(OCTOBER 1859 To JUNE 1860.)
I LEFT Amboyna for my first visit to Ceram at three o’clock in the morning of October 29th, after having been delayed several days by the boat’s crew, who could not be got together. Captain Van der Beck, who gave me a passage in his boat, had been running after them all day, and at midnight we had to search for two of my men who had disappeared at the last moment. One we found at supper in his own house, and rather tipsy with his parting libations of arrack, but the other was gone across the bay, and we were obliged to leave without him. We stayed some hours at two villages near the east end of Amboyna, at one of which we had to discharge some wood for the missionaries’ house, and on the third afternoon reached Captain Van der Beck’s plantation, situated at Hatosua, in that part of Ceram opposite to the island of Amboyna. This was a clearing in flat and rather swampy forest, about twenty acres in extent, and mostly planted with cacao and tobacco. Besides a small cottage occupied by the workmen, there was a large shed for tobacco drying, a corner of which was offered me; and thinking from the look of the place that I should find — good collecting ground here, I fitted up temporary tables, benches, and beds, and made all preparations for some weeks’ stay. A few days, however, served to show that I should be disappointed. Beetles were tolerably abundant, and I obtained plenty of fine long-horned Anthribidae and pretty Longicorns, but they were mostly the same species as I had found during my first short visit to Amboyna. There were very few paths in the forest; which seemed poor in birds and butterflies, and day after day my men brought me nothing worth notice. I was therefore soon obliged to think about changing my locality, as I could evidently obtain no proper notion of the productions of the almost entirely unexplored island of Ceram by staying in this place.
I rather regretted leaving, because my host was one of the most remarkable men and most entertaining companions I had ever met with. He was a Fleeting by birth, and, like so many of his countrymen, had a wonderful talent for languages. When quite a youth he had accompanied a Government official who was sent to report on the trade and commerce of the Mediterranean, and had acquired the colloquial language of every place they stayed a few weeks at. He had afterwards made voyages to St. Petersburg, and to other parts of Europe, including a few weeks in London, and had then come out to the past, where he had been for some years trading and speculating in the various islands. He now spoke Dutch, French, Malay, and Javanese, all equally well; English with a very slight accent, but with perfect fluency, axed a most complete knowledge of idiom, in which I often tried to puzzle him in vain. German and Italian were also quite familiar to him, and his acquaintance with European languages included Modern Greek, Turkish, Russian, and colloquial Hebrew and Latin. As a test of his power, I may mention that he had made a voyage to the out-of-the-way island of Salibaboo, and had stayed there trading a few weeks. As I was collecting vocabularies, he told me he thought he could remember some words, and dictated considerable number. Some time after I met with a short list of words taken down in those islands, and in every case they agreed with those he had given me. He used to sing a Hebrew drinking-song, which he had learned from some Jews with whom he had once travelled, and astonished by joining in their conversation, and had a never-ending fund of tale and anecdote about the people he had met and the places he had visited.
In most of the villages of this part of Ceram are schools and native schoolmasters, and the inhabitants have been long converted to Christianity. In the larger villages there are European missionaries; but there is little or no external difference between the Christian and Alfuro villages, nor, as far as I have seen, in their inhabitants. The people seem more decidedly Papuan than those of Gilolo. They are darker in colour, and a number of them have the frizzly Papuan hair; their features also are harsh and prominent, and the women in particular are far less engaging than those of the Malay race. Captain Van der Beck was never tired of abusing the inhabitants of these Christian villages as thieves, liars, and drunkards, besides being incorrigibly lazy. In the city of Amboyna my friends Doctors Mohnike and Doleschall, as well as most of the European residents and traders, made exactly the same complaint, and would rather have Mahometans for servants, even if convicts, than any of the native Christians. One great cause of this is the fact, that with the Mahometans temperance is a part of their religion, and has become so much a habit that practically the rule is never transgressed. One fertile source of want, arid one great incentive to idleness and crime, is thus present with the one class, but absent in the other; but besides this the Christians look upon themselves as nearly the equals of the Europeans, who profess the same religion, and as far superior to the followers of Islam, and are therefore prone to despise work, and to endeavour to live by trade, or by cultivating their own land. It need hardly be said that with people in this low state of civilization religion is almost wholly ceremonial, and that neither are the doctrines of Christianity comprehended, nor its moral precepts obeyed. At the same time, as far as my own experience goes, I have found the better class of “Orang Sirani” as civil, obliging, and industrious as the Malays, and only inferior to them from their tendency to get intoxicated.
Having written to the Assistant Resident of Saparua (who has jurisdiction over the opposite part of the coast of Ceram) for a boat to pursue my journey, I received one rather larger than necessary with a crew of twenty men. I therefore bade adieu to my kind friend Captain Van der Beck, and left on the evening after its arrival for the village of Elpiputi, which we reached in two days. I had intended to stay here, but not liking the appearance of the place, which seemed to have no virgin forest near it, I determined to proceed about twelve miles further up the bay of Amahay, to a village recently formed, and inhabited by indigenes from the interior, and where some extensive cacao plantations were being made by some gentlemen of Amboyna. I reached the place (called Awaiya) the same afternoon, and with the assistance of Mr. Peters (the manager of the plantations) and the native chief, obtained a small house, got all my things on shore, and paid and discharged my twenty boatmen, two of whom had almost driven me to distraction by beating tom-toms the whole voyage.
I found the people here very nearly in a state of nature, and going almost naked. The men wear their frizzly hair gathered into a flat circular knot over the left temple, which has a very knowing look, and in their ears cylinders of wood as thick as one’s finger, and coloured red at the ends. Armlets and anklets of woven grass or of silver, with necklaces of beads or of small fruits, complete their attire. The women wear similar ornaments, but have their hair loose. All are tall, with a dark brown skin, and well marked Papuan physiognomy. There is an Amboyna schoolmaster in the village, and a good number of children attend school every morning. Such of the inhabitants as have become Christians may be known by their wearing their hair loose, and adopting to some extent the native Christian dress-trousers and a loose shirt. Very few speak Malay, all these coast villages having been recently formed by inducing natives to leave the inaccessible interior. In all the central part of Ceram there new remains only one populous village in the mountains. Towards the east and the extreme west are a few others, with which exceptions all the inhabitants of Ceram are collected on the coast. In the northern and eastern districts they are mostly Mahometans, while on the southwest coast, nearest Amboyna, they are nominal Christians. In all this part of the Archipelago the Dutch make very praiseworthy efforts to improve the condition of the aborigines by establishing schoolmasters in every village (who are mostly natives of Amboyna or Saparua, who have; been instructed by the resident missionaries), and by employing native vaccinators to prevent the ravages of smallpox. They also encourage the settlement of Europeans, and the formation of new plantations of cacao and coffee, one of the best means of raising the condition of the natives, who thus obtain work at fair wages, and have the opportunity of acquiring something of European tastes and habits.
