Hunting camp at Vei Maori to Varivari island, 20 June 1893

We moved out already at dawn and at first all together up to a native village about 3 km distant where the guides for the individual gentlemen were to be picked up. The temperature was agreeable as strong dew had fallen during the night and  in all branches one could hear the cries of the cockatoos and parrots. Arriving towards 7 o’clock in the village, the Papuans at first expressed their astonishment about our early arrival but were soon ready to guide us. Strangely the Papuans are no friends of the early morning hours even if one wakes them and urges them to start working before 8 o’clock.

As the better hunting grounds were on the other shore according to the guides we had to cross the stormy river that was quite deep here. There was no boat available so that we were forced to walk in the manner of the natives on a submerged tree trunk that lay perpendicular to the river. This was not really an easy task as the trunk was very smooth as it was worn down by the steady exposure to running water. But fortunately the crossing succeeded without accident. By the way, we had to prove our talents as an equilibrist that day a few times more, as all streams here many of which of considerable depth can only be crossed on smooth tree trunks.

On the opposite shore we split again in parties and took different directions with the intention to meet again back at the camp by 11 o’clock in the morning. Bedford walked with me but the governor, apparently not truly convinced about his familiarity with the local terrain, sent two local natives along.

Bedford and the Papuans wanted to shoot a new kind of bird of paradise with twelve feathers. Five times we came close to such a bird and also heard its call. But each time when we were sneaking up, one of the gentlemen fired a shot close by which made the very timid and prudent birds flee. The local guides made the grave mistake to guide us all too close together so that one shooter interfered with the next. In return I found another tree full of Raggiana birds of paradise and shot two young males and one female.

Numerous hornbils were flying in the sky and at any moment I could hear heavy wings fluttering but it was impossible to shoot one. My next results were another parrot and a splendid common paradise kingfisher (Tanysiptera galatea) with its two long white tail feathers that are shaped like a lyre.

The guides had as usual not estimated the time correctly and explained to me after 11 o’clock was already past that we would have to walk for quite some distance to reach the camp. The governor, profiting from the experience of the adventure the day before, had signal shots fired but I arrived at the camp without any further difficulties with a small delay and by and by the other members returned too, each with interesting game. Wurmbrand had two of the rare black cockatoo (Microglossus aterrimus) and a pigeon of a new species, Clam a bee martin and a splendid glittering so called rifle bird (Ptilorhis magnifica), Prónay with two Raggiana birds of paradise and Bourguignon also with one bee martin and a female.

After I had said good-bye to the governor and the other gentlemen from Moresby who wanted to stay in the camp until the afternoon, we marched to the barrier  and embarked into the barge and boats there again.  We steered downstream with the intention to reach Redscar Bay as fast as possible as I still wanted to hunt on Varivari island where in the evening thousands of white pigeons with black wing tips, a speciality of New Guinea, depart from the mainland.

But unfortunately we had not taken the tides into account which were highly noticeable upstream causing a difference in the water level of 1,5 m; when we arrived at the ominous tree trunks, we were forced to anchor and patiently wait for the water to rise. In the mean time we prepared a frugal midday meal in our boats.

Towards 3 o’clock the water had finally risen so high that our barge could get over the trunks having gather sufficient speed and now was in open navigable water. We drove at full speed but unfortunately one machine valve broke when we left the river so that our speed was considerably diminished. Additionally there were rather tall waves and the circumstance of having to still cover six miles of open sea to arrive at Varivar island.

When we arrived at „Elisabeth“  moored close to Varivari island, it was almost 7 o’clock and already dark. That’s why we definitively passed on the pigeon hunt.

On board of „Elisabeth“, that had anchored the day before 40 sea miles Northwest of the mouth of the Vanapa in the Hall Sound, East of Yule Island, and spent the night there, I found an extraordinarily varied and interesting ethnographic collection that the kind patres of the mission on Yule Harbour had sent me. The commander as well as the officers were enchanted by the very obliging welcome they received there and reported that the patres were delighted to host European guests with which they could spend a few hours.

After the barge and the boats had been lifted and all our trophies from the river expedition loaded on board, we hoisted the anchor at 8 o’clock in the evening and set course for Thursday Island leaving New Guinea behind through the gulf of Papua and the strait of Torres.

The impression New Guinea made upon us was very favorable and we owe the island many stimulating experiences. Even though it was only a fleeting glimpse we nevertheless gained some insight into the life and activities of the natives and have seen their positive side. Me as a friend of nature, collector and hunter, the coastal strip and what I have seen of the interior had offered me various things: The view of strange terrain and exotic vegetation as well as dense jungle and two shore landscapes as well as ethnographic and zoological catches and not in the least exciting hunts of the representatives of Guinea’s bird world. All of this without greater dangers than thorns, ants, mosquitoes and those small pinpricks that will not completely spare any of us earthlings in any location.

Links

  • Location: near Vari Vari island, New Guinea
  • ANNO – on 20.06.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „Der Richter von Belamea“. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is closed from 1 June to 19 July.

Port Moresby to the hunting camp at Vei Maori, 19 June 1893

We again used the Basilisk Passage to leave the harbor of Port Moresby to reach the open sea at the same time as ,the governor’s yacht „Merrie England“ who would join our party. Then „Elisabeth“ steamed about 10 to 15 miles off the coast in a North-western direction always  keep out of the way of small islands and coral reefs, past Caution Bay until Redscar Bay came into view. The small islands are the favorite resting places of numerous pigeons. During the night giant tortoises visit the sandy beaches too to lay their eggs , while the dugong (Halicore dugong), also called sea cow, a herbivorous mammal  similar to the dolphin is to be frequently found in the shallow water overgrown with seaweed (Sargassum). Unfortunately we lacked the time to pay these interesting islands a visit. The entrance into Redscar Bay is quite difficult as there are reefs there that had not been mapped but are only incidentally known to the pilots themselves. Opposite the mouth of the Vanapa river „Elisabeth“ anchored at half past 11 o’clock.

As the governor had in the meantime already set out in his steam barge with a number of native guides, our expedition was also set up and made ready for that steam barge drawing two dinghies in tow. In the barge which was loaded with coal for two days we sat together with Bedford as river pilot and Bourguignon as convoy commander who also steered the barge himself. In the dinghies were our servants, Hodek with two assistants and a cadet with eight sailors. Here too were loaded the photographic apparatus, the provisions and the ammunition. Soon after we had set off from „Elisabeth“, the ship hoisted its anchor and disappeared from view taking course on Yule Harbour.

We first passed a barrier at the mouth of the river and then drove upstream the Vanapa river into the Vei Maori river, past the large Papuan settlement Manumanu hidden under tall trees out of which our guide had been recruited.

Understandably we were highly interested in navigating on an almost unknown waterway. Dense forests covered the shores whose edges preferably featured low palm trees that grow so close to the river that their broad leaves hang into the water. The journey offered new picturesque views at any moment. Soon on the right, soon on the right bays became visible that cut deep into the land and were sprinkled with tiny islands on which high above the water level rise proud nipa palm and ironwood trees. The background of this river picture was provided by the high Owen Stanley range in a dull blue color.

The turns in the river became ever sharper and more twisted so that the barge which was also towing two boats had a rather difficult trip. To evade the numerous mud and sand banks that almost reached the open air the middle of the river had again and again to be left and steered from one shore to the other. The river’s width decreased quickly and was finally hardly more than 20 m. Here the vegetation became even more luxurious, the shore trees hanging even more frequently into the river so that we glided forward in a densely overgrown under a leafy balcony.

Suddenly there was a heavy blow — we were stuck against a submerged tree trunk. The largest obstacle for navigation here are such mighty perpendicular trunks hidden in the opaque water. Formally turned into stone, this hard wood forcefully resisted the attempts to grab it with hooks and move it out of the way. We had the machine of the barge run at full speed in reverse but in vain, as the vehicle started to move a bit a thick branch blocked the screw. As multiple persons who had jumped into the water were unable to move the barge and also our rocking the boat proved futile, I decided to leave the barge to its fate as it was already 3 o’clock and thus quite late and row a boat in order to start the afternoon hunt. Thus said and done. But we had not advanced far when we encountered a new obstacle, a perfect river barrier made out of interlocked tree trunks which stopped all further progress. Here lay also the small barge and the boats of the governor which had also been stopped by the barrier. As our camp was still a sea mile further upstream and the governor had already departed there with his people, we were left without good council as the guards on the boat, some Papuans, also couldn’t give any advice. They grilled fishes in total calmness. Finally Bedford resolved the confusion by proposing to lead me on a hunt while my companions would try to reach the camp on foot. As soon as they would reach it, they could send people out to get the provisions and the baggage and transport them to the camp.

