Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/701

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
683
THE AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINES.

notch in the bark for his great-toe, raises himself up, makes a second toe-hole, and climbs up with a facility, rapidity, and skill, of which we can hardly have an idea. In Western Australia, the helve of the hatchet is pointed, and the natives, after making the notch, stick the tool in the bark and lift themselves up with it. In other parts, they scale very large trees with the assistance of a simple cord of vegetable fiber having wooden handles at its ends (Fig. 2). Sometimes the cord is passed around the tree and the climber, so as to hold him up by his loins. The man hugs the tree with his legs, lifts the rope, draws himself up without slipping back, and reaches the desired height in a very-short time (Fig. 3).

For making their canoes the natives choose the bark of certain gum-trees. The species most in favor for this purpose is the red-gum

Fig. 4. Fig. 5.
PSM V19 D701 Eucalyptus rostrata bark peeled for canoe building.jpg

(Eucalyptus rostrata), from which the bark can be peeled in large pieces. It is considered desirable to get the bark from a tree that is a little bent, so that it shall be somewhat near the shape of the canoe, and a part of the labor of making the vessel may be saved. The bark is cut according to a specially designed shape, at the points x and x' (Fig. 4, A), and these points are connected by cuts from one to the other. The bark is then gradually peeled off by the aid of the helve of the hatchet and a stick (Fig. 3). Sometimes two sections are made at three and at ten feet above the ground, and connected with a vertical cut (Fig. 4, B). Poles are then introduced between the tree and the bark so as to work out a gradual detachment of the latter. The slab of bark is then given the desired form, and the ends are drawn together with cords or withes. This is one of the most primitive canoes that can be imagined.

These people appear to have a really genial taste for design. Freycinet relates that Captain King found on the walls and the floors of the caves in Clark Island numerous drawings executed which a white earth upon a reddish ground with which the rocks had been covered. Finders discovered similar sketches in a little island in the Gulf of