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Engineering and Technology Colloquia Series

How to Bootstrap Technology: Building an Ocean-Going Polynesian Canoe from Scratch

Presented by: Dr. Douglas Herman (The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian)
Category: Engineering Colloquia   Duration: 1 hour and 30 minutes   Broadcast date: February 24, 2015
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The settling of the Island Pacific more than 1,000 years ago is one of the greatest adventures of human history. Using double-hulled voyaging canoes built with Stone-Age tools and navigating by stars and swells, Pacific Islanders journeyed as far as 2,500 miles to find tiny dots of land inthe middle of a vast ocean that covers a third of the surface of the planet. Then they repeatedly traveled back and forth to settle those islands. This presentation looks at the arts involved in building a large canoe in traditional times, from the making of the stone tools to the weaving of the sails and the lashing and gluing of the parts. It demonstrates the ingenuity of Pacific Islanders, living on volcanic islands with no usable metals, in determining the best materials and methods for using only what they had at hand to make these amazing vessels. There will be materials for hands-on examination.