My collections here did not progress much better than at my former station, except that butterflies were a little more plentiful, and some very fine species were to be found in the morning on the sea-beach, sitting so quietly on the wet sand that they could be caught with the fingers. In this way I had many fine specimens of Papilios brought me by the children. Beetles, however, were scarce, and birds still more so, and I began to think that the handsome species which I had so often heard were found in Ceram must be entirely confined to the eastern extremity of the island.
A few miles further worth, at the head of the Bay of Amahay, is situated the village of Makariki, from whence there is a native path quite across the island to the north coast. My friend Mr. Rosenberg, whose acquaintance I had made at New Guinea, and who was now the Government superintendent of all this part of Ceram, returned from Wahai, on the north coast, after I had been three weeks at Awaiya, and showed me some fine butterflies he had obtained on the mountain streams in the interior. He indicated a spot about the centre of the island where he thought I might advantageously stay a few days. I accordingly visited Makariki with him the next day, and he instructed the chief of the village to furnish me with men to carry my baggage, and accompany me on my excursion. As the people of the village wanted to be at home on Christmas-day, it was necessary to start as soon as possible; so we agreed that the men should be ready in two days, and I returned to make my arrangements.
I put up the smallest quantity of baggage possible for a six days’ trip, and on the morning of December 18th we left Makariki, with six men carrying my baggage and their own provisions, and a lad from Awaiya, who was accustomed to catch butterflies for me. My two Amboyna hunters I left behind to shoot and skin what birds they could while I was away. Quitting the village, we first walked briskly for an hour through a dense tangled undergrowth, dripping wet from a storm of the previous night, and full of mud holes. After crossing several small streams we reached one of the largest rivers in Ceram, called Ruatan, which it was necessary to cross. It was both deep and rapid. The baggage was first taken over, parcel by parcel, on the men’s heads, the water reaching nearly up to their armpits, and then two men returned to assist me. The water was above my waist, and so strong that I should certainly have been carried off my feet had I attempted to cross alone; and it was a matter of astonishment to me how the men could give me any assistance, since I found the greatest difficulty in getting my foot down again when I had once moved it off the bottom. The greater strength and grasping power of their feet, from going always barefoot, no doubt gave them a surer footing in the rapid water.
After well wringing out our wet clothes and putting them on, we again proceeded along a similar narrow forest track as before, choked with rotten leaves and dead trees, and in the more open parts overgrown with tangled vegetation. Another hour brought us to a smaller stream flowing in a wide gravelly bed, up which our road lay. Here w e stayed half an hour to breakfast, and then went on, continually crossing the stream, or walking on its stony and gravelly banks, till about noon, when it became rocky and enclosed by low hills. A little further we entered a regular mountain-gorge, and had to clamber over rocks, and every moment cross and recross the water, or take short cuts through the forest. This was fatiguing work; and about three in the afternoon, the sky being overcast, and thunder in the mountains indicating an approaching storm, we had to loon out for a camping place, and soon after reached one of Mr. Rosenberg’s old ones. The skeleton of his little sleeping-hut remained, and my men cut leaves and made a hasty roof just as the rain commenced. The baggage was covered over with leaves, and the men sheltered themselves as they could till the storm was over, by which time a flood came down the river, which effectually stopped our further march, even had we wished to proceed. We then lighted fires; I made some coffee, and my men roasted their fish and plantains, and as soon as it was dark, we made ourselves comfortable for the night.
Starting at six the next morning, we had three hours of the same kind of walking, during which we crossed the river at least thirty or forty times, the water being generally knee-deep. This brought us to a place where the road left the stream, and here we stopped to breakfast. We then had a long walk over the mountain, by a tolerable path, which reached an elevation of about fifteen hundred feet above the sea. Here I noticed one of the smallest and most elegant tree ferns I had ever seen, the stem being scarcely thicker than my thumb, yet reaching a height of fifteen or twenty feet. I also caught a new butterfly of the genus Pieris, and a magnificent female specimen of Papilio gambrisius, of which I had hitherto only found the males, which are smaller and very different in colour. Descending the other side of the ridge, by a very steep path, we reached another river at a spot which is about the centre of the island, and which was to be our resting place for two or three days. In a couple of hour my men had built a little sleeping-shed for me, about eight feet by four, with a bench of split poles, they themselves occupying two or three smaller ones, which had been put up by former passengers.
The river here was about twenty yards wide, running over a pebbly and sometimes a rocky bed, and bordered by steep hills with occasionally flat swampy spots between their base and the stream. The whole country was one dense, Unbroken, and very damp and gloomy virgin forest. Just at our resting-place there was a little bush-covered island in the middle of the channel, so that the opening in the forest made by the river was wider than usual, and allowed a few gleams of sunshine to penetrate. Here there were several handsome butterflies flying about, the finest of which, however, escaped me, and I never saw it again during my stay. In the two days and a half which we remained here, I wandered almost all day up and down the stream, searching after butterflies, of which I got, in all, fifty or sixty specimens, with several species quite new to me. There were many others which I saw only once, and did not capture, causing me to regret that there was no village in these interior valleys where I could stay a month. In the early part of each morning I went out with my gun in search of birds, and two of my men were out almost all day after deer; but we were all equally unsuccessful, getting absolutely nothing the whole time we were in the forest. The only good bird seen was the fine Amboyna lory, but these were always too high to shoot; besides this, the great Moluccan hornbill, which I did not want, was almost the only bird met with. I saw not a single ground-thrush, or kingfisher, or pigeon; and, in fact, have never been in a forest so utterly desert of animal life as this appeared to be. Even in all other groups of insects, except butterflies, there was the same poverty. I bad hoped to find some rare tiger beetles, as I had done in similar situations in Celebes; but, though I searched closely in forest, river-bed, and mountain-brook, I could find nothing but the two common Amboyna species. Other beetles there were absolutely none.
The constant walking in water, and over rocks and pebbles, quite destroyed the two pair of shoes I brought with me, so that, on my return, they actually fell to pieces, and the last day I had to walk in my stockings very painfully, and reached home quite lame. On our way back from Makariki, as on our way there, we had storm and rain at sea, and we arrived at Awaiya late in the evening, with all our baggage drenched, and ourselves thoroughly uncomfortable. All the time I had been in Ceram I had suffered much from the irritating bites of an invisible acarus, which is worse than mosquitoes, ants, and every other pest, because it is impossible to guard against them. This last journey in the forest left me covered from head to foot with inflamed lumps, which, after my return to Amboyna, produced a serious disease, confining me to the house for nearly two months, a not very pleasant memento of my first visit to Ceram, which terminated with the year 1859.
