The boomerang is a flying tool, made of wood or carbon fiber-reinforced plastic, with a curved shape that is often used as a weapon or for sport. They have also been made of bones and come in many different shapes and sizes depending on their geographic or tribal origins and their intended function. The most commonly recognizable type is the returning boomerang which travels in an elliptical path and returns to its point of origin. The returning boomerang has lopsided wings in order to create a curved path. The returning boomerang is most often used for leisure or recreation or used as decoy birds of prey in order to frighten game birds into flight.
The use of boomerangs by Egyptians and Native Americans has been noted in some history books. Some boomerangs were not thrown at all but used in hand to hand combat by Indigenous Australians. They have been used as hunting weapons, percussive musical instruments, battle clubs, fire-starters, decoys, and as toys. The smallest may be less than 4 inches from tip to tip and over 6ft at the largest. Many are inscribed or painted and most of those seen today are the tourist and competitive sorts.
The first encounter of the boomerang by western people was in 1804 at Farm Cove (Port Jackson), Australia. They saw it used as a weapon during a tribal skirmish. The name is thought to have come from the aboriginal name “Wo-mur- rÄng” as one of the eight “Names of clubs”. The Turnawal people near Port Jackson used the work “boomerang” to refer to the returning throw stick.
The oldest Aboriginal of the boomerangs is dated to ten thousand years old although older hunting sticks have been found in Europe where they were part of a Stone Age arsenal. One, made of mammoth’s tusk, was found in a cave and believed to be about 30,000 years old. There is no solid proof of who first invented the boomerang.
They are commonly used as sporting items today during different types of throwing contests such as: accuracy of return, Aussie round, trick catch, maximum time aloft, first catch, and endurance. The modern sport boomerang is constructed from Finnish birch plywood, hardwood, plastic or composite materials and can come in many different shapes and colors. They typically weigh less and 3.5 oz. Boomerangs for hunting larger prey, called throwsticks, fly in a nearly straight path and are heavy enough to take down a kangaroo on impact. It has also been noted that the Aborigines used the returnable boomerang as a method of communication over long distances.
Traditionally boomerangs are flat and generally fall in a spiral. When it is thrown with a high spin the wings produce lift and they fly in a curve rather than a straight line. The returning type consists of two or more arms or wings connected at an angle. Shaped as an Airfoil air travels faster over one side of the wing than the other and this difference in air speed creates suction or lift along a rough plane that intersects the aerofoil at a near right angle along the long axis of the wing. The wings are set so that the lift of each wing opposes the lift of the other but this is done is such a way that the drag, lift, and rotational inertia reach equilibrium. These different wings create gyroscopic precession which is what allows the boomerang to return. When throwing a boomerang it should be thrown with the wings rotating on a vertical plane.
Right-handed boomerang thrown counter-clockwise will have a counter-clockwise flight and vice versa for a left handed boomerang. They can generally go from 22 to 44 yards when thrown in a treeless, large open space. Boomerangs shouldn’t be thrown level like a flying disc because it could cause damage when landing. Wind speed and direction are major factors in successfully throwing a boomerang. Usually if the wind is strong enough to fly a kite it is too strong to throw a boomerang.
The Guinness World Record is 1,401.5 feet set by David Schummy on March 15, 2005. The long distance boomerang is designed to be thrown to go the furthest possible distance and return as close to its original launch point as possible. They optimized to have minimal drag but with enough lift to fly and return and therefore have a very narrow throwing window which keeps many beginners from continuing with throwing them. New long-distance boomerangs have an “S” or “?” shape along with a beveled edge on both sides in order to minimize drag and lower the lift. Most modern boomerangs are made so that they have a flight path that is almost planar with a constant climbing during the first half of the trajectory and then a rather constant descent during the second half.