Just as I had developed this plan, the steam barge arrived which had managed to break free again and anchored downstream from the wooden barrier. Balancing over a tree trunk I went to the other shore and entered into the dense jungle to use as much time as possible for hunting, accompanied only by Bedford and Janaczek. The jungle was almost of the same type as the one at the Laroki. The only difference was in the almost impenetrable thickets here that consisted of trees and bushes armed with thorns and barbs through which we could only slowly advance thanks to the machetes which slashed a path for us.

In this forest my first catch was again a large hornbill and this time it was a female that I shot down from a ficus tree. It differed from the male only by the coloring of its neck feathers which are rust brown in case of the male and a dark black for the female. Continuing we suddenly heard the voices of multiple large red Raggiana birds of paradise and soon we had reached at the tree in whose top there was great activity. Everywhere there was swarming an fluttering. In between one could hear the loud cries of the birds. First we could see only females and young birds that chased one another from branch to branch until Bedford suddenly pointed upwards and I discovered a splendid male with a large bushy ornamental tail feather that was glittering in the sun and jumping around a female and was courting it by comic turns and twists. A lucky shot bagged me a beautiful catch. We had by accident found one of the famous dance trees of the birds of paradise. These animals namely select certain very tall trees where they congregate in the afternoon hours to perform their dances which they do with great crying and fluttering. Without pause the birds rush from branch to branch until the females all congregated and the males then produce a real dance spreading wings and ornamental feathers like blackcocks by jumping nearly in step into the air, turn and act like crazy.

The shot I fired did not disturb the birds much in their lust for dancing. The sound stopped for a moment,, some males flew to neighboring trees, the others hid a bit deeper in the dark leaves. But only a few minutes later they all returned and the noise resumed. The picture of the dancing birds of paradise is very attractive especially if the sun is shining on their colored feathers and illuminates their flashy colors. Most frequently to be seen are the young birds, still unornamented males and the females while the old males are more timid. Still I bagged during an hour four of the most beautiful specimens and shot another four that however flew away wounded and disappeared into the dense jungle. These eight males had always returned to dance again in short intervals to the top of the tree where they had hidden. The height of the tree is enormous and the birds of paradise so hard that only the toughest parts of grain makes them fal while otherwise they will fly away despite being hit.

Finally there were no longer any small old males to be seen and and we thus sneaked forward as Bedford had heard the voice of birds of paradise of another species out of the noise created by cockatoo and parrots. But unfortunately these birds of paradise rested on a tree surrounded by an almost impenetrable thicket of thorns so that we crept along only extremely slowly despite our knives. Arriving at the tree I saw to my great anger the birds take off without me having a chance to have discovered them earlier.

In the hunting fever Bedford ignored that the sun had set so that I had to remind him that it was high time to return to the camp. I noticed that he seemed to not know which direction to take and I asked him again and again in which direction the camp lay. He always replied that he did know it exactly. It was getting darker and darker, the thickets become more and more difficult to penetrate so that we stumbled over fallen tree trunks or lianas we could not see at any moments and had our skin pierced by thorns. Night had come and we could not see anything and now Bedford confessed what I had known all along that we were lost as he did not know the path and did not know where we were.  They weren’t exactly the most kind words I said to him. But all swearing and moaning was futile and we had at least try to inform the camp that we had lost our bearing. To this purpose we fired our rifles in fixed intervals. As there was still no reply after about 25 shots I resigned myself to my fate and was just looking out to find a semi-dry space on the humid ground in order to spend the night in the company with all the vermin that was crawling around when Bedford implored me to undertake a final attempt.

I was in fact actually against it as those lost in the woods at night tend to walk in circles but I relented and thus we crept forward slashing with the knives in this labyrinth of branches and lianas and creating a tunnel. while protecting the eyes with the hands against thorns. In this manner we advanced barely twenty paces in half an hour and had to stop exhausted and wounded by thorns.

Another war council with Bedford was suddenly interrupted by a rifle volley whose barely perceptible noise came from afar to us — in any case a sign of the people in the camp. I immediately answered. By and by we perceived the signal shots more clearly, after half an hour we also heard the shouts of the search party and finally the sound of axes with which our saviors cut their way to us. Finally stood the governor in front of me leading a native corps armed with axes and lanterns and expressed his joy to have found me. I was understandably not unhappy about not having to spend the night in the wilderness and moved to the governor’s camp which was around 2 km distant. On the way I met other members of the expedition who had also joined in on the search for me.

The camp at the river had been built around the small hut of a Samoan who had settled here many years ago to trade with the natives. The hut actually only consisted of a covered platform to which our hammocks were tightened using the surrounding palm trees.  Provisions and supplies had been successfully brought up in a boat of the governor as some of the trunks of the wooden barrier had been successfully moved out of the way. Our boats, however, could not get past the barrier and had to stay and anchor below it. After the small adventure I had participated in the evening meal and sleep were outstanding only myriads of mosquitoes swarmed around us which were so mean that we were bitten all over the body. Some of the gentlemen were unable to close their eyes all night.

Links

  • Location: Port Moresby, New Guinea
  • ANNO – on 19.06.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „Der Sohn der Wildnis“. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is closed from 1 June to 19 July.

Hunting camp at Laroki to Port Moresby, 18 June 1893

Early in the morning we set off from the shore of the Laroki and started the ride to Port Moresby in beautiful clear weather. Our people, the taxidermist who was still occupied with yesterday’s catch and the female corps of baggage carriers would follow in an hour. During the cool morning the ride home was quicker and much more agreeable than the march to the hunting camp. After only 3 hours we had reached the heights above Moresby which offered a wonderful panorama on the harbor, the native settlements, the barrier reef and the blue ocean. The picture was all the more impressive as we suddenly saw this enticing panorama after a monotonous ride of multiple hours through the plain.

In Port Moresby we made our preparations for the upcoming excursion to the Vei Maori river. First „Elisabeth“ would take me to the mouth of the river in the Redscar Bay 46 sea miles out of Port Moresby. The hunting party would then follow with smaller vehicles the Vei Maori river upstream. In the meantime, „Elisabeth“  would anchor in a nautically safe place in front of Yule Island to the Northwest and come and get me on 20 June in the Redscar Bay. In Yule Harbour „Elisabeth“  would also greet in my name the Catholic mission there in which one Dutch and many Belgian missionaries as well as some pious sisters of the congregation of the divine heart perform their beneficial works. I had met, during our stay on Thursday island, one of the missionaries from Yule Harbour and had most friendly been invited by the pater during my voyage on New Guinea. As I could not come personally, I wanted at least that „Elisabeth“ paid the missionaries a visit.

As the coast of New Guinea has many cliffs, reefs and shallow waters in the South and South-west just like everywhere else and the naval maps of this territory still are very imprecise and soundings have not been made in sufficient numbers, the rest of the day was completely spent in meetings with the governor and his officials and the gentlemen of the staff about the planned route.  The sailor who would serve as pilot was an already old man who is employed by a merchant house as captain of a schooner. For 28 years he has been navigating the coasts of New Guinea but was a bit ill. Due to the medicines administered by our chief medical officer the patient was recovering sufficiently to undertake the journey.

The supplies were restocked by buying tins and other provisions. Finally everything was ready for „Elisabeth“ to set out the next morning.

The rearguard of the expedition to the Laroki river returned on board totally exhausted from the march only around 5 o’clock in the afternoon. The people had to cover the distance again during the hottest hours of the day. Some members of the caravan had picked up a fever during the hunting expedition. On board too, this mean illness had claimed  victims as a part of the crew and almost all of our servants were laying sick in bed.

Mallinarich had used the time of our absence to assemble a very nice collection of butterflies and another one of corals. In the latter one there were also again a few new forms very different from those that had been fished out before. Thanks to the activities of Mallinarich specimens of the most original species wandered out of the harbor of Moresby that was full of fishes into alcohol containers.