It was not till the 24th of February, 1860, that I started again, intending to pass from village to village along the coast, staying where I found a suitable locality. I had a letter from the Governor of the Moluccas, requesting all the chiefs to supply me with boats and men to carry me on my journey. The first boat took me in two days to Amahay, on the opposite side of the bay to Awaiya. The chief here, wonderful to relate, did not make any excuses for delay, but immediately ordered out the boat which was to carry me on, put my baggage on hoard, set up mast and sails after dark, and had the men ready that nigh; so that we were actually on our way at five the next morning — a display of energy and activity I scarcely ever saw before in a native chief on such an occasion. We touched at Cepa, and stayed for the night at Tamilan, the first two Mahometan villages on the south coast of Ceram. The next day, about noon, we reached Hoya, which was as Far as my present boat and crew were going to take me. The anchorage is about a mile east of the village, which is faced by coral reefs, and we had to wait for the evening tide to move up and unload the boat into the strange rotten wooden pavilion kept for visitors.
There was no boat here large enough to take my baggage; and although two would have done very well, the Rajah insisted upon sending four. The reason of this I found was, that there were four small villages under his rule, and by sending a boat from each he would avoid the difficult task of choosing two and letting off the others. I was told that at the next village of Teluti there were plenty of Alfuros, and that I could get abundance of Tories and other birds. The Rajah declared that black and yellow Tories and black cockatoos were found there; but I am inclined to think he knew very well he was telling me lies, and that it was only a scheme to satisfy me with his plan of taking me to that village, instead of a day’s journey further on, as I desired. Here, as at most of the villages, I was asked for spirits, the people being mere nominal Mahometans, who confine their religion almost entirely to a disgust at pork, and a few other forbidden articles of food. The next morning, after much trouble, we got our cargoes loaded, and had a delightful row across the deep bay of Teluti, with a view of the grand central mountain-range of Ceram. Our four boats were rowed by sixty men, with flags flying and tom-toms beating, as well as very vigorous shouting and singing to keep up their spirits. The sea way smooth, the morning bright, and the whole scene very exhilarating. On landing, the Orang-kaya and several of the chief men, in gorgeous silk jackets, were waiting to receive us, and conducted me to a house prepared for my reception, where I determined to stay a few days, and see if the country round produced anything new.
My first inquiries were about the lories, but I could get very little satisfactory information. The only kinds known were the ring-necked lory and the common red and green lorikeet, both common at Amboyna. Black Tories and cockatoos were quite unknown. The Alfuros resided in the mountains five or six days’ journey away, and there were only one or two live birds to be found in the village, and these were worthless. My hunters could get nothing but a few common birds; and notwithstanding fine mountains, luxuriant forests, and a locality a hundred miles eastward, I could find no new insects, and extremely few even of the common species of Amboyna and West Ceram. It was evidently no use stopping at such a place, and I was determined to move on as soon as possible.
The village of Teluti is populous, but straggling and very dirty. Sago trees here cover the mountain side, instead of growing as usual in low swamps; but a closer examination shows that they grow in swampy patches, which have formed among the loose rocks that cover the ground, and which are kept constantly full of moisture by the rains, and by the abundance of rills which trickle down among them. This sago forms almost the whole subsistence of the inhabitants, who appear to cultivate nothing but a few small patches of maize and sweet potatoes. Hence, as before explained, the scarcity of insects. The Orang-kaya has fine clothes, handsome lamps, and other expensive European goods, yet lives every day on sago and fish as miserably as the rest.
After three days in this barren place I left on the morning of March 6th, in two boats of the same size as those which had brought me to Teluti. With some difficulty I had obtained permission to take these boats on to Tobo, where I intended to stay a while, and therefore got on pretty quickly, changing men at the village of Laiemu, and arriving in a heavy rain at Ahtiago. As there was a good deal of surf here, and likely to be more if the wind blew hard during the night, our boats were pulled up on the beach; and after supping at the Orang-kaya’s house, and writing down a vocabulary of the language of the Alfuros, who live in the mountains inland, I returned to sleep in the boat. Next morning we proceeded, changing men at Warenama, and again at Hatometen, at both of which places there was much surf and no harbour, so that the men had to go on shore and come on board by swimming. Arriving in the evening of March 7th at Batuassa, the first village belonging to the Rajah of Tobo, and under the government of Banda, the surf was very heavy, owing to a strong westward swell. We therefore rounded the rocky point on which the village was situated, but found it very little better on the other side. We were obliged, however, to go on shore here; and waiting till the people on the beach had made preparations, by placing a row of logs from the water’s edge on which to pull up our boats, we rowed as quickly as we could straight on to them, after watching till the heaviest surfs had passed. The moment we touched ground our men all jumped out, and, assisted by those on shore, attempted to haul up the boat high and dry, but not having sufficient hands, the surf repeatedly broke into the stern. The steepness of the beach, however, prevented any damage being done, and the other boat having both crews to haul at it, was got up without difficulty.
The next morning, the water being low, the breakers were at some distance from shore, and we had to watch for a smooth moment after bringing the boats to the water’s edge, and so got safely out to sea. At the two next villages, Tobo and Ossong, we also took in fresh men, who came swimming through the surf; and at the latter place the Rajah came on board and accompanied me to Kissalaut, where he has a house which he lent me during my stay. Here again was a heavy surf, and it was with great difficulty we got the boats safely hauled up. At Amboyna I had been promised at this season a calm sea and the wind off shore, but in this case, as in every other, I had been unable to obtain any reliable information as to the winds and seasons of places distant two or three days’ journey. It appears, however, that owing to the general direction of the island of Ceram (E.S.E. and W.N.W.), there is a heavy surf and scarcely any shelter on the south coast during the west monsoon, when alone a journey to the eastward can be safely made; while during the east monsoon, when I proposed to return along the north coast to Wahai, I should probably find that equally exposed and dangerous. But although the general direction of the west monsoon in the Banda sea causes a heavy swell, with bad surf on the coast, yet we had little advantage of the wind; for, owing I suppose to the numerous bays and headlands, we had contrary south-east or even due east winds all the way, and had to make almost the whole distance from Amboyna by force of rowing. We had therefore all the disadvantages, and none of the advantages, of this west monsoon, which I was told would insure me a quick and pleasant journey.
