Captain Hufnagel developed sophisticated copra drying facilities, with the help of his engineer nephew, Fritz Stunzner, who arrived at Vailele in 1897. There was no sun-drying, as was the practice in much of the copra industry. The coconut flesh was cut out under cover and placed in one of three drying kilns, which were fired by coconut husks and wood. Two of the kilns had four rooms and a larger one had six rooms. When they were all firing, the three kilns could account for 5,900kg of copra in one drying cycle, which took 30 hours. The copra was then fit for market.
It was bagged and shipped to Europe where it was pressed to extract coconut oil. The oil had many industrial uses, including in soap and candle manufacture. The residual coconut cake left after pressing was found, in Germany, to be suitable for cattle feed. Pressing the copra in Samoa to obtain oil was not favoured for a number of reasons, including the difficulty in sourcing barrels for the oil.
This photo shows a copra drying kiln at Vailele, possibly the largest six-room unit.
Credit: Stunzner Family Collection.
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