Ancient balsa rafts from South America

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by rgbujan, Dec 31, 2018.

  1. rgbujan
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    rgbujan Junior Member

    Hi,

    I am interested in ancient rafts from South America (before the conquest). I found some photos from the late 19th century. I hope that in such a professional group there will be someone who will help in answering the following questions:

    1. What type of sails was used? This is not a symmetrical square sail used in reconstructions (Kon-Tiki and others). I understand that it is an asymmetrical sails, balanced lug? Must yard be moved during gybe? A flexible yard creating an elliptical head and tightening the luff, creating a sail like the tip of the wing?

    2. What is the purpose of the spar from the stern to the luff with ropes?

    3. What is the course of the yacht relative to the wind? Less than 90 degrees?


    Best reg.

    Grzegorz
     

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    Last edited: Jan 4, 2019
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  2. Clarkey
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    Clarkey Junior Member

    I can't pretend to have any answers for you but one image of these rafts has always intrigued me:

    [​IMG]

    It seems to show a type of fore and aft rig with apparently flexible masts and no booms? Part of me wonders if the prominent lines to the mast tips, equipped with blocks for mechanical advantage are used to pull the mast tips back/down to increase the 'billow' in the sails and function a bit like sheets?
     
  3. Mr Efficiency
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    Mr Efficiency Senior Member

    I'm a little surprised that "balsa" means raft, in Spanish. Here I was thinking it was a local name for a tree species. I do recall seeing balsa expedition rafts at Ballina, New South Wales when they arrived in 1973.
     
  4. rwatson
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    rwatson Senior Member

    That was indeed an intriguing little information snippet. I went looking for the native name of the Balsa tree, which was Balsa.
    balsa - definition and meaning https://www.wordnik.com/words/balsa

    So,it appears that Balsa might mean raft in Spanish, but it was probably adapted from the original South American name for Balsa Wood. The word Balsa originally meant a Pond or calm water in Spanish, which is only slightly related to Raft.

    It appears that the Spanish stole it like the Gold the found in South America, as there is no known Latin name that it could have come from.
    Spanish Word Histories and Mysteries https://books.google.com.au/books?id=VTYBbGybtNEC&pg=PA23&lpg=PA23&dq=origin+of+word+balsa&source=bl&ots=MEFYNNYnEs&sig=KrH4Un9B00Uwo5S-AdtnhcZy4LY&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjew4HYhczfAhUC7rwKHREyC144ChDoATADegQIBxAB#v=onepage&q=origin%20of%20word%20balsa&f=false

    It appears there are plantations all over the tropical world of Balsa these days. It sure has gotten popular since ancient times.
     
  5. TANSL
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    TANSL Senior Member

    Gold that, before arriving to Spain was robbed, in many occasions, by the English pirates to whom, in gratitude, the king gave entrance in the select club of the nobility.
    Other settlers ended, almost, with the indigenous population of a territory, but there is no evidence that they stole the gold, only exterminated them. This is life.
    In Spanish, a floating device can be called a "balsa" although it is made up of totally different materials than wood. That meaning of the word "balsa" does not, therefore, have anything to do with the balsa tree. A quiet place can be called a "balsa", as well as a water tank for irrigation. All these meanings were used before the discovery of America and have nothing to do, presumably, with the balsa tree. Spanish has many nuances and it is not easy to understand, nor know the origin of his words (in general Greek and ancient Romans) with a trapped query on Google.
     
  6. Mr Efficiency
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    Mr Efficiency Senior Member

    So really this is just a co-incidence, that the names are the same ? I am guessing there may be other such examples, but can't think of one immediately.
     
  7. Angélique
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    Angélique aka Angel (only by name)

    The whole post is as often complete TANSL nonsense, especially about the etymology of balsa in Spanish for raft, and the same goes for the drivel about gold.

    Balsa in Spanish is a pre-roman Iberian word for light, the Spanish etymology for balsa as wood is because it's a light kind of wood, the Spanish etymology for balsa as a raft is because at the time the use of the word for that item originated rafts that they then knew were made of light kind of woods, so for the vessel they've adopted the same name as for the especially light kind of wood, and since it was named that way the name balsa for a raft remained intact when they discovered rafts were also made of cane and bamboo, and much later also from artificial developed and inflatable light materials.

    Best learn to read a Spanish dictionary my mate TANSL, before posting all those made up nonsense, see e.g. the . . .

