Appendix G
Bonito Hook

Buck, Peter (Te Rangi Hiroa). 1950. Material culture of Kapingamarangi. Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 200. Honolulu: Bernice Bishop Museum Press.( p. 237-240)

Bonito fishing by trolling with a lure appears to be on the wane in Kapingamarangi. The lure or bonito hook (pa ) was a composite hook with a pearl-shell shank (ti waka pa ) and a turtle-shell point (kawiti ). These are now rare, for I saw only one on the atoll. Another one, collected there by Robert O. Smith, was given to the Museum. These two hooks differ materially from the specimen figured by Eilers (2, p. 75) and reproduced in figure 146, a .

The shank of the Eilers hook was evidently formed from the hinge part of the shell which has affinity with the Marshall Islands technique. Eilers describes it as having ends like a fishtail in two tips, the side planes meeting to form an edge and continuing as a kind of rail to support the base of the point, and the point having a distinct barb.

FIGURE 146.---Bonito hooks: a, after Eilers; b, in Bishop Museum.

The hook seen by me on Kapingamarangi, owned by Alfred Patterson, closely resembled the Museum hook shown in figure 146, b . The length of the shank was 70 mm., the thickness of the head 8 mm., and the distal part of the shank 6 mm. The head of the shank was peculiar in not ending in a point, but the planes of the side surfaces came together to form an edge. The point piece of a turtle shell had two holes bored through the base, which was an even expansion without any proximal or distal prolongation. The two holes were not on the same level, the near hole being higher and much larger than the other. The lashings of breadfruit bast passed through the two holes and around the shank. In the lashings of the large hole, some turns passed down vertically and others were crossed in front of the point base. The point had no barb. The hackle was a piece of cloth included under the two lashings of the point base, but formerly it was made of fibers of breadfruit bast. No specific name of the hackle was remembered; it was simply referred to as kiri kuru (breadfruit bast). The snood was looped through the large hole in the point base and was also lashed to the head by a fine cord which passed through the transverse hole in the head and around the snood. The snood received the name of oho, the same name as the line.

The bonito hook in Bishop Museum (C.10170) is a little larger than Patterson’s hook, but it resembles it closely. The shank is 82 mm. long, the head 12 mm. wide and 11 mm. high. The head has a similar proximal edge instead of a point. The shank narrows toward the distal end, which is 6 mm. wide and 4 mm. thick. The point piece is made of turtle shell 3 mm. thick. It is 39 mm. long over all, and the base is 13 mm. wide. A hole is bored through the base toward the far end. A second, larger hole is pierced at a higher level so that it is actually on the ascending part of the point piece. The point has no barb (fig. 146, b ).

The lashing of the point piece to the shank is peculiar because, instead of one set of through and through turns as in Polynesian hooks, the lashing turns of each hole are in two sets, one vertical and the other crossed on the outer ends of the point base, as described below and shown in figure 147.


FIGURE 147.---a-h, bonito hook, point lashing.

The binding thread (a, 1) has its end bent under the shank to be fixed by subsequent crossings. The thread ascends upward to the large hole, passes through it, descends obliquely on the far side to the left angle of the point base and the shank, crosses obliquely downward on the near side of the shank, crosses on the under side of the shank, ascends vertically to the large hole on the far side, and passes through the hole to the near side. In b, from the position a, the thread passes obliquely down from the hole on the near side to the left angle, descends obliquely across the shank on the far side, crosses on the under side to appear on the near side of the shank, ascends vertically (2) on the near side to the hole on the left of the first vertical turn (1) and passes through the hole to the far side.

In c, the sequence of turns in a and b are followed until four complete turns have been made in each set. The last vertical turn on the near side is passed around the vertical set of four turns in an overhand knot, passes through the hole and makes a similar overhand knot around the four vertical turns on the far side. The thread is cut and the lashing of the upper large hole is complete. The back of the shank shows the crossing of the two sets of four turns from each side (d ).

In e , a second thread also has its end bent under the shank and is brought up vertically on the near side, passes through the small hole, descends on the far side to the back angle between point base and shank, crosses the shank obliquely to the left on the near side, crosses under the shank to ascend vertically on the far side of the hole and passes through it to the near side. In f , the thread descends obliquely on the near side to the back angle, crosses the shank obliquely to the left on the far side, crosses under the shank and ascends on the near side (2) to the hole through which it passes to the far side. As shown in g , the sequence of turns resembles that of the large hole and the turns are continued for four turns in each set; and the thread makes an overhand knot around the vertical turns on the far side to fix the lashing. The back of the shank shows the crossings of the lashing turns of the two holes (h ).

The Museum hook has no snood, but Alfred Patterson’s hook is complete with snood, line and rod. The snood is passed through the large hole in the point base and doubled back toward the head of the shank, where the snood is lashed to the head by a fine cord passing through the head hole and over the snood in a number of turns. The line to which the snood is attached is 9 feet 5.5 inches long and the bamboo rod 10 feet 3 inches long. Besides an ornamental sennit lashing at the base of the rod, there is a small loop in which the hook point is caught when not in use.

It is evident that the Museum hook and Alfred’s hook belong to Kapingamarangi and hence establish this particular type. It has more affinity with the Polynesian bonito hooks than the type figured by Eilers. As some communication took place in the past between the Marshall Islands and Kapingamarangi, there is a strong possibility that Eilers’ hook was based on the Marshall Islands technique.