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hornell : water transport, 1946

James Hornell : Water Transport, 1946.

Hornell, James:
Water Transport- Origins and Early Evolution.

Cambridge University Press, Cambridge,1946.

This is important.
Chapter I: Swimming Floats and Riding Floats
Chapter IV: Log Rafts and Catamarans
Chapter XIII: The Evolution of the Clinker-Built Fishing Lugger

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Floats, Rafts and Kindred Craft

Using the term 'Floats' in a restricted sense the group may be divided into two sections, (a) Swimming Floats, and (b) Riding Floats.

Swimming Floats are accessory devices designed to assist in supporting the body while swimming, whereas Riding Floats are simple means of transport which are bestridden by fishermen and travellers who propel the rude craft paddlewise, with their hands.

Swimming floats form a fairly compact and well-defined class, but it is difficult to draw any definite line dividing riding floats from the simplest descriptions of true rafts, for floats of this type are undoubtedly the precursors of rafts; a complete evolutionary series can be built up to show the graduated steps by which the riding float, formed of a single unit - a log or a reed bundle - has developed into a true raft consisting of a platform capable of bearing a load and of being propelled by one or more paddlers standing or sitting on the deck or, occasionally, by means of sail.

In the same way skin, gourd and pot floats have evolved in some areas into true rafts buoyed by a number of floats, which may be inflated animal skins, or empty gourds, or even empty earthenware jars and metal containers.

As some artificial division has to be made, I propose to restrict the term 'Riding Float' to (a) single-unit logs and reed bundles ridden astride, and to (b) those where two floats arranged a short distance apart, tandemwise, are ridden astride upon a connecting saddle.

When several logs or reed bundles are lashed together, side by side, these, even if ridden astride, are here classified arbitrarily as rafts; the caballito of Peru is a good example of how the reed raft came into being by the multiplication of an originally single unit.


It is doubtful if early man became acquainted with the, art of swimming prior to the utilization or invention of some form of buoyant appliance capable of supporting his body when he ventured beyond his depth in river or lake.

The tree trunk floating downstream with the current, with some denizen of the forest marooned in its branches, probably gave the first stimulus to man's inventiveness in this direction.
Clinging to a log it would ...

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... not be long before he found that by kicking out with his legs he could increase the speed of his novel vehicle and, to some extent, control the direction of travel.
With the discovery that leg movement was of use in the water as well as on land, an astute fisherman would soon find that a short block of light wood was more manageable than an untrimmed tree trunk, it permitted of more freedom of movement and enabled his arms to come into play in effective combination with his legs.


Supposing this to have been the origin of swimming floats, we find a survival of this extremely primitive appliance in Southern India, where it is employed by Tamil fishermen in the River Kaveri in the reaches below the irrigation ...

TEXT-FIG. I. A fisherman using a wooden swimming float, River Kaveri, South India. (Original.)

... dam known as the Lower Anicut.
Here, at the season when the Indian shad (Hilsa ilisha), a near relative of the herring, migrates in incredible multitudes up the river from the sea in order to spawn, scores of fishermen may, be seen floating downstream, each supported upon a thick block of light wood about 2 1/2 feet in length.
With his chest resting on this, the fisherman holds extended obliquely downwards in the water a short-handled dip net, the wide mouth (6 feet by 4 feet) held open on a light ovoid frame (Text-, fig. 1). The butt of the net handle tests under the swimmer's armpit and upon the wooden float, which thus serves as a fulcrum when the net is ...

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... it.
The fisherman kills the fish by biting its head, thereafter threading it on a string tied around his waist. Having floated a mile or as far as he thinks fit, the swimmer lands and walks back to his starting-point to repeat the operation time and again.

Farther north, on the River Godaveri, a curved wooden float, carefully trimmed to a definite and slightly crescentic form, is used by the primitive tribe called Koi when crossing the river.
According to a personal communication from Mr L. A. Cammiade, who was for long stationed in this district, the float used is about 4 feet in length.
The swimmer rests his breast on the fore part of the concave side of the float and propels himself by kicking frogwise with his legs on either side of the hinder part; the float takes an oblique position in the water and has sufficient buoyancy to raise the head and shoulders of the user well out of the water.
Usually he has one arm free to assist him in swimming.

