The diffusion of the powered engine in the middle of the 20th century nearly bring down the sailing canoes which became a simple image for postal card.

This new stage in the canoe decline had gone paradoxically with a rediscovery by ethnographers of the historical importance, but also of the variety of the canoes forms / shapes, uses and the ingenuity of the construction techniques.

The pioneer is F. Paris captain of the Corvette on the Astrolabe and the Artemise who published in 1841 « Naval Constructions of extra-Europeans peoples ». But it is after WWII that studies are realized by the Bishop Museum and his research workers. In 1932 E.S Craighll Handy published « Houses, Boats and Fishing in the Society Islands » and in 1936 is published the reference book « Canoes of Oceania » of A.C. Haddon and J. Hornell.

Finally, in 1976 appear « Oceanian Canoes », book in two volumes of the father J. Neyret.

Even though ethnographers want to restitute the variety of forms / shape, it will be necessary to wait until the first voyage of the canoe Hokule’a to finally begin to regain interest in building life-size sailing canoe and research and experiment to reconstruct the ancient science of navigation.

  1. Sailing Canoes – Photography. Bishop Museum.
  2. Plank 11 of the « Houses, Boats and fishing in the Society Islands », represent the fabrication details of the Huahine and Raiatea canoes.
  3. « Canoe being excavated » – Huahine 1925. Photographer K. Emory.
  4. Fakarava’s Canoe 1884 – Photographer H. Stolpe.
  5. Plank 79 of « Canoes of Oceania », represent a va’a motu (lagoon canoe)


Mast fishing (tira) in the Maupiti’s lagoon – Photographer A. Ropiteau, Ch. Glerizal’s collection


Reao’s Canoe – Photographer Forceville, Musée de l’Homme.