The loading of coal had been completed long ago and the coaling ship had already departed in the direction of Sydney the day before. Our ship’s condition did not create any problems for the commander to receive a few members of the tiny group of Europeans in Moresby  on board where our music band played happy melodies.

Links

  • Location: Port Moresby, New Guinea
  • ANNO – on 18.06.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „Feodora“. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is closed from 1 June to 19 July.

Hunting camp at Laroki, 17 June 1893

Already at 5 o’clock came the wake-up call. Our sleep had been quite disturbed by countless ants that were partly tiny partly, like the red ants that dropped on us the day before on our ride under the trees, of considerable size whose mean bites plague and enrage the hikers on New Guinea day and night. One of the gentlemen even found a large scorpion in his hammock. Not a very friendly surprise!

The time of departure for the hunt had been set so early as the morning was the best time to hunt birds. it was beginning to dawn when we jumped out of our hammocks to cook tea and make the necessary preparations for the hunt. As each of us wanted to say out during the whole day and thus fully use the short time we could spend in New Guinea.

An original scene in the morning was the female baggage carriers bathing without any timidity in the river laughing all the time and chatting naked as Eve. This dance of nymphs naturally offered the opportunity to compare the variety of skin colors of the natives. The nuances of complexion ranged from dark-brown to light-brown with a predominance of coffee-brown or golden bronze with a tint of olive which is so characteristic for the Polynesian blood. What all had in common were the extremely beautiful dark eyes and their good nature, even friendliness of their physiognomy.

We set out in five marching groups that split on the other bank of the Laroki to the shouts of „Hunter’s Luck“ and disappeared in multiple directions into the darkness of the jungle.

I first turned towards the North shore with Bedford, my servant on board Biaggio as well as some natives and then followed the stream in a Western direction. Loud bird songs from hundreds of beaks were heard which I considered a good omen for a successful day.

One has no experience how difficult it is to discover birds in the impenetrable tangle of tree tops, branches, twigs, lianas and parasite plants of such a jungle. Especially as they most of the times sit in the highest spot on giant trees which one can see from the ground only through some gaps. Only a keen and at the same time trained eye can finally spot the birds. Sometimes this is achievable only after a long patient wait. If the bird flies away, all was in vain. Bedford and the savages showed an astonishing aptitude in spotting the birds, given that they are permanent inhabitants of the forest and each native wanted to be the first so that all ran around and made more noise than necessary.

We had big trouble to constrain this overzealousness. Finally I ordered my servant to keep the natives all close to him and follow us in a group at a distance of 100 paces while I with Bedford and one Papuan cautiously wanted to sneak forward. But as soon as the voice of a bird was heard, the whole group stood close behind us until Bedford managed to drive them definitively back with the help of strong curses in Papuan language. That the birds fled during those discussions or kept quiet and thus could no longer be detected was self-evident.

What I wanted to bag today first of all was one of the splendid king bird of paradise (Cincinnurus regius). We did find, following the voice a tree on which was such a bird too. But unfortunately, there wasn’t a male among them so that I shot only a female which had a plain color and had the characteristic skyblue legs.

In multiple places in the forest I saw giant nest of the brushturkey. This strange bird scratches leaves, twigs, earth lying on the ground, that is all the debris in the forest, together into a big pile of 6 to 8 m length and 2 to 3 m height in which it lays its eggs to hatch them assisted by the warmth of the earth or the heat from decomposition of the amassed vegetation. The effort the comparably small turkey has to spend to collect such great quantities of materials for its wall nest can be measured that around the hill-like nest the ground is picked clean for hundreds of paces. My savages dug into one of these nests but unfortunately did not find any eggs.

Out of a dense bush three Papuan frogmouths (Podargus papuensis) in front of me of which I bagged one. Really close to there I shot a forest bittern (Zonerodius heliosylus) that hid itself sitting on a twig of the tree.

Often I heard sounds in the forest that reminded me of the call of the mountain hen and which ended in loud cries. I also noticed the strong flapping of the wings of an apparently very large bird. Bedford explained that this was the hornbill that was incredibly timid and it would be difficult to bag a specimen. In vain we tried to sneak up to where the sounds were coming from. Every time even before we could see them they flew away with big cries warning all their comrades so that the forest was full of warning cries.  I had given up hope to achieve a favorable result when I discovered two rare beautiful scarlet and citron colored pigeons (Ptilopus iozonus) which I bagged. The shots seemed to cause such a disturbance among the hornbills that I heard their wings fluttering everywhere until one of them flew by accident just over me on a tall tree top so that I managed to shot it down. It was a Rytidoceros (Buceros) plicatus, an old male and a splendid specimen characterized by its giant beak, the red-brown neck, the metallic glittering black feathers and the snow-white tail. The age of the bird was estimated as seven years by examining the ridges on the beak, as the natives calculate that it grows another year on its beak every year. The savage who brought me the animal performed a very comical dance of joy by constantly kicking out his legs in an eccentric manner. As soon as he had calmed down again I sent him back directly to the camp in order that the bird was placed as quickly as possible into the hands of the taxidermist.

Gradually we had entered more mountainous terrain where the scenery changed. The forest was more open, tall grass covered the ground and the stony places and rocks were surrounded by eucalyptus trees. Here I shot a wallaby and a beautiful falcon (Accipiter cirrhocephalus).

It was shortly before noon when the heat became very muggy and the bird world had become very quiet and Bedford proposed to rest. We camped with the Papuans between the rocks in the shadow of some trees, ate our tins and tried afterwards to sleep a bit what however was unfortunately made impossible by the countless vexing ants.

Thus I entered into an „English“ conversation with Bedford in which I learned that this hunting ground chosen by the governor was an unsuitable one and that the best hunting opportunity was actually in a territory about 40 kilometers out of Moresby in the valley of the Vei Maori River where the governor used to go hunting too. But, added Bedford, he still hoped to find some birds of paradise to shoot in a valley nearby in the afternoon.

The Papuans spent their break in a much more agreeable manner for them: They smoked tobacco which they had begged off from me, grilled the freshly shot wallaby and ate this strange roast with pleasure.

Despite the strong heat we started again already at 2 o’clock and climbed up a steep mountain ledge which was as tiring as it was difficult as we could not follow a set path but had to climb what we encountered over blocks of rocks and clefts covered with grass without knowing where to put one’s foot and slipping at any moment. Short of breath  and bathed in sweat we arrived on the hill where we let ourselves fall into the grass to recover some of our breath and regain some of our strength.  As now it was necessary to climb down on the other side of the mountain ledge what was even more difficult at the beginning. The descent continued very slowly as we advanced only gradually. Halfway down even the natives ran out of force one after another and sat down and did not want to continue marching. Only the insistent admonitions of Bedford as well as the circumstance that we had the strikers march in front of us and thus drove them forward made them move.

Slashed and flayed we arrived finally in the small densely overgrown valley in which Bedford hoped to find birds of paradise. In profusion, however, just at that moment a heavy rain started pouring down so that all hopes for a catch were dashed. As soon as it starts raining, all the birds of paradise hide themselves in the densest mountain tops, concerned about their feathers, press themselves against the trunk and thus absolutely can not be seen.  I still climbed up the hill on the other side of the valley and saw a female bird of paradise but a male was not to be seen.

As Bedford now declared that it was futile to continue the search for birds of paradise and we had to cover an important distance to return to the camp, we changed our path in that direction.

The valley was so densely overgrown that we could only enter it by advancing in the stream running through the valley floor. At its shore the natives eagerly rushed into the stream to quench their thirst but found not much refreshment in the warm water.

Continuing to wade in this stream, we noticed right at the start that our shoes were filling with fine sand which hurt me especially as the walking had blistered my feet. Where the deep areas of the stream prevented wading we had to go around the stream and squeeze ourselves between the trees at the shore or climb over the fallen trunks. Finally we arrived at the Northern end of the valley where I had hunted in the morning and where we now were returning home, that is to the camp which I reached late in the evening fully soaked and very tired. Such a ten hour expedition in the tropical jungle in such a muggy atmosphere is much more exhausting than a march double its length in our latitudes.

The other hunting group arrived earlier than I and every gentleman had brought something interesting, thus Clam a splendid bird of paradise and three crowned pigeons, Wurmbrand two  blue bitterns (Ardeiralla flavicollis), a snow-white kite with light-brown wings (Haliastur girrenera) and two strange crake-like birds called comb-crested jacana (Parra gallinacea), Prónay finally a cockatoo, a pink pigeon etc.

