What in the World is this?

Do you have any idea what this is or where it comes from? It appears to be a long cord wound up on a piece of wood with a cylindrical handle and an odd shaped “thing” attached to the end of the cord. The answer, a fishing lure, albeit a very special lure, as it is made of spiderweb.

Spiderweb lure detail, 2012.098.001, BM Ethnology CollectionThe people of the Makira-Ulawa Province in the Solomon Islands make and use these spiderweb lures to catch needlefish. This particular lure, currently displayed in our Pacific Hall, is from Makira Island, also known as San Cristobal. Needlefish are caught using an innovative method called kite fishing. The lure is first attached to a small kite which would fly high above the water, allowing the lure to bounce along the surface. The fisherman would then maneuver their canoe to a place where they suspected the fish were congregating. When the fish took the bait, the silk threads would get tangled in their fine teeth and the fisherman would simply pull the fish into the boat.

Fishermen, in the Solomon Islands, that use this technique go into the forest in search of a particular spider that produces a very strong web to make their lures. They would collect the silk by twisting the spiderwebs around a small stick, similar to how cotton candy gets wound onto a cone. Once there is enough layers of silk spun around the branch, the silk is pushed off the branch, forming a tube of silk, that is tied to the fishing line.

The BBC produced an outstanding documentary series looking at the remote South Pacific. Enjoy this wonderful clip on kite fishing in the Solomon Islands.

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