Lower down the same river a similar device is extensively employed by fishermen during the annual floods to retrieve drifting wood, consisting mainly of large logs of timber washed away by early freshets from the timber depots higher up the river, where they had been stacked to await transport to Rajamundry.
This kind of float is more efficient than that used on the Coleroon, for the user is able to work it across the current of the river in full flood even when dragging behind him a log of timber.
This simple aid to the swimmer is of high antiquity in India, for on the western gateway of the Buddhist stupa at Sanchi, built about A.D. 50, in a delightful boat scene sculptured on the left pillar, we see a number of men sporting among the lotus flowers of a sacred tank (Pl. I, fig. A); several support themselves on inflated skins, but others use swimming logs just as the Godaveri fishermen do at the present day (Maisey; 1892, 58 and Pl. XXI, fig. 2).

A similar log-float device is found as far afield as Lake Chad in Central Africa.
Here every household of the Buduma tribe owns one or more am- batch floats-trunks of the extremely buoyant wood of Herminiera ela- phroxylon, so light t,hat a child can carry several, each heavy enough in
appearance to form a man's full load (Talbot, 1911, 246).

In America the only instance of the use of a wooden swimming float is the practice of some of the tribes in the Gulf of California to rest their breasts when swimming upon two pieces of light wood lashed to a vine (Mason, 1895, 33'4).

Passing to Australia we find numerous records of the use by the aborigines of log floats.
These are most frequently met with on the shores of North Australia, where the coastal natives are enabled to make long journeys between the islands and the mainland by supporting themselves while swimming by means of a short log or piece of wood placed across the chest (Stokes, 1846, II, 15-16).

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Farther east, on the western side of Cape York Peninsula, natives cross rivers half lying on logs, 5 to 6 feet long, after the fashion of the log riders of the Godaveri in India; they propel them butt end forward (Roth, 1910, 3-4).

This section would be incomplete without notice of the surf board of Hawaii.
This specialized form of float, in the days when chief and commoner, men and women, all equally indulged in surf riding, was a broad flat plank, hewn out of the hard koa wood (Acacia heterophylla).
The minimum length equalled that of the person who rode it, the width, 14 to 16 inches; the most expert used much longer ones and the Bishop Museum, Honolulu, possesses one measuring 16 feet in length, a size that wouId require great skill to manage.
Those who could not obtain a koa board had to be content with narrower ones made from the wood of the wiliwili; a light cork-like wood considered the most suitable for the floats of outrigger canoes and of nets (Malo, 1903, 293).

Taking their surf boards with them, the surf riders swim out beyond the surf into the region where the rollers begin to rear their heads; here the riders await the oncoming of a wave, paddling with their hands till a swelling breaker begins to lift them forward and with surging impetus to carry them shorewards on its crest.
The usual attitude of Hawaiians is to lie face downwards on the board, with one or both arms folded under the chest.
The more skilful sit or even stand erect on their wildly bounding platforms.


There is good reason to believe that the Hawaiian surf board, now used only for sport, is derived from a true swimming float
originally of direct material advantage to the islanders in fishing and in swimming from place to place along the coast.
This inference is based upon its similarity to the swimming boards and 'mats' once possessed by the natives of Easter Island.
Unfortunately our knowledge of them is slight, confined to a few casual references.
Of these the most important are those of Lisiansky (1814,121) and D'Urville (1842, III, 162 and 387).
Lisiansky, who visited the island in 1804, saw no canoes there, but of the many natives who visited the ship, every one swam off supporting himself on what Lisiansky terms a 'rush mat'.
The wind during his stay off the island was boisterous, and he mentions that the islanders had to swim through a tremendously heavy surf.

