The importance of sea transport to Tokelau is something that has not diminished over time. It is still an essential part of Tokelauan life, for getting between islands, and for fishing and retrieving materials.
The Tokelau vaka has aspects of canoe design that are unique to Tokelau. A vaka is a large five-man canoe made for fishing, which reflects Tokelau's communal approach to catching fish. The vaka's distinctive features include how it is constructed.
Unlike smaller canoes, the vaka is constructed in segments from different trees and 'sewn' together with a cord. This technique is not practiced elsewhere due to other Polynesian islands having larger trees to work with than Tokelau. The reasoning for building the vaka in sections is it is made from the kanava tree, which grows in a tapering and twisting fashion. This means only the lower sections of the trunks of the tree are fit for sculpting into the vaka.
45c Traditional Vaka
The vaka is a central tool in Tokelau, not only for fishing, but for travelling between atolls. The islands of Tokelau differ in their natural resources, so it is necessary to travel between the islands to retrieve them.
$1.40 Sculpting the Vaka
After the vaka has been carved and 'sewn' together, it is then caulked with coconut fibre or marine glue to make it watertight.
$2.00 Fishing from Vaka
There are several different types of canoes constructed in Tokelau, though a vaka usually refers to a large five-man canoe made for fishing. This reflects Tokelau's communal approach to catching fish.
$3.00 Returning to Shore
This stamp shows the vaka in action as the men return to shore with their catch for the day. The importance of sea travel in day-to-day life continues to shape Tokelauan society today.