Monday, July 13, 2009

Giant Waka Gets Makeover

Image Courtesy Waitangi National Trust
Ngatokimatawhaorua is a sight to behold. Probably the largest waka (war canoe) in the world it is 35 metres long, weighs in at 6 tonnes, has room for 120 paddlers and has reached a maximum speed of 27 knots (35mph/51kph). Built in 1935 from three massive kauri trees felled in Northland’s Puketi Fortest and launched as part of the Centenary Celebrations in 1940, it now sits in a specially designed korowai (shelter) at Hobson’s Beach on the Waitangi Treaty Grounds in the Bay of Islands. It was carved by seven carvers at Waipapa, near Kerikeri under the supervision of Pita Hepera, and is a larger version of the waka that carried visiting and raiding parties on long coastal voyages before and after the first Europeans arrived in New Zealand. The name Ngatokimatawhaorua was the name of the original voyaging waka in which the ancient explorer, Kupe is said to have used on his voyage to Aotearoa.

Left: Tau Iho Right: Taurapa Photo: Ajr April 2009
Tauiho - April 2009. Ajr
The carved tau iho, at the front of the canoe, is an ancient genealogical record and a history of construction; while the elaborately carved taurapa (sternpost) is used for navigation. It is designed to cut the head wind and when it whistles, it is an indication that the vessel is balanced and travelling in a straight line.
Rear View showing taurapa. April 2009. Ajr
The waka is still used every year during the Waitangi Day celebrations and it will be the showstopper at the 2010 Year of the Waka Waitangi Day celebrations, when over 50 waka from around the South Pacific come together. To ready her for the event – and her 70th birthday - the team from Te Aurere Waka recently met at Waitangi to give her a makeover. The waka was completely pulled apart and repaired, tarred, repainted and relashed.

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