Apia

Samoa

20/10/1917

 

Dear Sir

I am going to try to be systematic, a rather difficult operation for me.  I have interviewed a native about canoe names.

I cannot find out that two canoes were ever fastened together.

The large war canoe “Alia” pronounced ar-le-a, was practically two built up canoes one smaller than the other, with a strong platform connecting them.   Upon the platform or deck was a mast and rails.  The name Alia also stands here for a dried up creek.

You are right about the models.  They are never made to scale.  That is beyond the native.  No large dugout canoes are made here.  There is not the timber.  The largest dug outs I have seen are almost 25 feet long and that had a top stake added at stem and stern and a deck at each end.

I have just had an interesting trip to Savaii the adjoining island.  As there is a lot of the island unprotected by reef they use larger canoes than on this Coast of Expols.  I saw several built up canoes there, all lashed together internally, only the top stake and the deck at each end being lashed in by sinnet passing right through as in Maori canoes.  These canoes are about 20 to 25 feet long, about 20 inches wide at the widest and about the same deep.  They fish for benito and predatory fish from these canoes outside the reef, usually two people for men and women go out in each canoe.  These canoes are built if possible from timber from the bread fruit tree, as it is light and easily worked.  The joints are filled with a resinous gum obtained from the same tree.

The small dug outs are called pau pau.  The other larger ones as near as I can get are kau mau lua, but this I must verify and the large ones alia.

I have seen and inspected one of the old Tongan earthworks.  I spent a Sunday trying to find the fale le fee and saw one of these earthworks.  Two rivers converging together and then spreading out again from a long spur.  The narrowest part is not 50 yards wide at the top, and the sides are very steep.  Too steep and deep for myself and friend to get down and that is saying a lot.  There is still a deep formidable ditch almost 30 feet wide at the top and even now overgrown with bush it is 10 feet deep in parts.  Upon the upper side is a powerful wall still standing.  Scattered as it is by the growth of the bush, it is still a good 8 or 10 feet above the level of the ground behind it.  A little way in advance of the ditch is a raised oval or circular platform with a surrounding ditch.  This is still well preserved.  It reminds one of a Maori pa, only it is built of the local boulders.

Past the fort the spur opens up considerably over a mile wide and flat country it is with a deep gully each side and the mountains behind it.

About these roads in the west end of the Expols.  They undoubtedly would be more roads than ramparts.  During my visit to Savaii (that is another story) I came across a modern track over old lava that is covered with bush and timber.  To make a decent track the present administration, W Williams, had to follow out the same idea – to build a track that is literally a wall in parts.  One must judge these old relics from various stand points.  In their later wars here, the natives built creations of timber, nothing so lasting as stone, this is from an old inhabitant and in a broken country that is thick with handy sized boulders, that would be the best way of making a track that is suitable for native feet.  I shall probably be in NZ in January or at the latest February.  I will let you know my arrival and if I shall get to Wellington.  I should like to meet you and discuss all these things, but don’t build on finding a very scientific individual.

I have not yet done with that war canoe.  I shall have a whole lot of detail about it yet.  The American Consul has it all and I could not get a measuring tape or another fellow fool enough to waste an afternoon on the job, so I am getting it ready made from the Consul when I can get at him.

I don’t know about that paper for the Polynesian Journal. I can write a chatty letter but not a serious paper, I am afraid.

I had a very pleasant and interesting trip in the volcano at Savaii.  But that must wait.  Paper is running out.

Yours sincerely

Private JB Fleck

25/345 Samoa

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