I was delayed at Kissa-laut just four weeks, although after the first three days I saw that it would be quite useless for me to stay, and begged the Rajah to give me a prau and men to carry me on to Goram. But instead of getting one close at hand, he insisted on sending several miles off; and when after many delays it at length arrived, it was altogether unsuitable and too small to carry my baggage. Another was then ordered to be brought immediately, and was promised in three days, but doable that time elapsed and none appeared, and we were obliged at length to get one at the adjoining village, where it might have been so much more easily obtained at first. Then came caulking and covering over, and quarrels between the owner and the Rajah’s men, which occupied more than another ten days, during all which time I was getting absolutely nothing, finding this part of Ceram a perfect desert in zoology. although a most beautiful country, and with a very luxuriant vegetation. It was a complete puzzle, which to this day I have not been able to understand; the only thing I obtained worth notice during my month’s stay here being a few good land shells.
At length, on April 4th, we succeeded in getting away in our little boat of about four tons burthen, in which my numerous boxes were with difficulty packed so as to leave sleeping and cooling room. The craft could not boast an ounce of iron or a foot of rope in any part of its construction, nor a morsel of pitch or paint in its decoration. The planks were fastened together in the usual ingenious way with pegs and rattans. The mast was a bamboo triangle, requiring no shrouds, and carrying a long mat sail; two rudders were hung on the quarters by rattans, the anchor was of wood, and a long and thick rattan; served as a cable. Our crew consisted of four men, whose pole accommodation was about three feet by four in the bows and stern, with the sloping thatch roof to stretch themselves upon for a change. We had nearly a hundred miles to go, fully exposed to the swell of the Banda sea, which is sometimes very considerable; but we luckily had it calm and smooth, so that we made the voyage in comparative comfort.
On the second day we passed the eastern extremity of Ceram, formed of a group of hummocky limestone hills; and, sailing by the islands of Kwammer and Keffing, both thickly inhabited, came in sight of the little town of Kilwaru, which appears to rise out of the sea like a rustic Venice. This place has really a most extraordinary appearance, as not a particle of land or vegetation can be seen, but a long way out at sea a large village seems to float upon the water. There is of course a small island of several acres in extent; but the houses are built so closely all round it upon piles in the water, that it is completely hidden. It is a place of great traffic, being the emporium for much of the produce of these Eastern seas, and is the residence of many Bugis and Ceramese traders, and appears to have been chosen on account of its being close to the only deep channel between the extensive shoals of Ceram-laut and those bordering the east end of Ceram. We now had contrary east winds, and were obliged to pole over the shallow coral reefs of Ceram-laut for nearly thirty miles. The only danger of our voyage was just at its termination, for as we were rowing towards Manowolko, the largest of the Goram group, we were carried out so rapidly by a strong westerly current, that I was almost certain at one time we should pass clear of the island; in which case our situation would have been both disagreeable and dangerous, as, with the east wind which had just set in, we might have been unable to return for many days, and we had not a day’s water on board. At the critical moment I served out some strong spirits to my men, which put fresh vigour into their arms, and carried us out of the influence of the current before it was too late.
MANOWOLKO, GORAM GROUP.
On arriving at Manowolko, we found the Rajah was at the opposite island of Goram; but he was immediately sent for, and in the meantime a large shed was given for our accommodation. At night the Rajah came, and the next day I had a visit from him, and found, as I expected, that I had already made his acquaintance three years before at Aru. He was very friendly, and we had a long talk; but when I begged for a boat and men to take me on to Ke, he made a host of difficulties. There were no praus, as all had gone to Ke or Aim; and even if one were found, there were no men, as it was the season when all were away trading. But he promised to see about it, and I was obliged to wait. For the next two or three days there was more talking and more difficulties were raised, and I had time to make an examination of the island and the people.
Manowolko is about fifteen miles long, and is a mere; upraised coral-reef. Two or three hundred yards inland rise cliffs of coral rock, in many parts perpendicular, and one or two hundred feet high; and this, I was informed, is characteristic of the whole island, in which there is no other kind of rock, and no stream of water. A few cracks and chasms furnish paths to the top of these cliffs, where there is an open undulating country, in which the chief vegetable grounds of the inhabitants are situated.
The people here — at least the chief men — were of a much purer Malay race than the Mahometans of the mainland of Ceram, which is perhaps due to there having been no indigenes on these small islands when the first settlers arrived. In Ceram, the Alfuros of Papuan race are the predominant type, the Malay physiognomy being seldom well marked; whereas here the reverse is the case, and a slight infusion of Papuan on a mixture of Malay and Bugis has produced a very good-looking set of people. The lower class of the population consist almost entirely of the indigenes of the adjacent island. They are a fine race, with strongly-marked Papuan features, frizzly hair, and brown complexions. The Goram language is spoken also at the east end of Ceram, and in the adjacent islands. It has a general resemblance to the languages of Ceram, but possesses a peculiar element which I have not met with in other languages of the Archipelago.
After great delay, considering the importance of every day at this time of year, a miserable boat and five men were found, and with some difficulty I stowed away in it such baggage as it was absolutely necessary for me to take, leaving scarcely sitting or sleeping room. The sailing qualities of the boat were highly vaunted, and I was assured that at this season a small one was much more likely to succeed in making the journey. We first coasted along the island, reaching its eastern extremity the following morning (April 11th), and found a strong W. S.W. wind blowing, which just allowed us to lay across to the Matabello Islands, a distance little short of twenty miles. I did not much like the look of the heavy sky and rather rough sea, and my men were very unwilling to make the attempt; but as we could scarcely hope for a better chance, I insisted upon trying. The pitching and jerking of our little boat, soon reduced me to a state of miserable helplessness, and I lay down, resigned to whatever might happen. After three or four hours, I was told we were nearly over; but when I got up, two hours later, just as the sun was setting, I found we were still a good distance from the point, owing to a strong current which had been for some time against us. Night closed in, and the wind drew more ahead, so we had to take in sail. Then came a calm, and we rowed and sailed as occasion offered; and it was four in the morning when we reached the village of Kisslwoi, not having made more than three miles in the last twelve hours.
At daylight I found we were; in a beautiful little harbour, formed by a coral reef about two hundred yards from shore, and perfectly secure in every wind. Having eaten nothing since the previous morning, we cooked our breakfast comfortably on shore, and left about noon, coasting along the two islands of this group, which lie in the same line, and are separated by a narrow channel. Both seem entirely formed of raised coral rock; but them has been a subsequent subsidence, as shaven by the barrier reef which extends all along them at varying distances from the shore, This reef is sometimes only marked by a. line of breakers when there is a little swell on the sea; in other places there is a ridge of dead coral above the water, which is here and there high enough to support a few low bushes. This was the first example I had met with of a true barrier reef due to subsidence, as has been so clearly shown by Mr. Darwin. In a sheltered archipelago they will seldom be distinguishable, from the absence of those huge rolling waves and breakers which in the wide ocean throw up a barrier of broken coral far above the usual high-water mark, while here they rarely rise to the surface.