According to the original plan the next day would be spent hunting at the shore of the Laroki too but the information given by Bedford made me ask the governor to organize an expedition to the famous hunting grounds at the shore of Vei Maori. To lessen the concerns of the governor regarding the limited time for this plan I declared to prolong my stay on New Guinea by two days. This prolongation decided the matter.  Sir William accepted the hunting expedition to Vei Maori under the condition that he would have enough time to prepare so that we unanimously agreed to return to Port Moresby the next morning.

This evening sleep came easy despite ants and scorpions as even the natives were exhausted from the activities of the day so that they forgot to sing and dance and the camp was completely quiet at an early hour.

Links

  • Location: Port Moresby, New Guinea
  • ANNO – on 17.06.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „Die Jungfrau von Orleans“. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is closed from 1 June to 19 July.

Port Moresby to the hunting camp at Laroki, 16 June 1893

According to the appointment we should depart at 7 o’clock in the morning on the expedition to the Laroki river but only set out when a certain signal, hoisting a red flag on Government House, indicated that everything was ready. Finally at 9 o’clock the red flag appeared and we went on lan where the governor and four of his officials who had the intention to participate in the expedition awaited me.

The number of officials the governor had were only a few persons and the body of his military land army consists in an armed police force of 70 men and is currently composed mostly out of natives from Fiji as well as the Solomon islands.The commander of this force was the  Commandant of Armed Constabulary. The policemen are said to be bold, skillful people who set out to restore order if a native tribe within British New Guinea has committed some misdeed. If the natives murder a white man, the guilty are executed and in fact hanged as the natives consider being shot less ignominious. The murder of natives is usually not handled as strictly and punished with hard labor for which the criminals are deported to a nearby island.

For the march to the Laroki, horses were provided for me and the gentlemen who wanted to participate in the expedition while our people had to march on foot. The baggage, the supplies and the munition was carried by natives but in no way by men who would never deign to such servile actions but instead by young girls who carried the heavy loads with admirable endurance. The use of about thirty girls as carriers our caravan naturally looked particularly strange.

The guide for this difficult route to the Laroki river was a mixed blood of a Samoan and an Englishwoman called George Bedford who was notable by his strong stocky build. He spends the largest part of his life,  a true ranger, hunting and collecting for researchers in the jungles of the island only to now and then go and talk to Port Moresby and to sell the bird bodies caught on his journeys to the merchant resident in the colony.

The horses we were riding roam freely iin the bush when they are not needed and had only been caught during the morning with a lasso; they are all descendants of Australian horses which the gold diggers once brought to the coast.

The day was hot and muggy. We crossed over many first bare limestone hills that ascend up to the top of Port Moresby and reached after having completed a steep descent the valley on the opposite side of the mountain range. There we saw banana and yams plantations surrounded by strong fences whose poles were fixed in regular intervals and connected one to the next by fibers of a vine called „sei“.

The valley we were now entering in a Northern direction reminded me in terms of the plants and its vegetation to the plateau of New South Wales. Here as there the ground was covered by individual tufts of tall grass of up to 2 m high. Between these grass islands was a terrain similar to a savannah in which rose now and then evergreen eucalyptus trees. Irregularly arranged ranges of hills of various sizes and forms delimited the grass land.

On the Northern horizon the contours of the Owen Stanley mountains appeared in a delicate blue tint whose peaks of Mount Victoria reached up to 4002 m. Its majestic top had been climbed for the first time by a European on 11 June 1889, namely governor Macigregor.

The climb caused the greatest of difficulties and the whole tour took 64 days. Macgregor and his party had set out on 22 April 1889 at one of the estuaries of the Vanapa river and continued their drive upriver for six days. There they camped while they ordered to bring carriers and supplies from Port Moresby and continued on 17 May on foot. Storms, swamps, gorges, craggy hills and obstacles of all kind hindered the advance of the expedition that had to cut its path step by step, ax in hand, through the jungle until the had climbed to the top on 11 June which Macgregor named Mount Victoria. The return trip lasted from 13 to 25 June and the arduous journey was made more complicated by the fact that Macgregor was not very good walker.

A great appetite for exploration seems to be one of the qualities of Macgregor who is an outstanding explorer of geographic worlds as he spends the largest part of his time on explorations and inspection tours into the interior in the areas he is assigned where he shows as much endurance as courage. Many still unexplored area and numerous native villages he set foot in as the first white man and was naturally from time to time forced to make use of the destructive power of modern firearms when the savages ambushed him or fought against him.

On expedition that Macgregor always likes to mention with a certain pride was the one up the Fly River. It arises in the center of New Guineas and flows in a huge delta in the gulf of Papua and has been discovered in 1845 by Captain Blackwood. Later L. M. d’Albertis as well as the missionary MacFarlane drove in the steam boat „Ellengowan“ 800 km upriver. Macgregor now managed to drive a further 168 km on the mighty river meandering in countless bends beyond the endpoint of d’Alberti’s journey up to the border of British New Guinea driving into German territory for which purpose he first used the steam boat „Merrie England“ and a whaling boat.

The report of Macgregor’s research exploration made me truly want to also enter into virgin territories, to drive on rivers that had never been sounded nor mapped, to see areas that no European had set a foot in, to bring back home valuable and plentiful catches as a collector and hunter.

Thus in thoughts I rode through the monotonous country under the burning heat of the sun. For three hours we saw nothing but grasses and rubber trees where animals were scarce. Now and then, while we rode under eucalyptus trees, red ants dropped down on us and plagued us mightily. Next to a swamp enclosed by trees, cockatoos and large parrots took to the sky with great cries while no other living beings could be discovered in that area.

In the area of the Laroki river the vegetation was finally luxurious and varied. Mighty trees such as the native olive tree (Notelaea ligustrina), Casuarinae, mangroves and Ficus replaced the tiring sight of the monotonous grasses and eucalyptus trees, and soon we entered into the shadow of a beautiful jungle that follows the river on both sides like we having arrived at the South shore of th Laroki. Between the high trunks appeared all kinds of ferns, winding rotang palms (Calamus Rotang), orchids, mistletoes and other parasite plants.

The Laroki arises in the East of Port Moresby beyond the Astrolabe range at the Western foot of the Richardson mountain range, takes at the beginning a Western direction and then after absorbing Goldie River turns Northward and finally flows into Redscar Bay. At the place where we reached the river it had an important depth at a width of about 30 m, but it still continued to be 60 m wide and more; it is said to shelter as all the waters of this area numerous crocodiles but we did not see any of them.

We stopped at an open space at the shore under mighty trees to await the arrival of the caravan following us which included knowledgeable local guides who were to lead us into the jungle at the North shore.

After one and a half hours the caravan arrived, completely exhausted from the journey they traveled during the hottest hours of the day and required a lengthy pause to recover while we hastily ate a meal made out of the tins in order to cross the river in the company of our guide and devote the time to hunting. In the mean time those staying back set up the camp at the rest stop.

From the North shore of the Laroki we ventured out in multiple directions into the jungle and namely I set out in a North-western direction accompanied by the mixed blood Bedford and a Papuan. During our slow advance I had to admire again and again the splendor and festive silence of the jungle filled with giant trees.

The goal I wanted to accomplish was to bag as large as possible number of specimens of the bird species so diverse on New Guinea whereas I mainly targeted birds of paradise, the large hornbill, Papuan crowned pigeons  (Goura albertisi) and brushturkeys. But as I did neither speak English nor Papuan, I had some difficulties communicating with my companions which I tried to solve with sign language.

The first catch was a beautifully colored parrot that did not look taller than a wren sitting in the top of a mighty tree. Soon afterwards my guide stopped and pointed at a spot in the undergrowth where 80 paces away I discovered a large chicken-like bird and killed it. To my joy it was a female brushturkey (Talegallus cuvieri).

Only by using all energy I managed to advance in the dense jungle. Almost constantly I had to wiggle my way like a snake through the tangle of twines and climbing plants that connected the mighty trunks and the branches that were hanging down and dropping from the twigs and was felting the bushes and covering the ground. Thorns and leaf edges with barbs, thick, trunks laying criss-cross and being covered with twines as well as fallen trees multiplied the obstacles step by step. Despite the shadow provided by the dense leafy tops of the jungle, I was covered in sweat. I was a bit surprised not to find mosquitoes close to the river and at least I was spared that plague.

