Sunday, 27 January 2008


The legendary Graeme (King) Carson of Nuguria had ordered the construction of what became known simply as The Big Canoe, and it was ready to start work.

Lloyds of London received some unusual proposals from our Rabaul office from time to time, but a request for insurance on this small ship was too much even for that un-flappable British institution.

"Sorry old chap... This is a bad connection. For a moment there, I thought you said the hull was built from a solid log"

"That's right…standard construction material out on the atolls, and very good for boatbuilding."...
long silence

"I'll run it past a few brokers and call you back"

He never did !

The Carson Family's Malekolon Plantation was on Anir Island in the Feni Group off the south-eastern coast of New Ireland.

Salat strait, Feni Islands from Malekolon Plantation.

Unlike Nuguria, Anir is a high island with big tropical hardwood trees. One of these was felled to be transformed by canoe-builders from the atolls into one of the largest dugout canoes ever seen there. Two smaller canoes were got from the same big log.

The half-finished hull. The three figures on the right are an indication of its size.

Electric power tools replaced traditional hafted adzes and carefully controlled fire for the initial work on the felled log, but final shaping of the sides and bottom was done with hand-adzes, using the sound made by a tap on the hull with the tool's wooden handle to determine when the correct thickness had been achieved.
The part-finished hull sailed from Anir to Nuguria after a diesel engine turning a three bladed propellor was installed. An outside rudder, a traditional ship's wheel and standard instrumentation including compass and binnacle
were then added inside a fully enclosed wheelhouse. giving the helmsman full control from there.
She was completely decked in, with a long covered hatchway, under which copra or general cargo could be kept dry and secure in all weathers.

Never registered or in survey, she served for many years in Nuguria Lagoon as the plantation's main work-boat .The canoe would probably have been seized and impounded had it ever entered Rabaul Harbour or Buka Passage and it never did, but discrete and un-announced open-water voyages were sometimes made from Nuguria to Nissan Atoll and Malekolon.

Graeme Carson, ( right ) .

Frank Darcey Jr. inside the part-finished hull .

The Big Canoe at work. Tekani Island, Nuguria


* The men from Takuu and Nuguria
who built The Big Canoe included :-
Possiri Popi, Apoke Sione, Teloma Mani,
Tumau Fariki,Tepiko Heia, Tonegina,
Tewavia Tehoru, Kipu Sieki, Trakoa
and Aruka.


  1. Good piece!
    Is Graeme still around?

  2. Regrettably No... GC died at Nuguria from the after-effects of a stroke May 2004.


  3. What a great blog Brian. I will link it to my blog and hope more people can visit you and enjoy it as much as I am.

  4. hi brian

    this is timothy (tim) carson............i just read ur blog and found out about my father's fate. regrettable, although shocked i'm ok as we really didn't have much of a bond, but he was definitely admirable and i loved him in my own's strange not to know your dad until the oppportunity for him to act as parent expired. I did spend maybe close to 2 years with him later on. But this is the stuff of life, c'est la vie. I am a jazz musician in saigon vietnam, by the way. i remember him talking of u but the details are vague. please feel free to fill in the gaps. my email is
    cheers tim

  5. Thanks for that Tim. I've sent you a personal reply by email