On reaching the end of the southern island, called Uta, we were kept waiting two days for a wind that would enable us to pass over to the next island, Teor, and I began to despair of ever reaching Ke, and determined on returning. We left with a south wind, which suddenly changed to north-east, and induced me to turn again southward in the hopes that this was the commencement of a few days’ favourable weather. We sailed on very well in the direction of Teor for about an hour, after which the wind shifted to WSW., and we were driven much out of our course, and at nightfall found ourselves in the open sea, and full ten miles to leeward of our destination. My men were now all very much frightened, for if we went on we might be a. week at sea in our little open boat, laden almost to the water’s edge; or we might drift on to the coast of New Guinea, in which case we should most likely all be murdered. I could not deny these probabilities, and although I showed them that we could not get back to our starting-point with the wind as it was, they insisted upon returning. We accordingly put about, and found that we could lay no nearer to Uta than to Teor; however, by great good luck, about ten o’clock we hit upon a little coral island, and lay under its lee till morning, when a favourable change of wind brought us back to Uta, and by evening (April 18th w e reached our first anchorage in Matabello, where I resolved to stay a few days, and then return to Goram. It way with much regret that I gave up my trip to Ke and the intervening islands, which I had looked forward to as likely to make up for my disappointment in Ceram, since my short visit on my voyage to Aru had produced me so many rare and beautiful insects.
The natives of Matabello are almost entirely occupied in making cocoanut oil, which they sell to the Bugis and Goram traders, who carry it to Banda and Amboyna. The rugged coral rock seems very favourable to the growth of the cocoa-nut palm, which abounds over the whole island to the very highest points, and produces fruit all the year round. Along with it are great numbers of the areca or betel-nut palm, the nuts of which are sliced, dried, and ground into a paste, which is much used by the betel-chewing Malays and Papuans. A11 the little children here even such as can just run alone, carried between their lips a mass of the nasty-looking red paste, which is even more disgusting than to see them at the same age smoking cigars, which is very common even before they are weaned. Cocoa-nuts, sweet potatoes, an occasional sago cake, and the refuse nut after the oil has been extracted by boiling, form the chief sustenance of these people; and the effect of this poor and unwholesome diet is seen in the frequency of eruptions and scurfy skin diseases, and the numerous sores that disfigure the faces of the children.
The villages are situated on high and rugged coral peaks, only accessible by steep narrow paths, with ladders and bridges over yawning chasms. They are filthy with rotten husks and oil refuse, and the huts are dark, greasy, and dirty in the extreme. The people are wretched ugly dirty savages, clothed in unchanged rags, and living in the most miserable manner, and as every drop of fresh water has to be brought up from the beach, washing is never thought of; yet they are actually wealthy, and have the means of purchasing all the necessaries and luxuries of life. Fowls are abundant, and eggs were given me whenever I visited the villages, but these are never eaten, being looked upon as pets or as merchandise. Almost all of the women wear massive gold earrings, and in every village there are dozens of small bronze cannon lying about on the ground, although they have cost on the average perhaps £10 a piece. The chief men of each village came to visit me, clothed in robes of silk and flowered satin, though their houses and their daily fare are no better than those of the ether inhabitants. What a contrast between these people and such savages as the best tribes of bill. Dyaks in Borneo, or the Indians of the Uaupes in South America, living on the banks of clear streams, clean in their persons and their houses, with abundance of wholesome food, and exhibiting its effect in healthy shins and beauty of form and feature! There is in fact almost as much difference: between the various races of savage as of civilized peoples, and we may safely affirm that the better specimens of the former are much superior to the lower examples of the latter class.
One of the few luxuries of Matabello is the palm wine; which is the fermented sap from the flower stains of the cocoa-net. It is really a very mice drink, more like cyder than beer, though quite as intoxicating as the latter. Young cocoa-nuts are also very abundant, so that anywhere in the island it is only necessary to go a few yards to find a delicious beverage by climbing up a tree for it. It is the water of the young fruit that is drunk, before the pulp has hardened; it is then more abundant, clear, and refreshing, and the thin coating of gelatinous pulp is thought a treat luxury. The water of full-brown cocoa-nuts is always thrown away as undrinkable, although it is delicious in comparison with that of the old dry nuts which alone we obtain in this country. The cocoa-nut pulp I did not like at first; but fruits are so scarce, except at particular seasons, that one soon learns to appreciate anything of a fruity nature.
Many persons in Europe are under the impression that fruits of delicious flavour abound in the tropical forests, and they will no doubt be surprised to learn that the truly wild fruits of this brand and luxuriant archipelago, the vegetation of which will vie with that of any part of the world, are in almost every island inferior in abundance and duality to those of Britain. Wild strawberries and raspberries are found in some places, but they arc such poor tasteless things as to be hardly worth eating, and there is nothing to compare with our blackberries and whortleberries. The kanary-nut may be considered equal to a hazel-nut, but I have met with nothing else superior to our crabs, oar haws, beech-nuts, wild plums, and acorns; fruits which would be highly esteemed by the natives of these islands, and would form an important part of their sustenance. All the fine tropical fruits are as much cultivated productions as our apples, peaches, and plums, and their wild prototypes, when found, are generally either tasteless or uneatable.
The people of Matabello, like those of most of the Mahometan villages of East Ceram and Goram, amused me much by their strange ideas concerning the Russian war. They believe that the Russians were not only most thoroughly beaten by the Turks, but were absolutely conquered, and all converted to Islamism! And they can hardly be convinced that such is not the case, and that had it not been for the assistance of France and England, the poor Sultan world have fared ill. Another of their motions is, that the Turks are the largest and strongest people in the world — in fact a race of giants; that they eat enormous quantities of meat, and are a most ferocious and irresistible nation. Whence such strangely incorrect opinions could have arisen it is difficult to understand, unless they are derived from Arab priests, or hadjis returned from Mecca, who may have heard of the ancient prowess of the Turkish armies when they made all Europe tremble, and suppose that their character and warlike capacity must be the same at the present time.
A steady south-east wind having set in, we returned to Manowolko on the 25th of April, and the day after crossed over to Ondor, the chief village of Goram.
