Ll天n Maritime Museum Logboat Report and Research Paper by Jamie Davies The largest artefact within our collection is a 7.35m dugout canoe also known as a logboat (Figure 1). Despite being the largest item within the collection, it has been a curiosity, as in reality little was known about this centrepiece of the museum. Basic observations (Figure 1) identify a pointed bow and stern seat. The logboat contains two seat slots built into the dug out canoe. The photographs show the decaying nature of the vessels with two large (growing) cracks down the hull. There is evidence of attempts to stablise the vesell with metal straps used to hold it together, whilst recently discovered fabric held by tar on the underside of the logboat was perhaps another form of structural support. The logboat has been in the museum since it opened in the 1970s, and donated by one of the founding members, who had it sitting outside their garage (Trenholme Garage) in Nefyn for many years before that. The only certainty regarding its origins is that it was moved to the garage in Nefyn from outside a garage in Caernarfon where it had been for many years. How it ended up outside a garage in Caernarfon has become a matter of local legend-some believe it was found on a sandbank in the Menai Straits, others believe it was found floating in the Irish sea and others that it was found in the mud off Nefyn. Despite these conflicting reports of where it was found- the consensus is that it was a curiosity and from abroad. A local newspaper article from July 3 1987 (Figure 2) states-'One of the more puzzling exhibits is an old dugout canoe which comes from West Africa or Polynesia but was washed ashore many years ago.' There is a photo of the canoe with the caption -'the south seas dugout canoe on display in the museum'. This mystery led me to undertake research into this artefact, as in order to display it for the public, more information would be needed to highlight the uniqueness of this curiosity and attempt to provide a story of how it ended up in North West Wales. In order to help identify the logboat's likely provenance, identification of the wood was necessary. Durham University (where I'm in my second year reading archaeology) offered to take a sample to attempt to identify the wood, as did Damian Goodburn , the UK's leading ancient timber specialist at the museum of London archaeology. The main interest around the research into the logboat was about its age and source (British or foreign). If the logboat was British prehistoric, it would be nationally important as the best surviving example. This generated great interest in the archaeological field including from the world's leading expert in logboats-Professor Sean Mcgrail. The results however have only added to the mystery. In November 2010, Damian Goodburn's analysis concluded that it was tropical hardwood-probably but not certainly African. Durham University's results concluded tropical hardwood maybe teak from South East Asia or India. In order to confirm, it may be worth paying for timber identification at Kew Gardens, who would be able to provide a definitive answer, due to their large collections, allowing for comparative analysis. Both results agreed it was not British and not prehistoric, both arguing it is post medieval (19th-20th century). Radiocarbon dating at Oxford had been planned however the argument for post medieval in date was strong enough not to proceed with radiocarbon dating.
Polynesian (Figure 3) Comparative analysis of logboats in this region was undertaken through contacting maritime museums of the Indian Ocean region. The comparative analysis disproved the traditional assumption that it was from Polynesia/south seas. With regards to comparison with similar boats from Malaysia , following contact with Melaka Museum, Malaysia , they noted a common local form to Sumatra, called the Perahu Jalur. This logboat from Melaka museum is different due to its shallower and poorer finish. Despite similarities with its flat stern- the stern seat, the bow is of a different shape. South America (Figure 4) At the National Maritime Museum, Falmouth, there is a dugout canoe similar to the Nefyn one. The Piroga Dugout canoe, 10.5m in length is 'made from a single trunk of Goiticia, a rot-resistant hardwood' and from East Brazil. However illustrative of regional difference it contains no stern seat. West African (Figure 7) Roger Blench, who has worked out in Nigeria, argues that it is twentieth century and certainly from West Africa. He notes that West Africa has the oldest dugout canoe in the world, the Dufuna boat. ca. 8000 years old. Brian Sheen, from Cornwall, who during the 1980s canoed up the Niger Delta, West Africa, has supported this argument. Photographs taken by him from the Niger Delta during his 1980/81 trip from Onitsha to Port Harcourt, Nigeria, illustrate the similarities between the logboats of the Niger Delta and that in the museum. The length is similar, and the bow almost identical.
