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For the vast majority of people living in the Amazon, their only transport is via the river, in hand-crafted canoes. These are made from large forest trees carefully chosen for their size and straightness. In order to make a dugout canoe, a tree (a variety of species are suitable) is felled and then its bark is removed and the trunk is cut to a suitable size. At this stage it is hauled by hand, often several miles to the village. After this it is hollow out, partly by burning (which has to be done very carefully!) and then with tools. The skills needed to do this are ancient, perhaps tens of thousands of years old, and take many years to learn.

Click below to see the photos and information on making a canoe:

burning the canoe

stretching the canoe


burning the canoe photo

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Once brought into the village, the tree is hollowed out and then burned a little at a time until the desired depth is achieved. The burn has to be carefully controlled because if the burn is excessive, the canoe will have to be patched up or in the worst case scrapped and started over.

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stretching the canoe photo

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After the initial burning to remove most of the excess wood, boards are placed across the inside to stretch the canoe into a wide shallow profile. This is the ideal shape to allow manouverability, hence easy movement through the water, and also to be stable enough to carry large loads. A completed canoe is very resistant to rot and will last for five to ten years.

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