Owa raha to Ugi, 8 June 1893

When we were hoisting the anchor early in the morning to leave Owa raha, heavy rain was falling again. The departure, especially turning the ship in the very narrow harbor with its many coral reefs was just as difficult as during the entrance. Fortunately the weather improved when we drove in a North-western direction alongside the coast of San Cristoval so that we had a clear view on that densely overgrown island with its mountains rising up to1250 m. Rounding Cape Kibeck or Mahua we saw on starboard the group of islands called the Three Sisters, whose largest island is Malan paina and soon after, the island of Ugi, our destination today. Numerous dolphins and some sea birds enlivened the calm sea which was given the beautiful day of an intensively blue color.

Selwyn Bay on the Western coast of Ugi where we anchored is actually only one rather open mooring area in a beautiful scenic surrounding. We had to move really close to the surrounding coral banks at the shore which drops so suddenly that the bay adds depth quickly and the sounding amounts to 32 fathoms at the sea ladder when the anchor is resting at 20 fathoms.

On Ugi lives an Englishman with one assistant who are here protecting a small coal depot which was just been restocked by a sailing schooner. Furthermore there were on Ugi only a few native settlements snugly hidden between the trees. The natives were part of the same tribe as those on Owa raha.

Rushing on land quickly with a boat I sought the two Europeans. These coal guards who might justly be called lonely people led me into the interior of their hut made out of wooden planks in which only the number of weapons seemed remarkable. They are thus equipped to withstand any attacks of the natives.

Hodek photographed a group of savages who curiously stood around the station and then we entered into the interior of the island with a native man as a guide who the two Englishmen considered to be a fairly trustworthy companion.

The vegetation we saw was no less gorgeous than the one on Owa raha which had enchanted us so much. But we noticed in favor of Ugi’s scenic attractions a large number of small streams that rush flowing crystal-clear and splashing between the splendid trees to the coast. Along the shore of the streams stood marvellously beautiful places in the shadow of the giant trees filled with countless colorful butterflies.

The bird world too was represented in the most lovely manner even though one of the two station guards assured us when we asked him closely about the presence of game and especially birds on the island that on Ugi there was but one kind of large pigeons but no parrots etc.

I had barely taken 100 steps into the forest, when the first shot bagged me a splendid totally red parrot (Eos cardinalis) and I then just thereafter shot a beautifully colored pigeon (Ptilopus eugeniae) with a snow-white head, crimson breast, yellow belly and green and purple wings. Directly afterward a larger bird took off from a tall Dracaena which I bagged. It was a male specimen of an eclectus parrot (Eclectus pectoralis). It is green with blue-ending wings. Below the wings are light red feathers, the beak is orange-yellow. The size of the parrot is comparable to a strong domestic pigeon. The female is totally differently colored, namely scarlet but sky-blue in the neck, the belly and wings. During the hunt I shot also a scarlet myzomela (Mysomela pulcherrima), a totally coffee-brown pigeon having the shape of a  turtle dove and two large fruit doves (Carpophaga pistrinaria), as well as a pair of the splendid yellow-bibbed lory (Lorius chlorocercus) whose feathers consist of all colors of the rainbow and are certainly to be counted among the most beautiful parrots. The birds were difficult to see in the dense leaves of the giant jungle trees even though one could always hear them.

Thus I might have walked for about an hour admiring the tropical wonders of the forest and flowers and looking out from time to time for a colorful bird when I came to a clear stream in which I took an agreeable cool bath given the intensive heat and waded across and found myself unexpectedly in the middle of a village called Ete-Ete and met here a larger number of the gentlemen of my staff who were in the midst of intensive bartering with the natives. By and by also arrived my gentlemen each of which had made interesting catches, namely in parrots. The officers informed us that at their arrival all inhabitants had fled, especially the women and hid themselves in the forest and only after quite some time re-emerged to more brave who could not identify threatening behaviors and brought after long discussions spears and other objects for trading. The value of minted coins seemed to be known to the people. While the looked at tobacco products, textiles or pearls with indifference, they offered everything what they owned for a coin, namely for an American dollar that were considered especially valuable. Only the necklaces made out of shells or dog teeth, they would not trade for any amount. Thus we bought weapons and fishing equipment among them a strangely formed wooden harpoon with six prongs as well as combs etc.

As intermediaries for the exchange served, besides one of the station guards who had accompanied the gentlemen of the staff as interpreter, two strange fellows named Rora and Belingi, the chiefs of the village’s two tribes. Rora’s extremely off-putting exterior was in no way embellished by the emblem of his dignity, an old sky-blue felt hat of enormous size that was missing its top and formed at the same time his only piece of clothing. The cylindrical monster is said to have been once the property of a slain and then eaten missionary. The right hand of Rora was in a bag as he had been wounded while fishing. Belingi, the co-regent, seemed to be of a high age and to have participated in many hard fight as the chief’s body was covered with deep scars. We could clearly see a spot on his breast where a heavy spear must have entered and been thrust sideways through his body.

Even these two old fellows showed themselves fearful and wary as the large number of white men, the shooting and hunting close to the village had shocked them quite a bit. Finally we managed to get the two to part with two of those large wooden cooking vessels inlaid with mother of pearl which the islanders used in large feasts. They are made out of hollowed out trunks and are 1 m long vats that are more or less richly decorated on the exterior wall. Even with time the chiefs were willing to call the women and girls and have them photographed by Hodek, arranged in a picturesque group, but only under the condition that no white man with the exception of the photographer looked at the ladies. Therefore we had to step behind a hut while Hodek took the picture and could only later browse in the village. Here some of the ladies with large décolletés nevertheless presented themselves in front of our eyes. As soon as we had seen the beauties of Ete-Ete, we had wished they would have stayed hidden.

The huts of Ete-Ete resembled in form and ornamentation quite closely those on Owa raha, but the holy places on Ugi were more poorly equipped. Dolphin coffins were missing, the carvings were meager and the fetishes less ornamented. Instead we found war canoes in Ete-Ete but it was impossible to buy one of these or a fetish as neither money nor good words helped even though I finally offered multiple sovereigns for those interesting objects the islanders considered holy.

The inhabitants of Ete-Ete resembled also those of Owa raha, but suffered in part from a nasty rash of blisters that was unpleasant to notice on the individual bodies. As far as decorative objects were concerned we found only small differences: Thus the necklaces were richer but most bracelets made out of white stone that is of European origin.

Worth a mention is a burial place which holds the remains of nobles and consists of a small hut covered with palm leaves on whose dais skulls are spread out for bleaching. Close by, partially hidden, fragments of human bones were laying around which left no doubt that we were looking at the sad remains from disgusting feasts.

Continuing my way through the forest I bagged a few birds but had to walk to the coast after a short time as we all had to be back at sunset. The excursion ended with us walking slowly back along the beach and almost wading in the sea to Ete-Ete and boarded the waiting boats which took us back to the ship.

Links

  • Location: Ugi, Solomon islands
  • ANNO – on 08.06.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. The Neue Freie Presse reports in many columns about Franz Ferdinand’s stay on Java back in April.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „Der Meister von Palmyra“. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is closed from 1 June to 19 July.

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