    Diccionario de la Real Academia Española, 23e édition = Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy, 23th edition

    Balsa in Spanish.jpg

    ‘‘ balsa² - - Voz prerromana

    1. f. - Plataforma, originariamente formada por maderos unidos, que sirve para mantenerse a flote o navegar. ’’


    -- translated --

    ‘‘ balsa² - - Pre-Roman word

    1. f. - Platform, originally formed by united lumber, which serves to stay afloat or navigate. ’’
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2019
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  8. rwatson
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    rwatson Senior Member

    That's what my quick research seems to indicate. That last link I posted mentions that the words origin is very obscure, with no Latin predecessor.

    Angeliques references identify a reference to an Iberian word for light, so it could be a case of three words being forcibly pushed in to service -
    Maybe :
    Iberian = Light
    Spanish = Lake
    South American = Light wood that floats well in big rafts, now used as the name of a particular wood.

    It seems we will have to keep an eye out for some kind of definitive study to clarify the mystery.

    Isn't the Internet fun.
     
  9. Angélique
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    Angélique aka Angel (only by name)

    Got it from the French wiktionary: Balsa ---> Espagnol

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    ‘‘ Étymologie:

    Mot ibérique préroman; voir balso (« léger »), le latin Balsa; la Real Academía distingue les deux mots en leur supposant une étymologie commune. ’’


    -- translated --

    ‘‘ Etymology:

    Pre-Roman Iberian word; see Balso (« light »), Latin Balsa; the Royal Academy distinguishes the two words by supposing them a common etymology. ’’


    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    That set me on the trail of the Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy, which confirmed it being pre-roman, see post #7.

    And it also confirmed balsa and balso being the same at times, and light (as in lightweight) as a by the proper Spanish authorities officially recognised meaning, see below...

    Balsa Balso in Spanish.jpg

    ‘‘ balso²

    Quizá de balsa².

    1. adj. Pan. liviano (II de poco peso). ’’


    -- translated --

    ‘‘ balso²

    Possibly like balsa².
    - - (see post #7 for that)

    1. adj. Light bread (II of light weight). ’’
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2019
  10. rwatson
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    rwatson Senior Member

  11. Angélique
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    Angélique aka Angel (only by name)

    That's what the French wiktionary said for the Spanish word Balsa in Latin, which I doubted but did not further investigate as I was looking for the Spanish etymology for Balsa in Spanish regarding balsa as a raft meaning lightweight, of which I found the French wiktionary confirmed in the Spanish to Spanish Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy.
     
  12. Angélique
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    Angélique aka Angel (only by name)

    The odds are pretty big for that as they speak Spanish there now, so the Spanish introduced the word Balsa for the wood and the raft as they had a word for light stuff, Christopher Columbus even called the native Americans Indians, as he originally thought to have landed in the East Indies which now is known as Indonesia, since Columbus was looking for a shorter way to the East Indies and didn't know about the Americas yet, and so the wrong name for the indigenous peoples of the Americas got stuck all around the world.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2019
  13. TANSL
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    TANSL Senior Member

    Have you checked whether the origin is Greek or Phoenician or Berber, or one of the languages of the various tribes in Hispania ?. Of all of them, the Castilian language is nurtured.
    It is probable that, in Peru, the Castilian language was not spoken until several years after the discovery (1492), so the word that was then used in Castilla to designate a floating artifact is not likely to be the same as that used in Peru in that one time. I am inclined to think that the current word "balsa" is more similar to the one used then in Castilla (nothing to do, therefore, with the tree) than to the one used in Peru.
     
  14. Angélique
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    Angélique aka Angel (only by name)

    Hi TANSL, is there anything in the above post that you can substantiate with a better foundation than that in your mind it's probable . . ?

    Since this is just about facts, and your personal opinion doesn't add anything to that.
     
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  15. Angélique
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    Angélique aka Angel (only by name)

    Yes that I've checked, the answer was that the origin of the word Balsa in Spanish is it's an Pre-Roman Iberian word, meaning originating from the various tribes in Hispania from before the Romans took over there.

    Iberian Peninsula - Satellite image of the Iberian Peninsula

    [​IMG]

    Hispania - Roman provinces of Hispania

    [​IMG]

    It doesn't look smart to ask questions that are already answered here in post #7 and #9.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2019
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