Suddenly I heard loud bird cries and it took possession of me when Bedford announced that it was the call of the birds of paradise. Just as tigers in India, the most valuable catch of the hunter in the South Sea are birds of paradise! It is a very timid bird and as it is usually frightened by the most quiet noise and disappears only caught with lime-twigs or slings and only rarely by shot. The difficulty of hunting birds of paradise, the colorful splendor of their feathers and especially the tail feather of the male have made these inhabitants of the air the topic of legends and fairy tales — all this will be sufficient to explain my desire to catch this prey.

With extreme caution we sneaked close to the trees where we had heard the call and nearly became blind by watching for them until we realized that only females were sitting up there. The unornamented hens were no desirable target for me. In contrast to humans, in the animal kingdom it is usually the male that is favored by beauty so that in the birds of paradise only the male has the splendid feathers while the female is completely inconspicuous.

As no male was following the tender calls of the females I had to relinquish my position after some time without success. On a small clearing covered with grass two wallabies suddenly jumped up at my feet. I bagged one, while Bedford killed the other.

My next catch were two very large fruit pigeons (Carpophaga pinon) and a specimen of a new kind of black, yellow and white colored oriole (Eulabes dumonti) that sat on a eucalyptus tree. A nankeen night heron (Nycticorax caledonicus), that I shot when it flew over my head, made me sense the presence of water and in fact I soon came to a pond covered with cane brake in which was all kind of water fowl. The ducks seemed to have forgotten their usual timidity here or did not notice the presence of humans. As they returned again and again to the pond even after I had fired quite a few shots. Thus I managed to bag two whistling ducks one of which was a species I did not know before (Dendrocygna arcuata and guttata). Of such ducks I saw a whole flock of around 30 pieces sit close to me on a large Ficus; also divers and coots were present here. Furthermore I shot a splendid crake but could not bag the bird as the Papuan accompanying me was unwilling at any price to recover the crake out of the swampy water.

I was much astonished to find suddenly cattle in this secluded area. It gawked at me for some time and then timidly fled. They answered my question about this with the explanation that these were cattle from a herd formerly held at Port Moresby that had been banned into the wilderness as it had caused too much damage in the gardens of the natives. The cattle was now living in a semi-wild way. Whenever a piece is required it is shot from the herd.

At the edge of the small pond stood two snow-white egrets to which I was just sneaking up when a fleeing wallaby made them fly up into the air with hoarse cries. In spite of the darkness that had set in I noticed a sitting obscure white bird: I fired and in front of me lay a splendid duck (Tadorna radjah) with snow-white body, head and beak and metallic dark-brown wings.

In the mean time it had become completely dark so that it was time to return to the camp. Surrounded by whizzing fireflies we passed the river and found my gentlemen already in the camp who had also brought some catches.

The camp at the Laroki set up under giant trees offered a truly picturesque view. It was a real hunter’s or gold digger’s camp without any comfortable sleeping or kitchen tents such as those I had been offered everywhere on my expeditions in India. Each of us had a hammock fixed to the trees above which was hanged a 2 m oil cloth to protect against the rain while below our hand baggage and the rifles were stored. The cooking was done on the open fire and the evening meal consisting of risotto and the content of some tins was simple enough. It tasted much better after the hard work of the day than the fine cookery of Bussatto. Next to us around the large fire the Papuan guide and the female baggage carriers had set up their camp and from time to time they sang in a monotonous voice. Furthermore there stood the tied horses. At our feet the river was rushing and through the dense leafy tops the golden stars and the silver moon were glittering.

I lay for a long time, wrapped in a blanket at the shore of the river and while I looked at the glittering night-time sky, the sparkling camp fires and the ghost-like shadows moving over the trunks and bushes of the jungle, deep memories out of my childhood came up. Yes, thus I had dreamed about the camp life of Cooper’s heroes in the endless forests of North America in „The Last of the Mohicans“ . . .

When I finally went to frequent my hammock, the natives began to dance in the distance and to sing. Their singing and their individual shouts of joy  reminded me of the songs and shouts with which in our Alps the young men greet their „girls“ and made me remember many beautiful memories about home that lulled me to sleep in which dreamed about an images about a scenery far from Laroki and New Guinea.

Links

  • Location: Port Moresby, New Guinea
  • ANNO – on 16.06.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „Die Grille“. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is closed from 1 June to 19 July.

Port Moresby, 15 June 1893

The end of the rainy season made itself felt in a disagreeable manner as a tropical rain was pouring down in the morning and the sea was moving heavily driven by the wind as the crashing waves on the barrier reef revealed. A fog was laying on the mountains and it was windy so that the work of loading coal on board was on the one hand made more difficult by the wet weather but on the other hand spared us the presence of coal dust entering into all rooms. The rain and the heavy sea prevented also our plan to fish with dynamite in the bay as recommended by the harbor steward. Thus we could but stay and look out for the governor’s yacht that was still not visible. As towards 10 o’clock in the morning it was still nowhere in sight, tired of waiting, I took a boat to the close village Hanuabada.

The homes in Hanuabada were, like most native settlements in New Guinea, huts resting on poles. This custom of building elevated rooms high above ground or where a village is standing in the water — either on the sea coast or in a lake or at the river shore in the interior of the land — high above the water level is derived from the purpose of offering protection against human and animal enemies for the occupants of such pile dwellings.

Here too as well as in the other villages near Moresby the poles are made out of mangrove wood and 3 to 4 m tall on which rest the mostly two storey huts The walls and the roof of the hut are made out of dried palm leaves or out of caned grass. The roof crags widely and offers shade on the frontside of the hut in a veranda like structure.

Those huts that have two storeys also have two verandas above each other that are connected with ladders while access into the interior of the huts is also made possible by very thin ladders. Here all equipment is stored, especially the fishing equipment and on palm fiber strings hang the skulls of slain enemies as trophies, tail fins of large fishes etc. These verandas serve as places to rest during the day for part of the population, namely older family members who sit there crouching in the real Papuan manner and watch almost without motion the life and activities taking place at their feet.

The interior of the huts is dirty and rather dark as daylight can only enter through the two door openings at both ends as well as the smoke vent in the roof, as windows are unknown.Innere In one corner of the interior room stands a hearth, a rudimentary fire place whose base is constructed out of a thick layer of clay resting on trellis work. In two-storey huts the room with the hearth is on the lower floor and the sleeping and living quarters on the upper.

The furniture in the living rooms is no less basic than those of the huts in the Solomon islands. Chairs and tables are unknown to the natives and as they prefer squatting also not necessary. Only some mats and thick bamboo pieces as a head rest serve as a bed. Earthware or bamboo vessels, woven bags and the indispensable hand weapons complete the poor equipment. The overall impression of this primitive housing is a bit more enjoyable for a cultured human as these houses are not at a higher level than the pre-historic houses of the European pile dwellers.

Just at the entrance to Hanuabada I witnessed a strange spectacle — a jig, a“harvest festival“. Dancing is here too, understandably, the means of communication to express all kinds of feelings and moods, and today there was joy about the more than ample banana harvest of the inhabitants of Hanuabadas which was the occasion for a feast on that day. While the old men and the married women squatted in sweet harmony with dogs and pigs on the verandas of their huts and smoked and served as the audience, the youth of both sexes danced around the long poles on which had been quite decoratively fixed bushels of bananas in the form of garlands.

Each of the dancers carried a wooden drum which he beat in step. Rhythmic chants accompanied the movements of the dancers who performed a sort of quadrille for which the pairs formed themselves into two columns and then executed a similar figure that is done at home after the command of „Traversez“. While the dancers move their upper bodies by the hips, the pairs danced one after another through the always reforming column until the column dissolved into a large circle.

The pairs, that consisted just like at home of a „gentleman“ and a „lady“ with the young man leading one of the pretty girls by the hand, devoted themselves to the dancing with rare endurance and passion, in full color and feather decorations, stepping and jumping lissome and with a natural grace.

Especially graceful appeared the young girls. As they were used to an unstrained posture unrestricted by any bothersome pieces of clothing, these beauties floated on light swinging feet swaying their hips graciously with the upper body kept a bit back, which made the grass skirts flitter gaily.

