At Sea to Borneo, 3 July 1893

Thus we left Amboina, — un-mooring at the break of dawn — without truly having seen this most beautiful island of the Malukus in its true form. The never-ending rain had destroyed any chance, any enjoyment of nature. I had especially been looking forward to see the Aru islands and Amboina as my expectations had been increased to the highest by the promising accounts about these islands. Now however I am closer to the opinion that the rain may have spared me a certain disappointment  as I found, based on what I however have seen only cursorily and in bad weather, the flora and fauna on the Aru islands and on Amboina by far not as rich and beautiful as the books I had read had promised and surpassed by far by the plant and animal worlds on other highlights of my voyage. My experience was similar to many other travelers before.

Countries, regions and places that quasi promise nothing and are visited only by the traveler because the route demands it or only with prejudice are often a most pleasant surprise and feel like home if the intimate attractions of the place happen in combination with meeting sympathetic people.

This success of underestimated countries and people is all the more important where no travel books or oral accounts can offer a good prediction. This happened to me in Sydney and all I saw in New South Wales for example where I had landed, contrary to my original plans, only upon the special request of the marine commander — and now the stay on the Australian mainland seemed to be an indelible highlight of my voyage. A similar experience I made in regard to the Solomon islands that were close to being cut from the route and instead had offered me the most beautiful of views that one can see in the tropical regions about the luxurious vegetation and original nature growing most pleasantly.

In contrast, often and highly praised landscapes such as those in the Aru islands and Amboina as well as many spots of British India I have found quite disappointing which may have been partially influenced by the fact that I did not see them at the most favorable time and have seen them exuberantly described in travel books. In no way do I want to accuse those who have visited and described the countries I have seen to have false ideas or made wrongful presentations, as I am well aware that on the one hand nothing is more difficult as describing something objectively where weather, lights, season and a hundred other circumstances may influence the viewer involuntarily, and on the other hand that every presentation rests too much on the very individual nature of the thinking and perceiving person to be not subjectively colored.

Here is to those who do not have to rely on other people’s description of so many gorgeous or strange things but can examine them in place with one’s own eyes, amend or correct them!

To reach Borneo would require us to undertake a journey of seven days. Just at the exit of Amboina that happened in a rainstorm, we were received by a turbulent sea and had to patiently bear the in no way agreeable pitching of the ship.

On board, it did not look pleasant. There were quite many fever patients and all were suffering from the continued wetness. The uniforms became quite damaged as they were too soaked to completely wring them. In the cabins, all kinds of fabric and leather was in a short time, often within a few hours, covered in a dense layer of mold.

We drove in a South-western direction alongside the coast of Buru and could only now appreciate the size of this island and its high rising mountains. Over Buru hung heavy clouds out of which flashes burst from time to time and there must have been as heavy rainstorms today as it stormed and rained on the day where we hunted in vain for babirussas on Kajeli. Continuously new streams of water was pouring down, lashed by the wind, upon our ship.

Despite these rainstorms the sea still retains its charms, and even in rain and rolling thunder it shows its majestic way. Sometimes the clouds rush by, is broken up for moments and offers, especially in the evening, light effects whose grand scale and colorful changes a landsman does not know but fully fills a seaman’s sight and senses.

In the evening I spend much of the time on the open sea on the bridge which is at the highest point in the ship and offers the best view. I let the fresh breeze envelop me and enjoy the images of the gorgeous sunset that offers something new every day and send my thoughts towards the distant home many thousands of miles away. These are quiet and peaceful hours that only somebody who has undertaken a long voyage can truly appreciate.


  • Location: near Buru
  • ANNO – on 03.07.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „König und Bauer“. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is closed from 1 June to 19 July.

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