extending beyond them: perhaps fishing nets would be drawn over it?

Deck structures on model of small Chinese junk
One bow-backed deck shelter is covered with fabric, and a framework is present for a second shelter to be erected should the need arise. This makes me think this vessel is occupied by a family who would use it for small-scale commercial fishing and/or trading.

Stern details on model of small Chinese junk
The rudder is unbalanced; the tiller is missing from the top of the rudder post. A crossbeam at the top of the stern transom is smaller in diameter than the one at the bow and does not extend beyond the vessel's sides.
I do not know the purpose of the horizontal beams on both sides of the vessel extending past the stern transom on this and the previous junk and on the raft that follows. They don't appear to serve as davits. If you know their purpose, please explain in the Comments. 

Taiwanese model seagoing bamboo raft at Penobscot Marine Museum
Bamboo Raft, Taiwan. This very touristy model, essentially a nicknack, was built of shell or horn and represents a seagoing bamboo raft of a type once used for fishing. It is believed that Micronesia was settled by people using vessels like this prior to the development of the outrigger canoe.

Taiwanese model seagoing bamboo raft at Penobscot Marine Museum
Heavy crossbeams at the bow and stern are etched with zigzag patterns to represent lashings to the craft’s main longitudinal members, which would have been bamboo stalks. The mast rests on a heavy step that serves as another crossbeam amidships. On the foredeck is a representation of a basket of elaborate shape, probably for keeping the day’s catch. The item on the aft deck might represent a basket-built dinghy, a deckhouse, or possibly a net. Oars are tied to tholepins on both gunwale rails. Whether they are for propulsion or steering is unclear.

Sail detail on Taiwanese model seagoing bamboo raft
A fully battened balanced Chinese lugsail is represented, but the model is entirely without rigging. The sail is inscribed “Taiwan” in English. Translations of the Chinese characters and explanations of the other symbols on the sail are welcomed in the Comments.

Model Thai market boat at Penobscot Marine Museum
Thai Market Boat. The model represents a Thai market boat of the type used in the famous Bangkok floating market. Market gardeners bring their produce to the market in these boats and sell directly from them. The model shows the construction of this boat type fairly accurately. It is a plank-built boat of sampan construction, with wide planks laid on deep frames. An important function of the frames is to support the tall washstrakes. Boats like this are often built of teak, and the model may be as well.
Most photos of the Bangkok market show paddles being used for propulsion, but the model has a long oar or sweep that pivots on a waist-high post and that would be rowed in a standing, forward-facing position. Perhaps the oar is used for efficiency in open water, then removed in the close confines of the market, where a paddle then comes into play.
A teak Thai market boat very much like this model was restored by the Small Open Boats shop in Port Republic, Maryland.

Bow detail on model Thai market boat
The long overhanging square bow allows for easy boarding and loading/unloading over the bow onto a wharf or other walkway, and the metal strips would protect it, especially if that walkway were of stone or concrete. Given the crowded conditions in the floating markets, over-the-bow loading a more efficient use of limited wharf space than tying up side-to.

Floorboards, frames on model Thai market boat
All the decks and floorboards of the model are loose and removable, notched to fit over the deep frames.

Rudder, tiller on model Thai market boat
The boat is steered by an underhung transom rudder of elegant shape. We speculate that when the oar is in use, the oarsman or -woman might operate the beautifully-curved tiller with one foot.