Colorful painting, necklaces and bangles were the decorations of the girls who with their curly heads and the impishly smiling black eyes looked very nice. Like the girls the young men were tattooed carefully too in blue-black and painted with red, black and white colors. The tattoos covered all parts of the body and namely the delicately shaped legs with the exception of the faces that showed little of this type of decoration. On the breast of the girls of marriageable age presented without any covering the girls of Port Moresby used to tattoo a heart which was to express that the wearer of this symbol may now be courted.

As ornaments they use, apparently in all of New Guinea, all kinds of flowers and leaves. Very popular for the same purpose are feathers in flashy colors which the natives combine with great skill to form crowns and headbands or stick them loose into the curly hair. I identified mostly feathers of the large hornbill, the southern cassowary, the white cockatoo, but especially all kinds of parrots and the birds of paradise used in this manner.

Necklaces are highly prized here and as they are usually heirlooms only sold or traded in the rarest cases. Shells and teeth, then corals, feathers etc are the material out of which the necklaces are made and sometimes formed into amulets. The arm bands and leg rings consist mostly of woven straw or pieced shells while glittering metal pieces and smaller shells serve as earrings.

The whole appearance of the dancing pairs, their strong, tall, well-formed posture, their graceful mobility, the agreeable even pretty faces, the vivid eyes — all this combined creates a vivid contrast to the native peoples and tribes which we had had opportunity to observe during the last months. How slight and softly seemed the Hindus to me, how dull and not beautiful were the slant-eyed Javanese!

The Papuas of the territory of Port Moresby belonging to the Motus tribe, however, are in physical and psychic aspects more closely related to the Polynesians than to the Melanesians. Also in favor of the Papuans of Moresby was their especially vivacity and direct expressiveness of their feelings, the smiling joyfulness and the apparent learning ability displayed by their curiosity, incessant asking questions and talent for imitation of these individuals I could observe here.

Further proofs of these qualities were offered to me after the end of the harvest feast in Hanuabada and I had said good-bye to the dancers, when during the tour of the village, I was surrounded by young and old as all but namely the children wanted to see the stranger and watch him. Everybody was assailing me with questions, smiling happily and waved their hands and crowded around me to observe from a really close distance. Some imitated my movements, others were shaking from laughter as they apparently found much about us very comical.

Finally the dear youths held out their hands begging in order to receive some kind of goods and the smaller ones, as soon as they got a coin, a cigarette or something else, climbed with a monkey-like skill up the ladders to their huts and delivered what they just received to their parents, only to return quickly and beg again for another present. We could not observe any fear of strangers among this crowd of children, whom I could barely resist, in contrast to the experiences made earlier on my voyage.

I tried to buy some ornaments but these people already were aware about the value of money as the usual trading objects had no effect and for every piece they demanded only „Money“ or „Shilling“. As soon as the people noticed that we were interested in a piece, the price increased much. The good savages goods they took each piece of money to the wise man of the village to confirm the genuity of the coin and even then some sellers refused to hand over the acquired goods or suddenly asked for double the previously agreed price.

A better affair I made in the apparently poor village in the bay, Elewara, where I bought a large number of ethnographic objects, among them delicate containers in which the natives keep the chewing betel mixed with coral lime. Also I took away the only piece of clothing of about twenty ladies, namely a red and yellow colored small skirt made out of woven grass that they willingly sold for a shilling a piece. In Elewara now developed a formal market in which the people carried everything imaginable and even very young children offered shells and coral pieces. The real business was done by the women and young men while the older men squatted on the verandas smoking calmly.

In New Guinea everybody smokes, men, women, even small children and in those areas where money is not known one can buy everything for tobacco. For it the native offers land, agricultural products, pigs, weapons, with one word even the last thing he possesses. To smoke long bamboo sticks are used that are beautifully decorated with burned marks and on whose end is a small opening in which the tobacco rolled-up in a palm leaf is inserted. After its ignition, the pipe is passed from mouth to mouth. If they do not have a pipe, the tobacco is rolled-up in a leaf and smoked like a cigarette.

After I had almost filled our boat with acquired objects I made a small journey to the surrounding heights despite the still pouring rain and passed the low buildings of the Anglican mission which however was not very successful as the savages it was said were only willing to attend services if given presents. Then we crossed multiple banana gardens that were just then being harvested and encountered a group of women carrying large bundles of bananas on their head to their homes.

Furthermore we climbed up to hill next to Government House but the force of the pouring rain drove us back on board.

Here too a vivid trade had developed. The natives had come with their wives and children in their slim canoes to offer arrows, bows, decorative objects and other things and found willing buyers among the officers and crew — everybody on board wanted to take home a souvenir from the land of cannibals. I dare say that „Elisabeth“  equipped itself on that day with hundreds of arrows, spears etc. as cargo. The crew of the coaling ship too acquired an important load of ethnographic objects, apparently with the intention to sell them at much higher prices after their return to Sydney.

The occupants of the canoes were not shy, various girls even came on board where they examined everything with curiosity and accepted small presents. A general applause was given when we gifted one of the beauties with a pink jacket and light-green silk pants and dressed her thus on the spot. The people could not contain their joy and proudly the presentee glided down over the side of the ship into her canoe.

As the governor was still nowhere in sight I drove in the afternoon again to Hanuabada with the intent to reach a small rocky island where pigeons were said to land there each evening.

Unfortunately I did not choose a good moment for my excursion as the low tide had set in and the boats were unable to land anywhere so that I had again to wade for a few hundred paces through water and deep mud to reach Hanuabada.

Countless naked boys were mingling with nets in the mud and collected various shells and sea animals that the low tide had thrown out. The collector is always voracious and thus I was bargaining again with the friends made today in the morning to buy a number of objects, especially amulets and household objects.

Meanwhile it was already 4 o’clock and I was ready to set off from Hanuabada to the islands of pigeons when a steam yacht came into sight at the entrance to the harbor and was steering towards Moresby. Thus finally returned the long expected governor! The pigeon hunt expedition was immediately canceled and I rushed back on board to await the arrival of the governor. The small yacht entered and moored at a buoy but nothing moved until I sent an officer to request the governor to pay me a visit.

The negotiations resulted in the principal agreement of a three-day expedition into the interior of the land to the Laroki river. Details were to be determined during the evening on board of the yacht.

Links

  • Location: Port Moresby, New Guinea
  • ANNO – on 15.06.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „Faust“. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is closed from 1 June to 19 July.

Port Moresby on New Guinea, 14 June 1893

A dense dark bank of clouds out of which from time to time rain was pouring down concealed the coast of New Guinea completely during the morning. As navigating by tracking the path was proving difficult at Port Moresby due to the incomplete sea charts of this territory, we were only able to enter the very small passage into the harbor after the orientation points on the coast became visible.

The sea was glittering for quite some time in the gleaming daylight when finally towards 8 o’clock in the morning the clouds lifted up from the coast and allowed the land to become visible which appeared in a rich green with mountains and hills in the distance. Port Moresby itself is almost completely surrounded by limy hills whose treeless slopes often are covered with tall grass. Not a single spot of plain land is visible all around. It was overall a very friendly view that developed in front of our eyes but it fell back by far in comparison to the tropically luxurious vedutas we had experienced in the Solomon islands.

Our attention soon was caught by something much closer namely the difficulty of the passage. The harbor of Moresby is bounded towards the open sea by a long coral barrier that leaves only a very small passage open for large ships between reefs on both sides. The waves were crashing mightily into these coral reefs that one can see from afar by their light green color of the water around it. To the dangers of navigation in this passage added itself another element. As the bank of clouds had disappeared the sun was shining fully into our faces thus blinded by the sun and the glittering water, we were unable to see the details of the passage. Despite all the difficulties the captain and the excellent navigator succeeded to drive „Elisabeth“ through the basilisk passage at half past 10 o’clock in the morning.  At 11 o’clock the anchor was finally set in Port Moresby.

Discovered by captain Moresby, the explorer of the South-eastern territories and the South coast of New Guinea, in 1873 and named after him, Port Moresby is currently the seat of administration of British New Guinea and a special governor administers the colony which is under the control of Queensland, part of British crown. The island of New Guinea, including Prince Frederick island, the islands of Papua, the islands of the Louisiades archipelago and other islands is today divided among three powers. The largest part of the 807.956 km2 area is under Dutch occupation as Western New Guinea with an area of 397.204 km2. The Northeastern part of the island is a protectorate of the German Empire of 181.650 km2. The Southeastern part finally is British New Guinea with 229.102 km2 declared formally an English protectorate in 1884 and on 4 September 1888 the sovereignty of the queen was in a ceremony proclaimed. The borders of these possessions are now set on the maps but government administration covers but small parts of the total area as New Guinea, some of its coasts, river valleys and islands excepted, still largely is terra incognita. Even at a short distance from the coast there are native tribes that have never seen a white man.