Therefore timber analysis and comparative ethnographic analysis, leads to the conclusion that the logboat, is most likely from West Africa, perhaps from the Niger Delta from the 19/20th century. Observations: A number of people, have commented on the higher standard of finish the boat has, in comparison with indigenous ones. The research has only led to further questions and mystery. However it still begged the question how did a logboat from West Africa end up on a sandbank in the Menai straits, over 5000 miles away? Current theories include that it was a colonial souvenir brought back to Britain but possibly either fell overboard or was shipwrecked. An alternative and working theory is that it could be linked to the nearby Glynllifon Estate close to the garage it initially ended up in. Documentary evidence from the Caernarfon Archives confirms that during the 19th century, Lord Newborough, the owner of the estate collected curiosities
including canoes from Canada for display at his curiosity museum housed in Fort Belan on the banks of the Menai Straits. Local research, with help from Gareth Cowell from Caernarfon, into whether anyone remembers the logboat outside the garage in Caernarfon, has to date proved unfruitful. During summer 2012, Gareth Cowell and myself will undertake further research work in Caernarfon and Fort Belan, in order to further verify this theory. Finally a third and more likely hypothesis can be proposed. Following a presentation on research into the logboat at the MOROL 2012 conference. I was approached by a local sailor (Meic Massarelli, Edern) who has worked on the Elder Dempster lines (Figure 8). He noted that the Elder Dempster ships would 'They'd make first landfall in Freetown, Sierra Leone, where they'd pick up 'crewboys'. These would come to the ship in their canoes which would be hauled up on deck and the crewboys would sail with the ship to their various destinations as far south as Angola, then back to Sierra Leone. They did various laboring jobs on the ship in return for a daily meal. Sometimes the canoes didn't return to their owners but stayed on board (often mixed with the timber cargo) and would be thrown overboard when the ship approached Liverpool Bay. Sometimes there would be up to 9 canoes still on the ship.'
Furthermore he noted that on one occasion they threw around 15 canoes overboard between Anglesey and Liverpool- before reaching port. Another Elder Dempster sailor noted a similar incident off the coast of Devon. Therefore it seems this was a widespread practice and that at the time nothing was thought of ithowever it may provide a source of origin for canoes within museum collections? We are working with the Elder Dempster society to contact other sailors and find out more, to verify this potential origin and with the RCAMHW to record people's stories. Conservation Conservation is now a priority for the survival of this artefact. Before being moved into the museum, it remained outside, open to the elements and this escalated the process of decay. Since being in the museum, little effort has been made to stabilise the ongoing process of decay, which makes it difficult to study and to move. Therefore whilst research is an important tool, immediate conservation is needed. The first step has already been achieved, by way of a section drawing of the logboat. On Saturday 26th March 2011, a training session was held at museum by Gwynedd Archaeological Trust, where up to 10 volunteers came to assist in the recording of the logboat (Figure 8). The session was part of CADW's Arfordir-coastal heritage project. As a result a scale drawing of the logboat has been created which will preserve it digitally for the future and will be of significant use when it comes to the interpretation and display of the logboat as a centrepiece for the new museum. In 2014, following an online crowdfunding appeal, a support frame was built to preserve the logboat in the new museum. The logboat can now be seen in the museum.
Photographs Figure 1:
These pictures show the old interpretation sources present at the original museum exhibition. It contained a newspaper article, as discussed outlining the belief that the logboat was from either west Africa or Polynesia. The interpretation document (right), states 'A nearly completed dugout canoe being carved out of a single log of wood'. However this is completely unlike the museums logboat, with its deep draught.
Comparative analysis Figure 3 Malaysia
Figure 4: South America
Africa Figures 6 Source: http://davidwallphoto.com/searchresults.asp?n=4237&enlarge=1 Dugout canoe, Congo River, D. R. Congo (Zaire), Central Africa
Waterside Market beside Lake Nokoue, Abomey-Calavi, near Cotonou, Benin, West Africa #IAfN006
Pirogues (dugouts) at Sunrise, Congo (Zaire) River, D.R. Congo, Central Africa #IAfE057 http://davidwallphoto.com/searchresults.asp?tx=dugout&ts=&c=&Lids=&Gids=&p=3&n=3485&phra se=
Pirogue (dugout) at Sunrise, Congo (Zaire) River, D.R. Congo, Central Africa #IAfE056 http://davidwallphoto.com/searchresults.asp?tx=dugout&ts=&c=&Lids=&Gids=&p=1&n=3465&phra se=
West Africa-Brian Sheen-Figures 7
Copyright: Brian Sheen
Figure 8 (Meic Masserelli, Edern):
Figure 9: Recording Training Day
The above photographs show the museum volunteers at work recording the logboat, with guidance from Robert Evans from Gwynedd Archaeological trust.
This section drawing of the logboat, was the end result of the training day. It illustrates the distinctive bow and stern, and the slight curvature in the shape of the boat, this may be however a result of decay.
Figure 11- Similar metal support frames from Scandinavia