Friday, September 3, 2010

Two Models at the Wilson Museum

The Wilson Museum in Castine, Maine, is a nice but very small institution with a relatively broad collections mandate covering, among other subjects: world ethnography, geology, tools, Castine history, firearms, and paleontology. Among the displays are a modest number of objects relating to indigenous boats of various cultures, including: a diorama of bronze-age Italian lake-dwellers with a dugout canoe; a leaf-shaped canoe paddle from South America (no other apparent information given); a fine large model of a large cedar-and-canvas sponson canoe (again, unfortunately, no details given); and some Eskimo kayak-related tools and fittings.

Also unfortunately, the museum has an almost-no-photographs policy. They permit you to take a single photo, without flash. I pushed the limit and got the following four images, but I'm sorry not to be able to provide more.

A model of a reed boat (called a "balsa") of the type used on Lake Titicaca. Where ancient Egyptian reed boats commonly used cords to pull the ends upward, these South American boats were were given rocker and sheer by binding the reeds in that shape from the start. 

Obviously, there are some problems with the way the model is rigged.

Otherwise, it looks pretty convincing. This detail shows the lashing of the (four?) bundles of which the boat is made.

A very nice model of a Pacific outrigger paddling (i.e., non-sailing) canoe; culture not identified by museum signage. It''s hard to make out the details with all the other items in the frame, and it's worth clicking the photo for an enlarged image. You'll see that the outrigger base has a lot of tumblehome, and that the washstrakes are fastened to the upper edges of the dugout base with an elaborate pattern of lashings. There are tombstone-shape "transoms" closing in the spaces at the ends of the washstrakes. The outrigger appears to be mounted too far aft (I believe the bow is facing left), but I may be wrong about this, not knowing what culture's boats to check it against. Just behind and to the right of the aft outrigger boom is a fancy ceremonial boat adze with a stone blade, and a plainer, more functional stone adze just barely visible to its right.  


  1. The Pacific model is very odd indeed and I'd really like to know where it came from. There is a mounting for a third crossbeam which I believe it should have. I've never seen transoms like that either.

  2. If I'm not mistaken, the outrigger is a Sri Lankan Oruwa.

  3. Thanks for this hint, Anon. In support of your theory, it does have curved outrigger spars, and washstrakes mounted atop a dugout base with extreme tumblehome, both somewhat similar to the Sinhalese boat pictured here
    Landstrom's painting also shows a "transom" enclosing the ends of the washstrakes, but it is very narrow and nearly rectangular, while the museum model's transom is more tombstone-shaped.
    On the other hand, the museum's signage identified the boat as from the Pacific. I suppose I should contact the museum for more detail.