600-Year-Old Canoe Uncovers Early Sailing Technology

The discovery of a 600-year-old wooden plank inside the hull of a large canoe in New Zealand has shed new light on sailing technology that would have been used by the Polynesians.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and it is thought to have been a huge discovery as experts look to learn about the Polynesian seafarers. The Polynesians were New Zealand’s first colonizers and the largest of three major cultures and societies from the Pacific Ocean.

According to IB Times, the canoe plank was originally discovered back in 2012 in a sand dune on New Zealand’s South Island, near the Anaweka River. Researchers have predicted that it was probably part of a huge 65-foot-long canoe, and that the 20 foot long plan was part of its hull and had been made from a single plank of wood. They were able to link it to the Polynesians because a turtle had been carved into its side just above the waterline. This was a common trait in the culture’s boat crafting.

Meanwhile, according to Science Magazine, scientists have since been able to use radiocarbon dating to trace the canoe’s last trip to 1400 AD, while Dilys Amanda Johns, a senior research fellow at the University of Auckland, has declared that it is among the most impressive canoes to have ever been found that had been created from that era.

“It was one of those situations where it sort of took your breath away. I’d never seen anything like it.”

Scientists are still mystified by Polynesian navigation. They traveled across the Pacific ocean from Samoa to New Zealand and Hawaii years before the Europeans arrived, and they only used their sense and oral tradition to travel the distance between these tiny islands that were thousands of miles apart.

Researchers have gone to great lengths to try to learn more about how they managed to conduct such expeditions with such little technology. However, some cynical historians have actually tried to point out that their discoveries were actually more down to luck and aimless drifting, rather than calculated planning and skill.

This is the second canoe that has been discovered from the Polynesians. Back in the 1980s one was found around 2,500 miles away, and they were able to decipher they both came from the Polynesians because it was also made with the same sort of trees that were native to the islands. They also both share the same design and have “transverse ribs carved into their hulls” too.

[Image via Static Flickr]