Kite Flying Pitcairn Island

The 10 most important things one should learn and do whilst on Pitcairn

Hot Water
Trading
Fishing
Pota
Fly a Kite
Unna a Coconut
Down the God
Swimming
Nola Reynolds
Miz T

Kite Flying on Pitcairn

For those of you who don’t know, Pitcairn’s has a long history of kite flying.

Most households have kites stored securely in wait for that breezy day. Once a kite is hoisted aloft, the word soon gets out and before you know it, there are dozens in the air.

A particular Pitcairn kite, the Lamborghini of kites as far as we’re concerned, is called the ‘Singing Engine’. Five sided by design, with an extended front which holds a taunt strip of tissue, plastic, paper or similar. It is this that gives the kite its name, the ‘Singing Engine’. High in the sky, as the wind passes over the tissue it makes a loud hum, like a swarm of bees, which can be heard from one end of the island to other.

It has always been an unspoken competitive sport – who has the brightest, whose goes higher and whose makes the loudest noise. As long as the wind keeps up, and the kites are securely tethered they can remain aloft, throughout the night and even for days.

Today though, Reynold pays Darrin and Brandon a surprise visit. He’s going to show them how to make the forgotten Pitcairn ‘Paper Kite’, as it is called.

The ‘Paper Kite’ is much smaller than the ‘Singing Engine’. Designed to be easily flown by children, the Pater Kite’ utilises easily obtainable materials, can be made in minutes.

It would be around 20+ years, at a reasonable guess, since the last ‘Paper Kite’ was seen soaring above Pitcairn.

Today, Reynold will once again take command of the skies.

To make a ‘Paper Kite’ it should only take you minutes to obtain the materials.
- A handful of leaflets from the fronds of a coconut palm.
- A bunch of ‘Rahulla’, a dried fibre found on the banana palm.
- A sheet of newspaper or a page from a magazine in this case.

Pitcairn Island, Big Flower - Fire Away
The leaflets from palm fronds
Pitcairn Island, Big Flower - Dried fibre from a banana palm
The dried fibre from a banana palm
Pitcairn Island, Big Flower - Paper Kite Body
Newspaper or a magazine page for the body

Taking the paper and with a sharp knife, you carefully cut a teardrop or fish body shape. Big is not what you want. The paper body should be no longer than 30cm in length maximum.
Once done, you now need to brace it.

Pitcairn Island, Big Flower - Cutting the Kite Body
Cutting out the kite body
Pitcairn Island, Big Flower - Fire Away
Teardrop or fished shaped approximately 30cm in length

This is where the palm frond leaflets come into play.
With your knife, carefully cut out the spine of the leaflet. On Pitcairn, the removed spine is called ‘Niau’.
It resembles a thin stiff cane, up to a metre long and, at the most, about as wide as match stick.

Pitcairn Island, Big Flower - Modern Copper Configuration
Palm frond leaflets
Pitcairn Island, Big Flower - The Modern Copper
The removed spine is called 'Niau'

Taking your piece of ‘Niau’, slowly stitch it through the centre of the kite’s body length ways.

Pitcairn Island, Big Flower - Reinforcing the Kite Body
Pitcairn Island, Big Flower - Reinforcing the Kite Body
Reinforcing the paper body with Niau

Now, do the same across the body. However, this time sew as many pieces of ‘Niau’ ,approximately 3 cm apart, to stiffen and reinforce the whole body. This may require 3, 4, 5 or even 6 lines of ‘Niau’.

Pitcairn Island, Big Flower - Will These Kites Fly
Darrin starts to question
if these things will really fly

Darrin and Brandon watch on, mimicking the master kite maker. At this point, Darrin starts to have serious doubts as to whether these objects will actually get into the air.

Pitcairn Island, Big Flower - Niau Body Bracing
Brandon stitches the last lines of Niau
Pitcairn Island, Big Flower - Final Kite Body Adjustments
Final adjustments to the kite body

By now Brandon’s got the hang of cutting and sewing the ‘Niau’. He only has a few more lines to go to stiffen his kite’s body.
As the novice pair make their final adjustments, Reynold looks on, chuckling. What should have taken them 10 minutes, has drawn on now for a good hour.

Pitcairn Island, Big Flower - Splitting Rahulla for the tail
Rahulla is split for the kite tail
Pitcairn Island, Big Flower - Tying the Rahulla Tail
Tie the split lengths end-to-end

Ok – the bodies are done. It’s time for the tails. This is what we use the ‘Rahulla’ for. Strip down the fibrous lengths into 1cm widths.
Tie these lengths end-to-end until you have a tail approximately 3-4 metres long. You may have to use two tails to provide the required stability if the breeze is stiff.

Reynold does a last spot check on his master piece, paying particular attention to the length of his kite's tails.

Pitcairn Island, Big Flower - Reynold Adjusts the Kite Tail
Reynold makes final adjustments to the tail
Pitcairn Island, Big Flower - 'A Completed Paper Kite'
A completed Pitcairn 'Paper Kite'

......Voila, a completed Pitcairn ‘Paper Kite’!

With phase one completed, kites in hand, the trio proudly march around and out onto the front of Big Flower

Pitcairn Island, Big Flower - Reynold Adjusts the Kite Tail
Reynold checks the kite line
and that its securely tied
Pitcairn Island, Big Flower - 'A Completed Paper Kite'
Darrin waits for a gust

Out front, Reynold positions himself right out on the edge where there’s a good updraft. Intending to get his the highest, I’m sure.
Darrin aligns his kite, aims and waits for a good gust of wind.

Pitcairn Island, Big Flower - Reynold Kite Catches the Wind
Reynold's kite catching a breeze
Pitcairn Island, Big Flower - She's Aloft
The master kite flier in motion

Reynold’s kite starts to lift first. And before you know it, it’s zooming away.

Brandon’s catches a breeze.
Then Darrin’s zooms away.

Pitcairn Island, Big Flower - Brandon's Catches the Wind
Brandon's kite catching a breeze
Pitcairn Island, Big Flower - Darrin Zooms Away
Darrin zoom's away
Pitcairn Island, Big Flower - Reynold Pondering the Moment
Reynold pondering the moment

Watching the ‘Paper Kites’ soaring above Pitcairn, there’s probably several things on Reynold’s mind right now. I’m positive these are;
- “What a sight I haven’t seen for many, many years.”
- “I’ve passed on a near lost tradition to younger blood.”

And… “I WIN. My kite was in the air before theirs!”