Around this island extends, with few interruptions, an encircling coral reef about a quarter of a mile from the shore, visible as a stripe of pale green water, but only at very lowest ebb-tides showing any rock above the surface. There are several deep entrances through this reef, and inside it there is hood anchorage in all weathers. The land rises gradually to a moderate height, and numerous small streams descend on all sides. The mere existence of these streams would prove that the island was not entirely coralline, as in that case all the water would sink through the porous rock as it does at Manowolko and Matabello; but we have more positive proof in the pebbles and stones of their beds, which exhibit a variety of stratified crystalline rocks. About a hundred yards from the beach rises a wall of coral rock, ten or twenty feet high, above which is an undulating surface of rugged coral, which slopes downward towards the interior, and then after a slight ascent is bounded by a second wall of coral. Similar walls occur higher up, and coral is found on the highest part of the island.
This peculiar structure teaches us that before the coral was formed land existed in this spot; that this land sunk gradually beneath the waters, but with intervals of rest, during which encircling reef’s were formed around it at different elevations; that it then rose to above its present elevation, and is now again sinking. We infer this, because encircling reefs are a proof of subsidence; and if the island were again elevated about a hundred feet, what is now the reef and the shallow sea within it would form a wall of coral rock, and an undulating coralline plain, exactly similar to those that still exist at various altitudes up to the summit of the island. We learn also that these changes have taken place at a comparatively recent epoch, for the surface of the coral has scarcely suffered from the action of the weather, and hundreds of sea-shells, exactly resembling those still found upon the beach, and many of them retaining their gloss and even their colour, are scattered over the surface of the island to near its summit.
Whether the Goram group formed originally part of New Guinea or of Ceram it is scarcely possible to determine, and its productions will throw little light upon the question, if, as I suppose, the islands have been entirely submerged within the epoch of existing species of animals, as in that case it must owe its present fauna and flora to recent immigration from surrounding lands; and with this view its poverty in species very well agrees. It possesses much in common with East Ceram, but at the same time has a good deal of resemblance to the Ke Islands and Banda. The fine pigeon, Carpophaga concinna, inhabits Ke, Banda, 11-Iatabello, and Goram, and is replaced by a distinct species, C. neglecta, in Ceram. The insects of these four islands have also a common facies — facts which seem to indicate that some more extensive land has recently disappeared from the area they now occupy, and has supplied them with a few of its peculiar productions.
The Goram people (among whom I stayed a month) are a race of traders. Every year they visit the Tenimber, Ke, and Aru Islands, the whole north-west coast of New Guinea from Oetanata to Salwatty, and the island of Waigiou and Mysol. They also extend their voyages to Tidore and Ternate, as well as to Banda and Amboyna, Their praus are all made by that wonderful race of boatbuilders, the Ke. islanders, who annually turn out some hundreds of boats, large and small, which can hardly be surpassed for beauty of form and goodness of workmanship, They trade chiefly in tripang, the medicinal mussoi bark, wild nutmegs, and tortoiseshell, which they sell to the Bugis traders at Ceram-laut or Aru, few of them caring to take their products to any other market. In other respects they are a lazy race, living very poorly, and much given to opium smoking. The only native manufactures are sail-matting, coarse cotton cloth, and pandanus-leaf boxes, prettily stained and ornamented with shell-work.
In the island of Goram, only eight or ten miles long, there are about a dozen Rajahs, scarcely better off than the rest of the inhabitants, and exercising a mere nominal sway, except when any order is received from the Dutch Government, when, being backed by a higher power, they show a little more strict authority. My friend the Rajah of Ammer (commonly called Rajah of Goram) told me that a few years ago, before the Dutch had interfered in the affairs of the island, the trade was not carried on so peaceably as at present, rival praus often fighting when on the way to the same locality, or trafficking in the same village. Now such a thing is never thought of-one of the good effects of the superintendence of a civilized government. Disputes between villages are still, however, sometimes settled by fighting, and I one day saw about fifty men, carrying long guns and heavy cartridge-belts, march through the village. They had come from the other side of the island on some question of trespass or boundary, and were prepared for war if peaceable negotiations should fail.
While at Manowolko I had purchased for 100 florins £9.) a small prau, which was brought over the next day, as I was informed it was more easy to have the necessary alterations made in Goram, where several Ke workmen were settled.
As soon as we began getting my prau ready I was obliged to give up collecting, as I found that unless I was constantly on the spot myself very little work would be clone. As I proposed making some long voyages in this boat, I determined to fit it up conveniently, and was obliged to do all the inside work myself, assisted by my two Amboynese boys. I had plenty of visitors, surprised to see a white man at work, and much astonished at the novel arrangements I was making in one of their native vessels. Luckily I had a few tools of my own, including a small saw and some chisels, and these were now severely tried, cutting and fitting heavy iron-wood planks for the flooring and the posts that support the triangular mast. Being of the best London make, they stood the work well, and without them it would have been impossible for me to have finished my boat with half the neatness, or in double the time. I had a Ke workman to put in new ribs, for which I bought nails of a Bugis trader, at 8d. a pound. My gimlets were, however, too small; and having no augers we were obliged to bore all the holes with hot irons, a most tedious and unsatisfactory operation.
Five men had engaged to work at the prau till finished, and then go with me to Mysol, Waigiou, and Ternate. Their ideas of work were, however, very different from mine, and I had immense difficulty with them; seldom more than two or three coming together, and a hundred excuses being given for working only half a day when they did come. Yet they were constantly begging advances of money, saying they had nothing to eat. When I gave it them they were sure to stay away the next day, and when I refused any further advances some of them declined working any more. As the boat approached completion my difficulties with the men increased. The uncle of one had commenced a war, or sort of faction fight, and wanted his assistance; another’s wife was ill, and would not let him come; a third had fever and ague, and pains in his head and back; and a fourth had an inexorable creditor who would not let him go out of his sight. They had all received a month’s wages in advance; and though the amount was not large, it was necessary to make them pay it back, or I should get ago men at a11. I therefore sent the village constable after two, and kept them in custody a day, when they returned about three-fourths of what they owed me. The sick man also paid, and the steersman found a substitute who was willing to take his debt, and receive only the balance of his wages.
About this time we had a striking proof of the dangers of New Guinea trading. Six men arrived at the village in a small boat almost starved, having escaped out of two praus, the remainder of whose crews (fourteen in number) had been murdered by the natives of New Guinea. The praus had left this village a few months before, and among the murdered men were the Rajah’s son, and the relation or slaves of many of the inhabitants. The cry of lamentation that arose when the news arrived was most distressing. A score of women, who had lost husbands, brothers, sons, or more distant relatives, set up at once the most dismal shrieks and groans and wailings, which continued at intervals till late at night; and as the chief houses in the village were crowded together round that which I occupied, our situation was anything but agreeable.
It seems that the village where the attack took place (nearly opposite the small island of Lakahia) is known to be dangerous, and the vessels had only gone there a few days before to buy some tripang. The crew were living on shore, the praus being in a small river close by, and they were attacked and murdered in the day-time while bargaining with the Papuans. The six men who survived were on board the praus, and escaped by at once setting into the small boat and rowing out to sea.