D'Urville recounts how Capt. Rugg of the English schooner The Friends informed him that he had lain off Easter Island without being able to land, because of the south-east wind, and that nine natives had come aboard his ship with single planks (simples planches) which served to sustain them in the water even to a distance of four or five miles.
Roquemaurel, a member of D'U rville's staff, adds that each of these men was stretched out on a single plank, a description which tallies with that of the Hawaiian surf board when used for business and not sport.

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A couple of logs lashed roughly together probably formed the first advance in the evolution of certain types of wooden boats from the wooden block used as a swimming float.
Whether this invention of the log raft occurred more than once is a question that can never be solved; the idea is so simple and the distribution of log rafts so universal that it would be strange if this has not occurred.
While the distribution of the log raft and its substitutes in the form of reed bundle and bamboo rafts is worldwide, it is in India that log rafts are in most general use and where they range through the greatest variety of form, from a few sticks tied together to one that foreshadows the coming of the plank boat.

The most primitive type is rare; once only have I encountered it.
This was on the north coast of the island of Rameswaram, at the western end of Adam's Bridge.
Here a few inshore fishermen employ it when setting fish traps on the nearby fringing reef.
This type is nothing more than a rude platform of sticks joined together by means of a cross bar lashed over them near each end.
The number and size of the sticks depend upon what are to available; the length is between 6 and 7 feet with a width of 3 to 4 feet, just large enough to support the fisherman and a couple of large fish traps.
The paddle is a 6-foot length of split bamboo (PI. VIII, fig. A).
With this exception all Indian log rafts are built to standardized local designs.
These vary greatly, but in each every part has its definite shape and position assigned to it.
Such shaped rafts are known on the Tamil coast of South India, where they are most numerous, under the generic name of
kaIfu-mar-am (='tied logs'), anglicized into 'catamaran ',(1) and as this, term has been adopted into the English language in this form, it will hereafter be so employed.

[Footnote]1. A common and deplorable error is to apply this term to an outigger canoe, a misnomer that causes endless confusion.



A very primitive log raft use for reef fishing, Rameswaram Island, S. India.

A small fishing catamarran coming ashore through surf, Madras.

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On a recent visit to Rye I had an opportunity to see what is now becoming of rare occurrence in England葉he construction of a large fishing lugger on the clinker system of overlapping the upper edge of each plank or strake in the sides by the lower edge of the one above, the two being riveted together at short intervals.

Viewing the boat from a point on the quarter as I entered the shed, it seemed that time had rolled back and that I was looking into the bare hull of a Viking boat!
It might well have been a sister ship to that of Gokstad that I saw in the making.
The resemblance was increased by the illusive appearance of height possessed by the stem and stern posts, for as yet only the lower part of the hull planking was in place.

The builder explained that he lays down the keel and sets up the stem and stern posts in the ordinary way; thereafter he bends and fits the strakes in position and rivets them together, entirely without the support of any kind of internal framework.

When I first saw the boat, the planking of the bottom was complete and that of the sides to a point just above the turn of the bilge.
The upper ends of the stem and stern posts were stayed on each side by a strong batten running upwards to one of the tie beams in the roof framework above.
A different method was employed to hold the keel in place
 A stout plank had been nailed transverse to a number of the tie beams overhead; the keel was laid immediately under and parallel with it. When keel and end posts had been adjusted in position, three stout props were then inserted vertically between the keel and the plank overhead and wedged tight.
One was placed amidships; each of the others stood midway between the first and one of the ends.

The next step is to fit and rivet the strakes forming the rather wide bottom.
Neither plans nor moulds are made by Sussex boatbuilders apart from a half-mould used amidships as a guide to curves and to the distances from the axial line at which the strakes are to be fitted.
Apart from this guide, which is changed from side to side as necessary, the curves of the strakes are adjusted by eye alone
After riveting, the principal strakes are

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held temporarily in place and in correct curve by a number of battens fixed between critical points on the strakes and appropriate points on the beams overhead or on the side of one of the keel props.

