Ancient Chamorro Engineering

It’s a wonder to realize the feats of the ancient Chamorros as it relates to their engineering acumen and marvel relative to building sea-going vessels.

The flying proa, a swift ocean going transport, sailed the Pacific Ocean in ancient times at a rate of 20 miles an hour as one estimate put it. A unique design construction that made this proa different from most vessels made during its time was the nature of the head and stern. You see, most vessels in the world, made their head uniquely different from their stern (or back of the boat). While the proa, had made both ends exactly the same. Where the difference lies in it its sides. One side is relatively flat, while the other side is rounded.

Obviously this design by itself, makes the vessel prone to tipping, which is why they engineered an attached hollowed log to the rounded side allowing for a more stable sea-going vessel. The use of bamboo is obvious in the construction of its frame to mount its sail, and as attached appendages to its other far reaching parts. Understanding the value of bamboo requires an understanding of its characteristics. With bamboo’s flexibility, and lightweight characteristic (due to its relatively hollow nature), one could see how a natural material such as this provides an appropriate useful construction material for the building of a proa.

Wonderfully designed with a beautiful sail, this provided them an opportunity to use the wind as a source of power for their journeys. It seems that the Chamorros understood the advantage of having a vessel that relied on the trade winds of the Pacific, allowing them to sail up and down the Marianas islands.

As a tribute to the Chamorros’ engineering sea-going work of art, we have illustrated their design on an 18×24 inch poster for public display. Visit our website to see and own this beautifully illustrated piece of art.

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