The fat post master had proposed to undertake today an excursion to the island of Wassir, North of Wammar, as there would be, according to him, large numbers of big game and wild boars so that we should certainly achieve good results.
The post master’s message about the hunting opportunities on Wassir was confirmed by the captain of the English pearl fishing schooner. He had just come on board of „Elisabeth“ during the post master’s report to buy salt junk as the schooner had not possessed any tins for weeks as the Dutch were not willing to sell him any under any condition. This „war of tins“ had its origin in the ongoing jealousy between the Dutch and the British about the rights to fish for pearls in the waters of New Guinea and especially its Western coast.
But, aside from all the testimonials about the Wassir’s richness in game, the weather had to play along too — this key regulator of all human activity. The outlook for our expedition was not promising: Black clouds covered the sky and it poured down incessantly as if heaven had opened up all its sluices, when we pushed off from the ship at 6 o’clock. The rain became heavier and heavier so that we could from time to time barely perceive the islands of Wokam and Udjir which we passed at a distance of a few kilometers in a Northern direction.
My companions on this „grey journey“ were the post master who was wearing a dandy-like dress today, my gentlemen and from the staff Gratzl as well as Bourguignon.
Thanks to the speed of the barge our drive took only two hours and this time, landing was easy as the deep access channel reached up to the shore. Here there lay five praus whose passengers, inhabitants of the island of Wassir, would serve as our guides and drivers. The majority of them had Malay looks, the rest however were real Aruans who look similar to the Papuans but can still be distinguished from them: Their facial features were less pleasingly formed and have, if I am permitted to say, a more wild impression than the Papuans. The hair of the Papuans stands in bushels while the Aruans were their hair long and not brushed upwards into a crown. It hangs limply down in the manner of a mane or knotted into a bunch. As far as ornaments are concerned, there is little to be seen on these savages. Instead they carried beautiful weapons namely spears with iron points that had been originally traded and kris-like knives whose shafts are ornamented with tin or silver. Clothing is naturally limited to a loincloth.
I did not feel keen to involve myself into the ethnological problems of such a tiny group that still differed amongst itself and even scientists had found no consensus about the race of the Aruans. The main reason for this is the fact that the Aruans look to us as a mixed people which had received in earlier times even Portuguese blood but that did not have a positive effect on the race.
Despite the constant rain we decided to undertake a hunt as the game had been so colorfully described to us. Wassir showed a very different character than Wokam as everywhere there also were coraline lime between the rich humous layer but the swamps and swampy lower areas were completely missing. The vegetation was similar to that on Wokam but not as luxurious and dense. I hunted under the guidance of a Malay and followed by our fat post master who had to trot furiously today, three hours cross-country all over the island without ever seeing a single piece of game. Instead there was once a small dog that ran with us and barked next to me but as it turned out without reason for which he was ungently pushed with a spear by an angry Malay. I found some tracks and later the tooth of a boar — but that was all.
When we, tired from the long walk, met the other shooters at noon on the coast, they reported that with the exception of Clam who had seen three pieces of game flee nobody had seen anything that could be hunted. Bourguignon was not present and only arrived one and a half hours later as his guide had missed the direction and had led him for a long time in circles in the native manner we knew all too well.
In the mean time we had found cover from the constant pouring rain under an overhanging rock and on an open fire which we had ignited to prepare breakfast we dried our clothes as well as we could — an effort that had to be futile as our clothes were within minutes completely wet minutes after we departed to undertake another drive the natives had advised us to do.
The natives expected much from the newly beginning drive as they explained that they would drive across one half of the island and thus drive the game towards our positions. What we could not shoot from the positions, would be caught by the sea and captured by the crews of the praus. I could only laugh about the idea that the game would run into the sea while there was enough space left to flee into the other half of the island but the natives assured me repeatedly that often they had caught game in this manner successfully . Thus I let the matter run its course.
After a long consultation and never-ending shouting we were positioned in the forest and the drive started which was naturally set up so well that the drivers who constantly made a hellish noise finally re-appeared on two convenient clearings in a long line one after another.
I had again seen nothing this time, except for two brushturkeys, but next to me three shots were fired with which Clam had killed a very timid six antler points deer. Thus there was at least some gain and as a benefit game meat to improve the cooking on board. The deer was a specimen of the species we had met on Java (Rusa hippelaphus). Apart from this, there did not have been other game in the drive and also no animal had taken to the sea as I had predicted.
During the return drive the sky luckily cleared up a bit. After the rain had completely stopped, we loaded quite nice a collection of bird bodies and other objects that the post master had given me as a present on board of „Elisabeth“ and then immediately steamed away towards Amboina.
In Dobo the fever epidemic reached its high point up to now — the report listed 153 sick people!
- Location: Dobo, Aru Islands
- ANNO – on 26.06.1893 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.