The time when the frames are inserted is subject to variation.
Some builders fit and rivet all the strakes before framing.
Others fit the floor timbers as soon as the turn of the bilge is reached (the method seen in operation), but even these postpone inserting the ribs until the whole of the skin planking is assembled.

In both methods the type of framing is definitely of the inserted order; it is therefore the direct converse of the carvel type of boat construction, where a skeleton of the future boat is first made by building up a complete frame-work of timbers on which the skin planking is subsequently nailed or bolted.
A second distinction is that in a carvel-built boat the strakes are joined edge to edge, forming a seam that has to be caulked afterwards to make it waterャtight.

It is a fact of much significance that all boats in the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean are carvel built, whereas the clinker build is found only in North European seas, with its centre in Scandinavia.
The very earliest remains of a clinker-built boat, that of Hjortspring, in the Island of Als, in Denmark, date from a time when Bronze Age culture was slowly developing into that of the Iron Age用robably between 500 and 400 years B.C. in the case of the Scandinavian tribes. Next in time are the fragments from Halsno in Norway, now in the Bergen Museum; their exact age is uncertain, but it is probably considerably earlier than the third century A.D., because the plank fastenings are of fibrous material, whereas metal rivets are present in the Nydam boat, which is known to date from the century mentioned.
In later times the Vikings remained faithful to the clinker build for the ships used in their raiding and exploring expeditions.
They also adhered to the use of inserted frames like their predecessors.

In all the instances cited and as continued in the Sussex and Kentish luggers of to-day, evolutionary development is apparent in two directions, namely:
(a) in reduction in the width of the planks forming the skin, and
(b) in the method of inserting the frames and of securing the planking to them.

As described on pp. 199-208, in all of these, except the present-day modern type, the planks or strakes are attached to the frames by means of lashings passed through perforated lugs or comb cleats left upstanding on the inner side of the various strakes.
Apart from actual measurements, the relative width of the planks is deducible from the number of cleats or lugs in each transverse series upon each plank.

In the Als boat, the lower or garboard strake and the broad bottom board, as we shall see in the next chapter, have both got five cleats in each series, with

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three on each of the top strakes.
The Halsno fragments are too incomplete to allow us to say how many cleats the lower strakes had in each series, but one fragment had two in its breadth.
Two cleats are also characteristic of the Nydam boat, while in the Gokstad and other later Viking ships, a single cleat is all that could be accommodated in the breadth, so narrow had the strakes become.
In modern clinker types, cleats have disappeared; the planking is now nailed through directly to the frames and clenched (Text-fig. 37, D).

In the Als, Halsno and Nydam boats the ribs and floor timbers rested against the summits of the lug-shaped cleats.
In the Gokstad, Oseberg and other Viking ships, whereof remains survive, the frames have notches cut at intervals on the lower side in order to fit over the tops of the cleats and so cause the frames to lie closer to the skin planking; actually the upper and inner edge of each strake was in contact with the frames.
In the Sussex boat the floor timbers and sometimes the ribs are shaped to fit the angular inner surface of the clinker-built skin and are riveted thereto.

Subsequent to the Viking Age the saw gained favour as against the adze in the shaping of logs into planks, and this entailed the abandonment of the cleat-attachment system in northern boatbuilding.
By the use of a saw, planks of any required thickness can be obtained far more quickly as compared with an adze.
Sawing is also a much more economical method, for where an adze will usually dub out only a single plank from half of a split tree trunk, a saw will supply several.
But a saw cannot leave upstanding lugs on the sawn surface and this, we may conclude, was the determining factor which brought about the abandonment of the system of cleat attachment.

In the English clinker-built luggers and their near relatives in Scandinavia, the essentials of old Viking boatbuilding methods still persist.
The design of modern clinker-built boats constitutes the last phase in a series that was already in existence on the Scandinavian coast 2500 years ago.
No series could be more complete and more indicative of the autochthonous (sic) origin of the clinker-build system still favoured by the fisherfolk of Northern Europe.

