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Indigenous dugout canoe E077387

Vessel Number: HV000592
Date: 1956
Previous Owner: Dr Knight ,
Vessel Dimensions: 3 m x 0.6 m (9.84 ft x 1.97 ft)
Classification:Vessels and fittings
The Indigenous dugout canoe from the Australian Museum Collection (E077387) was made in Arnhem Land in 1956. It was made as a gift and is a shorter version of a dugout, a type that is common to this region however it carries the typical characteristics common to these craft.
DescriptionThe only reference to the builder is the name ‘Yellow Charlie’, and the information available notes that it was made as a reciprocal gift for Dr Knight in Christmas 1956. It is made of Leichardt Cedar, and included a paddle.

The hull has raked ends, a long parallel sided hull which is neatly shaped and finished to a high standard, with a smoother hull than seen on other examples recorded on the ARHV (no’s HV000160, 369,370,514 and 612). It would be easily capable of carrying one person, where as other examples are significantly longer and can carry four or more comfortably. It is possible that a request was made to the builder for a shorter version so that it would be easier to transport. It could share a similar background to the small single outrigger HV000533 from Cape Melville at the Museum and Art Gallery of Tasmania, This is another shorter and smaller version of a larger craft, still capable of carrying a person and being used, and demonstrating all the essential construction details of the larger outriggers it was based on.

Dr Knight was a paediatrician and he stored this dugout at his parents’ home when he returned to Sydney before donating it to the Australian Museum where it is numbered E077387. Unfortunately at an unknown time the bow was damaged by borer, and the affected area was removed but only partially repaired. It does however show how thick the ends of the dugouts were, a detail that is not as easy to interpret on other complete dugouts.

Dugouts were used for transport, fishing and hunting dugong and turtle. Their origins are generally agreed to come from contact with Macassan traders from around the 1600s or earlier, who brought with them their own dugout canoes. They traded their canoes along with metal tools, and then showed the communities how to build them from local trees.

Vessel Details
Current status:inside building
Current status:non-operational
Current status:not on display
Hull material and construction:indigenous materialsnative materials
Hull shape:monohull
Alternate Numbers

: E077387

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