Amboina, 1 July 1893

When the weather had cleared up and the sun glanced through the mist of the mountains, the resident invited me to visit in the morning the famous sea gardens praised by many natural scientists. They are about half an hour to the North of Amboina in the small bay of Batoe Mera close to the coast. While two gentlemen went on land to supervise the loading of the ethnographic collection, the barge quickly took me, Wurmbrand and the resident to the place.

Here numerous small white and red coral islands towered on the sea ground at a depth of 4 to 5 m which were completely visible due to the transparency of the sea water. Among them appeared all kinds of colorful Radiata, shells, algae and vividly moving multi-colored small fish.  The most varied forms, glittering colors and delicate shades of all this forms and beings created the impression as if one watched at a garden down there shined upon by the sun and reflected in the sea water. As lovely as this view was, I still felt quite disappointed. I had heard and read too much about the sea gardens of Amboina. Having recently seen the wonders of unknown coral structures at a large scale and in gorgeous splendor in the Solomon islands and in New Guinea I could not award the first place to the sea gardens of Amboina. Furthermore many structures here were broken or destroyed by the frequent plundering natural scientists and natives whereas there everything remained intact and in a natural state to be seen by one’s delighted eyes.

The raja of the village Batu Mera nearby appeared in a festively decorated prau with many oarsmen to greet me. While drummers and flutists on the prau produced horrible music on the prau and we had to eat a pineapple offered by the raja, some of the natives dived for corals that they put in my boat.

We could also witness a fishing demonstration which the friendly resident had organized in my honor in the bay that was extremely rich in fish of various species. The Amboinese usually go out at night to fish with fishing rods and bring their catch at 6 o’clock in the morning to the Amboinese market. The use of trawls and ground nets could make truly interesting and educating catches but the people for whom the quantity of the catch is the most important element have other inferior methods to catch fish. One method uses a labyrinth of tubes and bamboo sticks that is set up at the coast and ends in a bag. At high tide, the fish enter into the bag and are caught as soon as the low tide arrives. Another method uses a trawl at the edge of the coast which then drives the fish toward the land where they are caught. Naturally one only catches small specimens with this method. But the species are so numerous that I was very astonished to see such a variety of fish here as I had soon completely filled the two large alcohol containers with the most rare specimens that distinguished themselves by their vivid colors and their often adventurous square, round or fully lancet-like forms. Two poisonous fish were also among them whose sting is said to be deadly within ten minutes. Understandably we transferred these specimen with great caution into the container.

On board of „Elisabeth“ I found the complete gorgeous collection that the resident had given me as a present already stacked in my living room. The ship was surrounded by traders who offered for sale living parrots, cassowaries, deer and monkeys, then shells, corals and knick-knack made out of nutmeg flowers.

The weather had fully cleared up and one could now assess today how beautiful the picturesque bay of Amboina in a more favorable season would be. The clear afternoon soon lured me back on land where I made a stroll through the town, luckily not recognized and without a cortege of boys singing „three cheers to him“. At dinner we enjoyed the company of the resident who was enchanted by the melodies of our ship band and by the champaign which he had had to do without for a long time and remained on board until a late hour, told many interesting things about his life on the islands, about the native morals and customs.

Links

  • Location: Amboina
  • ANNO – on 01.07.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „Fräulein Frau“ and „Der sechste Sinn“. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is closed from 1 June to 19 July.

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