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Tied-Bark Indigenous Canoe

Vessel Number: HV000532
Previous Owner:
Vessel Dimensions: 4 m x 0.65 m (13.12 ft x 2.13 ft)
Classification:Vessels and fittings
The Tied-Bark Indigenous Canoe from the Tasmanian Art Gallery and Museum collection is one of the few examples of this type of bark canoe held in institutions around Australia. The details of its construction and proportions indicate it is most probably a canoe from the Gippsland region.
DescriptionThe tied-bark canoe is 4.0 metres long and 650mm wide, representing an average size for this craft. It is not known when or how this craft was acquired by Tasmanian Art Gallery and Museum (TMAG). From the few examples still available in collections for comparison and study, it is clear this craft has a number of features consistent with these other boats and descriptions of tied-bark canoes from early colonial reports.

The bark has not been identified, but the texture of the two sides is the same as a stringy bark, a tree closely associated with tied-bark canoe construction. The canoe has both ends tied with bark lashings, while the remnant frame at one end and evidence there was a frame at the other end shows the craft had an arrangement whereby the frame was bent into the curved section shape of the hull, and tied across the top to hold it in tension. This was one of two ways to support these vessels; the other method used a branch forming a beam with a cross-tie holding the sides in tension against the beam. Gunwale reinforcement with a branch has also been recorded in contemporary reports, but no existing examples show this detail.

The bark for the hull has been inverted; the rougher finished outside surface of the bark has become the inside of the canoe. This surface has been cleaned of loose material, and shows clearly where it has been thinned down to allow the ends to be folded more easily. The moderate length ends both have a tightly wound bark tie securing the deep folds. The outside retains the smoother surface but has dried out with age. A small number of splits and defects are visible, but no serious damage is apparent.

The documentation available for this canoe is very limited with no provenance information available, but it has been referred to while on display at TMAG for many years as a ‘Lake Tyers canoe’. Tied-bark canoes were used in this area. All the characteristics of this example compare well with a report of the construction of a Gippsland style tied-bark canoe, and its general appearance and proportions also look similar to the images available of canoes from this area, principally from Lake Tyers. This indicates that it is reasonable to assume the craft is from this region.

The canoe is in storage at TMAG's Rosny warehouse in Tasmania.

Vessel Details
Deck layout:open
Hand propulsion/steering mechanism:paddle
Hull material and construction:indigenous materialsnative materials
Hull shape:monohull

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