Thursday, December 6, 2018



In 1742, the British admiral Lord George Anson stopped at Tinian and saw a sakman (flying proa) sailing on the sea. He was impressed with its speed, reckoned by many today at 20 knots or 23 miles per hour on land.

Anson needed to make repairs and replenish food and water supplies at Tinian, and give his crew some rest and the sick among them some convalescence, but he couldn't stay long since the Spaniards in Guam might send up an armed force if they heard about this British visit.

So Anson destroyed the boat and the sakman being used by the Spanish and Chamorro men drying beef in Tinian before he left the island. But he also had his draftsman draw, in great detail, the design of the sakman. This drawing made its rounds back in England, along with the story of Anson's travels in book form, published in 1748.

Well, twenty-some years after news of Anson's voyage in the Pacific, his visit to Tinian and his depiction of the sakman circulated around England, a British shipbuilder decided to make a canoe based on the Chamorro sakman as documented by Lord Anson. The story appeared in a British newspaper in 1767.

Notice that the article talks about a praw (proa) and that it belongs to the Indians, a common name in those centuries for natives of America and the Pacific. The Spaniards called Chamorros and Filipinos indios in those days, too. The Marianas were still called Ladrones by many in those days, as well.

The British copy of the Chamorro sakman could not have been an exact replica. Local, English materials were undoubtedly used, rather than Pacific island material. I wouldn't be surprised if there were technological changes made, too.

But it goes to show that European admiration for the Chamorro sakman's speed and agility was strong enough for one English man to make a functional replica of it 250 years ago. What became of it remains an unanswered question.

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