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.

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