Search the Register
Advanced Search
The Mornington Island raft, showing some of the ties and arrangement of material used in its construction

Mornington Island Indigenous raft

Vessel Number: HV000441
Previous Owner:
Vessel Dimensions: 3 m x 0.9 m (9.84 ft x 2.95 ft)
Classification:Vessels and fittings
The Mornington Island Indigenous raft is a type associated with the Wellesley Group of islands in the lower region of the Gulf of Carpentaria. This example was collected by the Queensland Museum in the early 1900s and represents the typical construction and proportions of this rare type, as there are thought to be only a few examples remaining in other collections.
DescriptionThe Mornington Island Indigenous raft is called 'Walba' by the Lardil community. The raft component is made of a series of branches or trunks from saplings tied together in two layers to form a vee shaped outline that is relatively pointed at one end and curves back on the sides to a much broader width at the other end. The larger diameter pieces form the bottom layer. The bundle is tied across at two points with loops of rope, and these loops are held in position fore and aft with another cross tie. Mangrove wood is used for the saplings, and dried out driftwood is also employed, the important requirement is that the pieces are light to give the best flotation. 'Madarr' (hibiscus) is used to form the rope ties.

At the wider and more buoyant end a layer or cushion of bundled grass is placed for the paddler to squat on. The paddles are called 'Bilirr', and it is understood from a similar craft in the Australian National Maritime Museum collection that they were shaped from the bottom section of mangrove trunks, with the beginning of the splayed out or buttressed root used to form a blade shape.

This example is around three metres long, and almost one metre wide, which gives a modest volume to the structure, and whilst it would be sufficient to support the weight of the raft and one person, it is expected it would float with a waterline close to the top of the upper layer of branches. The rafts were used for travel between the islands or coast and for hunting turtle or dugong.

In 2010 the raft is in storage as part of the Queensland Museum collection.

Prepared from material supplied by Queensland Museum.
Vessel Details
Current status:inside building
Current status:non-operational
Current status:not on display
Hand propulsion/steering mechanism:paddle
Hull material and construction:indigenous materialsnative materials
Alternate Numbers

: QE.1103

Discuss this Object


Please log in to add a comment.