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.

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