The harbor is very large, it extends with many small bays over 9 km from South to North and in the West reaches Fairfax Harbour but offers no good ground for anchoring. In the North-east of the coast raises a mountain range whose highest elevation is Mount Astrolabe (1166 m).

Port Moresby is characterized fully by its recent creation and has a rather cheerless appearance. Government House is a small single storey building on a hill surrounded by a small number of rather shabby bungalows constructed out of corrugated iron. These are the houses for the few white men living here. Not far away in a sheltered bay are three native villages namely Elewara on a peninsula that is cut off from the mainland during the tide, Tanubada and Hanuabada. Above Tanubada raise the houses of an Anglican mission.

During our arrival the whole outer harbor within the barrier reef was filled with canoes as the natives were going fishing. The canoes are very slim, partly with extensions for the oars and all equipped with square sails made out of straw mats. Despite this very primitive equipment, the crew navigated these heavily staffed canoes with great skill and at speed over the turbulent sea.

Next to us lay a small coaling ship which we had ordered here in Sydney to restock on coal. Its captain immediately came on board of „Elisabeth“ and reported that he ran aground on a coral reef about 80 sea miles out of Moresby but it did cause major damage as they managed to free the ship during high tide. The captain also brought the mail that had arrived for us in Sydney up to the time of his departure. Among others, the mail included newspapers with illustrations of „Elisabeth“ and some of our episodes of our stay in Sydney — many of these images we found hilarious.

Who, however, did not come on board was the governor, Sir William Macgregor,  whom we were vividly expecting to come as only he could initiate our planned expedition into the interior of the island. Finally the harbor steward arrived as a substitute and reported that Sir W. Macgregor had departed the day before on his steam yacht to Yule Island, around 80 sea miles to the Northwest of here, to settle disputes about possessions between the mission station there and the natives. He was expected to return either today in the evening or tomorrow morning to Moresby. Thus we had to be patient and decided to await the arrival of the governor.

Regarding an excursion into the interior of the land the harbor steward could only inadequately orient us, but he said to be ready to lead us into a bay close by in the afternoon. As far as ethnographic objects were concerned he directed me towards the only merchant house in the settlement that collected such things and in fact there was a rich collection of beautiful shields, spears and other weapons as well as bodies of all kind of local birds of paradise of New Guinea. I bought this collection and then immediately set off from land with the barge, the dinghy and the cleaning dinghy to drive across the harbor and to go to the Northernmost bay between the mainland and the island of Tatana.

On the shore of Tatana we saw two large villages whose huts rested on poles high above the water.

Landing in the bay proved difficult due to the strong tide which had built up in the mean time. The steam barge soon had to stop and we tried to come close to the coast with the dinghy but were soon stuck on a coral reef. Thus it was time for the cleaning dinghy. When it too failed to advance we had to jump into the water and wade to the shore. Here we met a local Malay trader near a small settlement. He was willing to lead us to a spot where there was a chance of bagging birds.

We formed two groups: i entered with Clam and the Malay in a Western direction while Wurmbrand and Prónay, led by a Papuan, marched towards the hills in the North. The route was trying. Tall grass alternated with small clumps of trees and bushes. In the grass, however, lay numerous rotten trunks.

As soon as the rainy season is over and the grass starts to die, the natives burn it and set up nets and thus bag wallabies and wild boars that flee from the fire. Naturally the growth of the trees is suffering to such an extent that a luxurious development of the trees only takes place close to the streams in the valleys.

The information of the harbor steward that there was no furred game in the surroundings of  Port Moresby and only a few bird species and had been heavily plundered by the natives as well as collectors was fully confirmed. Our catch was limited to only a few unimportant specimens. Furthermore our guide, the Malay, seemed to show little interest in this kind of sport as he led us again and again in circles and repeatedly told us that one would have to march many miles inland to have success. The other gentlemen had a bit more luck than we as they killed parrots of a species (Geoffroyus aruensis) I did not know.

The Malay whose house we had been visiting is said to be very wealthy and sails along the coasts of New Guinea in small sailing boats trading tobacco with the natives against coconuts, sandalwood as well as other product which he sells to the ships entering Port Moresby.

The South-east monsoon had grown stronger, even within the harbor the waves were moving so intensively that wave upon wave landed in the boat.

On board we received the message that governor Macgregor still had not arrived and we had to continue waiting patiently.

Links

  • Location: Port Moresby, New Guinea
  • ANNO – on 14.06.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „Die Tochter des Herrn Fabricius“. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is closed from 1 June to 19 July.

At Sea to New Guinea, 11, 12 and 13 June 1893

On the 11th, we were on the open sea; on the 12th, the Louisiades archipelago came into sight, and, in fact, first Rossel Island with Cape Deliverance, then the large island of Tagula that is surrounded by a crest of small green islands. Great Britain has also extended its protection over the Louisiades.

Early in the morning of the 13th we noticed the contours of New Guinea, namely the South-eastern tip at South Cape. We steered at around 40 sea miles along the coast to Port Moresby. But the coast disappeared again from view only to come into view now and then for a few moments as heavy rain clouds were staying over the island and blocked any view. The weather was very good, except for the rising temperatures in the cabins. During the first two days  there was wind from the North, that is out of an uncommon direction for that season but on the third day it switched to the normal South-east monsoon.

During the whole journey remarkably many flying fishes showed up partly in schools partly individually. Many also flew on board, were caught and wandered quickly into alcohol containers. Many different species of sea gulls were swarming around us especially large fully dark-brown birds  — a species of boobies (Sula piscator) — of which I bagged six pieces, three of them dropped on deck. Such a bird was also caught by the sailors during the night when it tired from the long flight and attracted by the many lights landed on a boat crane. The number and diversity of the sea gulls and storm birds in the tropical seas can not, by the way, be compared to that in the Northern seas which are vitalized by many flights.

The cleaning, drying and packaging of our coral catch in Ugi was hard work as the pieces fished out had to rest first for 24 hours in fresh water which we had filled into three boats and then put the corals in them. Then, the dead animal parts and attached algae were brushed off with a steam spray which made the forms glitter in the most beautiful white. Another 24 hours were required for the corals to dry in the open air and were finally packaged up in boxes filled with wood shavings. Unfortunately, the supply of wood shavings soon came to an end. Our engineer in charge working with Clam had soon invented a circular saw which was connected by a transmission gear to the ash removal machine and thus made new wood shavings out of crushed boxes and broken straps etc. The procedure took quite some time. Nevertheless, we were very happy about the invention, as it resolved a problem.

The expeditions in Ugi, namely the wading through swampy ground and connected to this probably also the coral fishing unfortunately caused multiple cases of fever among the crew.

Links

  • Location: near New Guinea
  • ANNO – on 11.06.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „Die alten Junggesellen“. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is closed from 1 June to 19 July.

At Sea to New Guinea, 10 June 1893

Even though we were ready to steam at 6 o’clock, we only left Selwyn Bay at 8 o’clock as fresh water had still to be sent for as we required large amounts of it to clean the corals collected yesterday.

Along the coast of San Cristoval we drove until we reached the most North-western point, Cape Recherche, where we took a South-western course towards the South-eastern cape of the Louisiade archipelago and turned towards our next destination, Port Moresby on the South coast of New Guinea.

During the whole day, the two large islands of Malaita and Guadalcanar remained visible. The latter one had mountains that rose to 2442 m, those on Malaita up to 1304 m and rich jungles. These islands remain also little explored and are inhabited by numerous fully savage tribes that are all cannibals. In this matter the inhabitants of Malaita are notorious as they even dare, driven by their lust for human meat, to cross in their small canoes from Malaita to San Cristoval at a distance of about 30 sea miles in order to attack the inhabitants of the latter island and bring them back to Malaita.