This south-west part of New Guinea, known to the native traders as “Papua Kowiyee” and “Papua Onen,” is inhabited by the most treacherous and bloodthirsty tribes. It is in these districts that the commanders and portions of the crews of many of the early discovery ships were murdered, and scarcely a year now passes but some lives are lost. The Goram and Ceram traders are themselves generally inoffensive; they are well acquainted with the character of these natives, and are not likely to provoke an attack by any insults or open attempt at robbery or imposition. They are accustomed to visit the same places every year, and the natives can have no fear of them, as may be alleged in excuse for their attacks on Europeans. In other extensive districts inhabited by the same Papuan races, such as Mysol, Salwatty, Waigiou, and some parts of the adjacent coast, the people have taken the first step in civilization, owing probably to the settlement of traders of mixed breed among them, and for many years no such attacks have taken place. On the south-west coast, and in the large island of Jobie, however, the natives are in a very barbarous condition, and tale every opportunity of robbery and murder — a habit which is confirmed by the impunity they experience, owing to the vast extent of wild mountain and forest country forbidding all pursuit or attempt at punishment. In the very same village, four years before, more than fifty Goram men were murdered; and as these savages obtain an immense booty in the praus and all their appurtenances, it is to be feared that such attacks will continue to be made at intervals as long as traders visit the same spots and attempt no retaliation. Punishment could only be inflicted on these people by very arbitrary measures, such as by obtaining possession of some of the chiefs by stratagem, and rendering them responsible for the capture of the murderers at the peril of their own heads. But anything of this kind would be done contrary to the system adopted by the Dutch Government in its dealings with natives.
GORAM TO WAHAI IN CERAM.
When my boat was at length launched and loaded, I got my men together, and actually set sail the next day (May 27th), much to the astonishment of the Goram people, to whom such punctuality was a novelty. I had a crew of three men and a boy, besides my two Amboyna lads; which was sufficient for sailing, though rather too few if obliged to row much. The next day was very wet, with squalls, calms, and contrary winds, and with some difficulty we reached Kilwaru, the metropolis of the Bugis traders in the far East. As I wanted to make some purchases, I stayed here two days, and sent two of my boxes of specimens by a Macassar prau to be forwarded to Ternate, thus relieving myself of a considerable incumbrance. I bought knives, basins, and handkerchiefs for barter, which with the choppers, cloth, and beads I had brought with me, made a pretty good assortment. I also bought two tower muskets to satisfy my crew, who insisted on the necessity of being armed against attacks of pirates; and with spices and a few articles of food for the voyage nearly my last doit was expended.
The little island of Kilwaru is a mere sandbank, just large enough to contain a small village, and situated between the islands of Ceram-laut, and Kissa — straits about a third of a mile wide separating it from each of them. It is surrounded by coral reefs, and offers good anchorage in both monsoons. Though not more than fifty yards across, and not elevated more than three or four feet above the highest tides, it has wells of excellent drinking water — a singular phenomenon, which would seem to imply deep-seated subterranean channels connecting it with other islands. These advantages, with its situation in the centre of the Papuan trading district, lead to its being so much frequented by the Bugis traders. Here the Goram men bring the produce of their little voyages, which they exchange for cloth, sago cakes, and opium; and the inhabitants of all the surrounding islands visit it with the game object. It is the rendezvous of the praus trading to various parts of New Guinea, which here assort and dry their cargoes, and refit for the voyage home. Tripang and mussoi bark are the most bulky articles of produce brought here, with wild nutmegs, tortoiseshell, pearls, and birds of Paradise; in smaller quantities. The villagers of the mainland of Ceram bring their sago, which is thus distributed to the islands farther east, while rice from Bali and Macassar can also be purchased at a moderate price. The Goram men come here for their supplies of opium, both for their own consumption and for barter in Mysol and Waigiou, where they have introduced it, and where the chiefs and wealthy men are passionately fond of it. Schooners from Bali come to buy Papuan slaves, while the sea-wandering Bugis arrive from distant Singapore in their lumbering praus, bringing thence the produce of the Chinamen’s workshops and Kling’s bazaar, as well as of the looms of Lancashire and Massachusetts.
One of the Bugis traders who had arrived a few days before from Mysol, brought me news of my assistant Charles Allen, with whom he was well acquainted, and who, he assured me; was making large collections of birds and insects, although he had not obtained any birds of Paradise; Silinta, where he was staying, not being a good place for them. This was on the whole satisfactory, and I was anxious to reach him as soon as possible.
Leaving Kilwaru early in the morning of June 1st, with a strong east wind we doubled the point of Ceram about noon, the heavy sea causing my prau to roll abort a good deal, to the damage of our crockery. As bad weather seemed coming on, we got inside the reefs and anchored opposite the village of Warns-warns to wait for a change.
The night was very squally, and though in a good harbour we rolled and jerked uneasily; but in the morning I had greater cause for uneasiness in the discovery that our entire Goram crew had decamped, taking with them all they possessed and a little more, and leaving us without any small boat in which to land. I immediately told my Amboyna men to load and fire the muskets as a signal of distress, which was soon answered by the village chief sending off a boat, which took me on shore. I requested that messengers should be immediately sent to the neighbouring villages in quest of the fugitives, which was promptly done. My prau was brought into a small creek, where it could securely rest in the mud at low water, and part of a house was given me in which T could stay for a while. I now found my progress again suddenly checked, just when I thought I had overcome my chief difficulties. As I had treated my men with the greatest kindness, and had given them almost everything they had asked for, I can impute their running away only to their being totally unaccustomed to the restraint of a European master, and to some undefined dread of my ultimate intentions regarding them. The oldest man was an opium smoker, and a reputed thief, but I had been obliged to take him at the last moment as a substitute for another. I feel sure it was he who induced the others to run away, and as they knew the country well, and had several hours’ start of us, there was little chance of catching them.
