Coconut Fiber was used as an ingredient in caulking for sealing hulls of wooden ships. It first had to be softened for use. This was done by the use of Rhetting Pits. These pits were built by the shoreline, where daily tides could wash over the fibers. The fibers were either buried under the gravel on the beach, to keep the fibers from being washed away, or put into pits that included drains to allow the dirty water to be let out before the next high tide. The rising tide would flood the pit from the top, filtering through the gravel. The fibers would soak while the tide receded, and after low tide was over and the next high tide was on its way in, the gate or stone that blocked the drain was removed, so that the dirty water could be drained from the pit. This process took many weeks, and at the end of the rhetting, the fibers were washed in fresh water in a nearby pond, lake, or swamp.
Coir rhetting is a documented process in the East Indies, where it was very common to use coconut fiber for marine purposes. This is because it's durable and does not rot as fast as using moss or hemp as a binding agent in caulking, or hemp for ropes. As coconut fiber was a common packing material to stabilize cargos in ships back in the days of sail, it is not impossible that this dunnage was repurposed for marine use here on our coast, using the same techniques as they would have observed during trading voyages.
We leave you to ponder this, and we'll follow up with more detail in an upcoming article about Smith's Cove.
Until then, Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
From The Blockhouse
is published by Blockhouse Investigations and oakislandcompendium.ca
in Nova Scotia, Canada
Editors and Chief Correspondents
Kelly W. Hancock, CD
John Wonnacott, P. Eng.
All material and images published herein, unless otherwise credited, are copyright of Blockhouse Investigations and oakislandcompendium.ca and may be reproduced by permission only.
Views expressed in these blog posts are our own. The views of those that comment are their own.