If it be conceded that modern clinker-built boats are in direct descent from the Als boat type預 conclusion that cannot be denied葉his brings us to the problem of how arose the clinker build characteristic of the whole series.
An origin from a raft with built-up sides has been suggested.
This may be conceivably the answer so far as Egyptian vessels are concerned, and possibly for the ancient Mediterranean type from which the carvel design has been evolved.
But it is wholly unacceptable for boats of northern origin.
Rafts may be and are widely used in tropic seas, for semi-naked men can there endure continuous soaking for days together as waves wash through their low-lying craft.
In the bleak northern seas, the exposure entailed by raft voyaging, sometimes consequent upon the foundering of a ship at sea, is usually fatal within a comparatively short time to all but the most

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hardy, except during the short period of warm weather in the height of summer.
Hence raft voyaging has never been practised in the North and we cannot look to the raft as the prototype of the clinker-built boat.
The source is, in consequence, narrowed down to the dugout canoe.
Here, when need arises for a roomier craft, it is still usual in many localities to add a plank預 washstrake or a weather-board葉o the gunwale of the dugout.
In Oceania this is done by sewing on the added board, carvel fashion, edge to edge, upon the original gunwale and by closing in the two extremities of the canoe by a horizontal V-shaped end piece.
In Scandinavia, instead of so doing, the Bronze Age people, who lived in colder and stormier seas, appear to have found it preferable to overlap the edges and to sew them together in this position葉he genesis of the clinker build.

These early boats, formed by excavating the trunk of a tree, were necessarily rounded on the bottom, without keel.
As size increased and longer voyages were embarked upon, the dugout region, the underbody of the craft, shrank in width concurrently with increase in the number of strakes used to build up the height of the sides.
In the Als boat the dugout had shrunk to a broad plank, with two strakes forming each side; in the Nydam boat the keel plank is still narrower and on the under side a broad, low projection has developed, while the side planks have increased to five.
In the later Gokstad, Oseberg and all subsequent boats the basal plank is transformed into a true keel, narrow and markedly salient below, with the number of the side strakes greatly increased and correspondingly reduced in width (Text-fig. 36).

Figure 36

From consideration of the foregoing facts the inference emerges that modern European vessels are not monogenic.
At least two independent origins must be postulated and, as I have mentioned, the probability is that certain of the carvel-built type are derived from the raft容ither the papyrus raft of Ancient Egypt or the log catamaran of Peninsular India.
Conversely, the clinker type is the offspring of the dugout canoe, born in the wide forests of the North where trunks of great size were once abundant.

Finally I have to point out that the distinction between
(a) boats in which the skin planking is nailed upon a pre-assembled framework, and
(b) those where the frames are inserted after the shell has been put together,
is a consideration of fundamental importance in the study of boat origins and of the evolution of boatbuilding design.
Unfortunately, it is comparatively rare to find details on record of the characteristic features distinguishing the methods of construction of local types.
An instance in point is the ignorance until recently of how the framework of Welsh coracles is put together in different localities and how radically the method of British coracle-building departs from that of the curragh of Ireland.
By neglect of investigation of these matters, valuable indications of origin, descent and relationship may be lost.

Text-Fig. 32.
The Als boat:
A, diagrammatic transverse section amidships.
B, transverse section near one end; the side strakes are omitted.
C, method of sewing together the edges of two strakes, one overlapping the other.
a, vertical post or posts of a frame;
b, a spreader;
c, a rib;
d, the notched lower end of (a);
t, a thwart;
gs, gunwale strake;
bs, bilge strake;
k, bottom or keel plank. (Original.)

Text-Fig. 34.
Diagrammatic section, amidships, of the Nydam boat.
(After H. Schetelig.)

Diagrammatic section, amidships, of the Gokstad Viking ship.
(After H. Schetelig.)

Fragments of an Old Boat from Halsno
  14 pages

James Hornell:
Water Transport- Origins and Early Evolution.
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge,1946.

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