We were here in the great sago district of East Ceram which supplies most of the surrounding islands with their daily bread, and during our week’s delay I had an opportunity of seeing the whole process of making it, and obtaining some interesting statistics. The sago tree is a palm, thicker and larger than the cocoa-nut tree, although rarely so tall, and having immense pinnate spiny leaves, which completely cover the trunk till it is many years old. It has a creeping root-stem like the Nipa palm, and when about ten or fifteen years of age sends up an immense terminal spike of flowers, after which the tree dies. It grows in swamps, or in swampy hollows on the rocky slopes of hills, where it seems to thrive equally well as when exposed to the influx of salt or brackish water. The midribs of the immense leaves form one of the most useful articles in these lands, supplying the place of bamboo, to which for many purposes they are superior. They are twelve or fifteen feet long, and, when very fine, as thick in the lower part as a man’s leg. They are very light, consisting entirely of a firm pith covered with a hard thin rind or bark. Entire houses are built of these; they form admirable roofing-poles for thatch; split and well-supported, they do for flooring; and when chosen of equal size, and pegged together side by side to fill up the panels of framed wooden horses, they have a very neat appearance, and make better walls and partitions than boards, as they do not shrink, require no paint or varnish, and are not a quarter the expense. When carefully split and shaved smooth they are formed into light boards with pegs of the bark itself, and are the foundation of the leaf-covered boxes of Goram. All the insect-boxes I used in the Moluccas were thus made at Amboyna, and when covered with stout paper inside and out, are strong, light, and secure the insect-pins remarkably well. The leaflet of the sago folded and tied side by side on the smaller midribs form the “atap “or thatch in universal use, while the product of the trunk is the staple food of some= hundred thousands of men.
When sago is to be made, a full-grown tree is selected just before it is going to flower. It is cut down close to the ground, the leaves and leafstalks cleared away, and a broad strip of the bark taken off the upper side of the trunk. This exposes the pithy matter, which is of a rusty colour near the bottom of the tree, but higher up pure white, about as hard as a dry apple, but with woody fibre running through it about a quarter of an inch apart. This pith is cut or broken down into a coarse powder by means of a tool constructed for the purpose — a club of hard and heavy wood, having a piece of sharp quartz rock firmly imbedded into its blunt end, and projecting about half an inch. By successive blows of this, narrow strips of the pith are cut away, and fall down into the cylinder formed by the bark. Proceeding steadily on, the whole trunk is cleared out, leaving a skin not more than half an inch in thickness. This material is carried away (in baskets made of the sheathing bases of the leaves) to the nearest water, where a washing-machine is put up, which is composed almost entirely of the saga tree itself. The large sheathing bases of the leaves form the troughs, and the fibrous covering from the leaf-stalks of the young cocoa-nut the strainer. Water is poured on the mass of pith, which is kneaded and pressed against the strainer till the starch is all dissolved and has passed through, when the fibrous refuse is thrown away, and a fresh basketful put in its place. The water charged with sago starch passes on to a trough, with a depression in the centre, where the sediment is deposited, the surplus water trickling off by a shallow outlet. When the trough is nearly full, the mass of starch, which has a slight reddish tinge, is made into cylinders of about thirty pounds’ weight, and neatly covered with sago leaves, and in this state is sold as raw sago.
Boiled with water this forms a thick glutinous mass, with a rather astringent taste, and is eaten with salt, limes, and chilies. Sago-bread is made in large quantities, by baking it into cakes in a small clay oven containing six or eight slits side by side, each about three-quarters of an inch wide, and six or eight inches square. The raw sago is broken up, dried in the sun, powdered, and finely sifted. The oven is heated over a clear fire of embers, and is lightly filled with the sago-powder. The openings are then covered with a flat piece of sago bark, and in about five minutes the cakes are turned out sufficiently baked. The hot cakes are very nice with butter, and when made with the addition of a little sugar and grated cocoa-nut are quite a delicacy. They are soft, and something like corn-flour cakes, but leave a slight characteristic flavour which is lost in the refined sago we use in this country. When not wanted for immediate use, they are dried for several days in the sun, and tied up in bundles of twenty. They will then keep for years; they are very hard, and very rough and dry, but the people are used to them from infancy, and little children may be seen gnawing at them as contentedly as ours with their bread-and-butter. If dipped in water and then toasted, they become almost as good as when fresh baked; and thus treated they were my daily substitute for bread with my coffee. Soaked and boiled they make a very good pudding or vegetable, and served well to economize our rice, which is sometimes difficult to get so far east.
It is truly an extraordinary sight to witness a whole tree-trunk, perhaps twenty feet long and four or five in circumference, converted into food with so little labour and preparation. A good-sized tree will produce thirty tomans or bundles of thirty pounds each, and each toman will make sixty cakes of three to the pound. Two of these cakes are as much as a man can eat at one meal, and five are considered a full day’s allowance; so that, reckoning a tree to produce 1,800 cakes, weighing 600 pounds, it will supply a man with food for a whole year. The labour to produce this is very moderate. Two men will finish a tree in five days, and two women will bake the whole into cakes in five days more; but the raw sago will keep very well, and can be baked as wanted, so that we may estimate that in ten days a man may produce food for the whole year. This is on the supposition that he possesses sago trees of his own, for they are now all private property. If he does not, he has to pay about seven and sixpence for one; and as labour here is five pence a day, the total cost of a year’s food for one man is about twelve shillings. The effect of this cheapness of food is decidedly prejudicial, for the inhabitants of the sago countries are never so well off as those where rice is cultivated. Many of the people here have neither vegetables nor fruit, but live almost entirely on sago and a little fish. Having few occupations at home, they wander about on petty trading or fishing expeditions to the neighbouring islands; and as far as the comforts of life are concerned, are much inferior to the wild hill-Dyaks of Borneo, or to many of the more barbarous tribes of the Archipelago.
The country round Warus-warus is low and swampy, and owing to the absence of cultivation there were scarcely any paths leading into the forest. I was therefore unable to collect much during my enforced stay, and found no rare birds or insects to improve my opinion of Ceram as a collecting ground. Finding it quite impossible to get men here to accompany me on the whole voyage, I was obliged to be content with a crew to take me as far as Wahai, on the middle of the north coast of Ceram, and the chief Dutch station in the island. The journey took us five days, owing to calms and light winds, and no incident of any interest occurred on it, nor did I obtain at our stopping places a single addition to my collections worth naming. At Wahai, which I reached on the 15th of June, I was hospitably received by the Commandant and my old friend Herr Rosenberg, who was now on an official visit here. He lent me some money to pay my men, and I was lucky enough to obtain three others willing to make the voyage with me to Ternate, and one more who was to return from Mysol. One of my Amboyna lads, however, left me, so that I was still rather short of hands.
I found here a letter from Charles Allen, who was at Silinta in Mysol, anxiously expecting me, as he was out of rice and other necessaries, and was short of insect-pins. He was also ill, and if I did not soon come would return to Wahai.
As my voyage from this place to Waigiou was among islands inhabited by the Papuan race, and was an eventful and disastrous one, I will narrate its chief incidents in a separate chapter in that division of my work devoted to the Papuan Islands. I now have to pass over a year spent in Waigiou and Timor, in order to describe my visit to the island of Bouru, which concluded my explorations of the Moluccas.
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