Especially during the season when religious feasts are celebrated on Malaita, the natives tend to go on manhunts in all directions. The inhabitants of Cristoval, however, recently managed to successfully defeat an attack by numerous Malaitans who suffered important losses. The fate of the Malaitans taken prisoner on Cristoval, however, must have been no less cruel than what the Cristovalans would have experienced if they had suffered defeat. The meat of the slain is cut into cubes and baked in some sort of pie made out of yams and thus served and eaten!

The weather today was exceptionally fine, a light Northern wind brought agreeable cool air which especially the occupants of starboard cabins, that is me too, could enjoy. In an extraordinarily colorful spectacle, the sun burned in the sky during sunset.

Links

  • Location: Louisiade Islands
  • ANNO – on 10.06.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. The region of Galicia is suffering from flooding.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „Egmont“. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is closed from 1 June to 19 July.

Ugi, 9 June 1893

In order to make good use of the second and final day of our stay on Ugi, that is amass more material for my collections and get to know the island better, multiple expeditions were to set out at dawn and only return on board in the evening. The disposition was as follows: I wanted to hunt with Prónay and Regner alongside the South coast, namely up to Cape Panna nihi where a few boats would be waiting for us with which we wanted to examine the interesting coral banks. Wurmbrand and Clam set themselves the task to make a tour around the island guided by a native which they hoped to accomplish in eight hours while Bourguignon, Sanchez and Preuschen decided to go to a village at the North coast to collect ethnographic objects for me. Mallinarich however was set to catch butterflies with two NCOs.

Thus we pushed off from „Elisabeth“ not before the commander, caring for his charges, warmly recommended to be under all circumstances back on board at sunset. On land the individual expeditions set off separately with a cordial hunter’s greeting. Each expedition included a party of sailors and carried the necessary provisions.

I first turned again towards the village of Ete-Ete, looking out for birds on the way but as a rain poured down shortly before dawn and rain was still alternating with sunshine there was not much hope to see representatives of the bird world that hid themselves in the dense leafy tops. I only managed to bag a large green parrot while Prónay killed a beautifully colored pigeon with yellow, pink and green feathers. The ground had become a mire due to the rain and at every step we sank up to the ankles into the soaked layer of topsoil that covered the ground here. In the forest I found a dying male house pig whose colossal tusks spiralling towards the rear were remarkable. For some time we stayed in the village and observed their daily life as they showed themselves much less timid and wary than the day before.

The inhabitants of the Solomon islands practised a „two-children“-system, so that apparently a large part of the newborns are killed. In fact we noticed the low number of children. Polygamy is the rule here but the number of women in a single household is seldom larger than two. The position of the women is a very sad one, they are totally subordinated to the husband, have to do all work at home and in the field and are treated extremely rough by the men. The latter one probably explains why the women were even more timid towards us than the men, even though today it seemed as if our appearance the day before had made the women more familiar.  A young woman who stood in paradise costume in front of a hut did even accept with a grin a cigarette I was offering her.

Continuing our walk we arrived after half an hour at a clearing where we found a number of idols and fetishes carved out of wood. The figures as well as the visible remains of huts seemed to indicate that in this clearing once stood a village as well as a holy hall and I decided immediately to land with the boats at the coast close to the clearing on the way home in order to take these apparently abandoned interesting fetishes. In order to find it again later I marked the clearing with a path to the coast by marking a row of trees leading to the sea shore and on the coast by marking two large palm trees.  This action may have been noticed by the savages and given them a hint of my intentions. When some gentlemen of the ship staff came to the clearing shortly after we had left it, they found armed natives guarding the marked trees as they told me later so that I had to sadly give up my plan to take possession of those fetishes.

Finally towards 10 o’clock I was close to Panna nihi but walked towards the coast as the sun was burning rather hotly and thus all the birds were hiding in the densest tree tops where two dinghies and the cleaning dinghy were waiting.

Fishing corals, the small fleet drove up and down the shore. At each location where such structures became visible we stopped, four sailors jumped into the water and collected all kinds of corals by diving. While we stayed close to the coast, the expedition Wurmbrand-Clam came into sight and soon met us following our tracks. The gentlemen failed to make their guide understand their plan and so they had wandered around for hours in the dense forest only to led back to their point of departure. As it was now noon they were forced to give up their original plan and decided to seek at least our expedition which they did without difficulties.

The cleaning dinghy was soon completely filled with corals. We then rested in the cool shade at noon eating a meal that in no way could be called a feast whose main part consisted of the tins brought along from Sydney.

During the pause the boatman surmised that we would find even more beautiful corals on the Western beach of the landing place, that is beyond where „Elisabeth“ was moored, than where we were now. Following this hint we rowed the four sea miles back to „Elisabeth“ as soon as the meal was completed and also the crew had finished theirs. We transferred the catches made up to now on board and then steered without a further stop to the mentioned place which would in fact prove to be a rich hunting ground.

At a distance of about 20 m from the coast lay the most gorgeous corals at a depth of 1 to 2 m below the water surface. Furthermore the bank was in fact dropping to important depths but even there through the blue water  the most beautiful forms are glittering. We all jumped out of the boat and hurried partly wading partly swimming around the bank and managed to get each especially beautiful coral out of the sea we could clearly see in the water transparent to the ground by diving. Larger pieces especially massive forms could not simply be extracted by hand but had to use a crowbar which was handled by a diver while others pushed and pulled until the desired piece fell off.

Here coral stood next to another one. We counted no less than fourteen different species and nowhere  on the reef the foot was touching anything else as coral forms again and again. Between them swam all kinds of red, blue and other sea creatures of whom we bagged a larger number.

The corals under water glitter in the most gorgeous colors whose tangle created even seen from above but especially while diving in closest proximity the impression that all possible shades on an infinite scale of the finest most delicately stepped nuances were artfully aligned.

Thus incited again and again we swam, dove and fished in the warm sea water for multiple hours with great eagerness as each tried to surpass the other by his findings and get the most beautiful specimens out of the depth. Finally two boats were filled to the brim with booty. We then took a closer look of the coast for a distance of about 500 m in order to find here too a large number of shells, snails and crabs. The whole beach is covered feet-high in white glittering shell and coral pieces so that it looks from afar as if it was covered in white sand.

This debris has been created by the destructive force of the surf and thrown at the coast by the tides. Now and then there are also intact shells or snails wedged in between the fragments. Everywhere there are crabs while on the trunks of the trees at the edge of the river hung land snails whose shell sometimes serves as a home to hermit crabs. After we had searched the beach and filled two buckets with catches, we started our trip home by the light of the setting sun. This did not fully go according to plan as our boats repeatedly were stuck on the far upwards reaching coral reefs and could only with effort get them out into the sea again. Furthermore there was a rainstorm which however was of little concern to the thoroughly wet coral fishermen.

On board of „Elisabeth“ the whole afterdeck was filled with today’s catches. Until late in the night everything was stored in order to salvage and stack the corals.

In the mean time the third expedition had returned home, those that had crossed the island. The gentlemen were very much delighted by their excursion. Accompanied by chief Rora and some of his underlings they had reached the Northern coast, walking always in the forest after a rather tiresome march of three hours. There they took a refreshing bath on a very inviting sand beach. Having reached the destination of their hike, the village on the North coast, they found the inhabitants at first even more timid than those of Ete-Ete, But they became soon more open when the gentlemen removed their weapons and shared their breakfast with the natives. The dignified Rora also contributed being fully aware about his own importance to calm the natives down so that the gentlemen even managed to acquire two fetishes and some decorative objects for me besides a large number of other objects.

When the expedition was on the way to move the goods bought back to „Elisabeth“ the three young natives were willing to carry the objects to the boats and could be convinced to come on board. The savages however were terribly spooked when during the pulling down of the flag the music band started to play and the flag salute shots were fired.

During the whole day a large number of canoes had been circling around the ship and the savages also engaged eagerly in trade as they had realized that we posed no danger. Basically it was small coins, Virginia cigars and cigarettes that proved attractive. Only the natives were unwilling to part from one of their canoes for any price. And just one of those was what I wanted as these vehicles with their light elegant build and their ornamentation — decorations made out of shells and sea grass — were said to be the most beautiful canoes of the South Sea. Only when our artillery officer produced two Werndl carbines and offered these in trade two canoes became into our possession.

The fourth expedition led by Mallinarich returned with rich spoils in butterflies and hymenoptera of all kinds.

Links

  • Location: Ugi, Solomon islands
  • ANNO – on 09.06.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „College Crampton“. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is closed from 1 June to 19 July.