Australian Aboriginal Canoes

Compiled by Michael Organ

Introduction

The following is a brief listing of illustrations of Aboriginal canoes from the Sydney region of easten Australia and dating from the earliest years of European exploration and white settlement.

Number Image Description
1

Title: [Australian Aborigines in bark canoes, Botany Bay, April 1770]
Artist: Unknown.
Description: Watercolour, 26 x 36 cm, British Library Add.Ms. 15508f.10.

Watercolour drawing taken during the voyage of the Endeavour. This may record the fishing party observed by Joseph Banks at Botany Bay on 26 April 1770. This is the ealiest known depictions by a non-Aboriginal person of a canoe. The basic structure can be seen - a single piece of bark, tied at the ends with vines and splayed in the middle with one or more pieces of wood. Note the 'paddles' used by the people in the canoes.

2

Title: View in Port Jackson
Artist: ........
Description: Engraving, 1789.

Arcadian view of Aborignal men from Sydney, with a canoe, one of the men fishing, whist the other has paddles in his hands..

3

Title: View in Port Jackson
Artist: ........
Description: Engraving.

View of a number of canoes, with fires in place.

4

Title: [Pemulwuy's canoe]
Artist: ........
Description: Engraving.

View of the Aboringal warrior Pemulwuy in his canoe. Probably taken in the vicinity of Botany Bay.

5

Title: View in Port Jackson
Artist: ........
Description: Watercolour.

View of .....

6

Title: View in Port Jackson
Artist: ........
Description: Engraving 1802.

View of .....

7

Title: View in Port Jackson
Artist: ........
Description: Engraving 1802. Freycinet expedition.

View of .....

8

Title: [ Canoe, Botany Bay circa 1805]
Artist: ........
Description: Watercolour.

View of a woman and a child in a bark canoe on Botany Bay, with a fire in the rear of the canoe and the woman fishing..


References

Captain James Cook, Endeavour journal, 1770

"Saturday, 28th April: In the P.M. hoisted out the Pinnace and Yawl in order to attempt a landing [off Woonona], but the Pinnace took in the Water so fast that she was obliged to be hoisted in again to stop her leaks. At this time we saw several people a shore, 4 of whom where carrying a small Boat or Canoe, which we imagin'd they were going to put in to the Water in order to Come off to us; but in this we were mistaken. Being now about 2 Miles from the Shore Mr. Banks, Dr. Solander, Tupia, and myself put off in the Yawl, and pull'd in for the land to a place where we saw 4 or 5 of the Natives, who took to the Woods as we approached the Shore; which disappointed us in the expectation we had of getting a near View of them, if not to speak to them. But our disappointment was heightened when we found that we no where could effect a landing by reason of the great Surff which beat everywhere upon the shore. We saw haul'd up upon the beach 3 or 4 small Canoes, which to us appeared not much unlike the Small ones of New Zealand."

Bibliography (1801-1887)

N.W. Thomas, Australian Canoes and Rafts, The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 35, 1905, 56-79 36, 1906, 409-412.

W.E. Roth, Australian Canoes and Rafts, Man, 8, 1908, 161-162.

F.D. McCarthy, The making of a bark canoe, Australian Museum Magazine, 8, 1944 .

Robert Edwards, Aboriginal Bark Canoes of the Murray Valley, Rigby, 1972, 80p .


Site last updated: 1 October 2009. Return to Michael Organ's Home Page. Any comments, corrections, or additions to this site are most welcome.