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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 85

Extract from Journal

Extract from Journal.

"Up to Saturday night we had almost dead calms, only making about twenty miles a day. We got a rain squall on Thursday night, however, in which we made another fifteen miles.

"When it cleared up we Found land all round us. However, till next day Matusin could not determine his position. On Friday we found that they were Lottin, Crown, Long, and Dampier islands; we could also see the New Britain coast, and straight ahead of us rose the coast of New-Guinea, at that particular spot some 12,000 feet high. This morning we were close up to it, and it was certainly a most magnificent sight to see this land rising straight out of the sea to such an enormous height. In the afternoon, about two o'clock, we came to an anchor in a tiny little page 7 cove with only just room to swing in, but very deep water. Maclay had called it Port Constantine, and it was his headquarters while he was staying in Astrolabe Bay.

"We saw a few canoes putting off to us, but they seemed rather shy at first till I shouted out the magical name of " Maclay," when they came up as fast as they could. They had all got very powerful bows and enormous canoes. By the help of the few words Maclay had written down for me I was able to inform them that he would come hack to them soon, that I was his brother, and that I wanted to see their towns. They at once became extremely friendly and kept on telling each other that I was Maclay's brother. I then asked for the principal men of the villages by name, and they promised that they should come off next day and would then take me to their towns. In the evening Matusin and I went ashore to look for water. I took my gun in the hope of shooting some birds, but though I heard plenty the bush was so thick I could not see one. We looked about for some time and found a little creek with good water, but we did not explore it very far as it looked a most likely place for alligators.

"In the morning a crowd of canoes came out to us to trade. They seemed to have nothing but bows and arrows and spears of rather a rough description.

"A few of them asked for tobacco, but they evidently did not care much about it Knives and beads were in great demand, but they had so few things of any interest that their trading was not carried on with very great vigour. Matusin and I had settled to visit Gorendu, which is the biggest village here, after divisions in the morning. As soon as they were over a native told me that "Sa-ul," the chief I had asked for, was coming off in a canoe, so we determined to wait for him. When he came alongside we lowered the boarding netting for him, and he came on board after some persuasion, as he was evidently in a great fright. We took him down to the cabin, where we showed him anything we thought likely to take his fancy. Oddly enough he seemed much more pleased with the masks and spears, etc., which we had brought from the other islands than with anything else. The poor old man then attempted a feat manifestly beyond him, though he had evidently tried it before—namely, smoking a day pipe filled with trade tobacco. After a few draws he dashed up the steps of the cabin and was violently sick. When he came back he roared with laughter for some time. The Steward gave him a piece of bread and jam, which he gravely licked with his vermilion tongue, and then handed it to the other members of his staff, who all did the same. No one, however, thought of eating the bread till it came to a small boy who made the attempt. He was not, however, allowed to swallow it as the elder members of his family, when they saw it was good to eat, made him disgorge it, after which it was handed round from tongue to tongue in the most convivial manner. We then made Sa-ul some small presents, which seemed to delight him hugely, and proposed that we should go to Gorendu. Before he left the cabin, however, he was destined to suffer a severe shock to his nerves. He was pulling everything about in a great state of astonishment, and finally came to a seltzogene, the handle of which he pressed. page 8 Of course it at once discharged a stream of soda water into his face, and poor Sa-ul tumbled down as if he had been shot.

"After this we got him into the boat and started. . We began our walk to the town from a point about a mile along the bay from where we were anchored. There was a capital path leading us through two walls of bush into which we could not see a yard and which came together about twenty feet oyer our heads. Along the skies of it were any number of ferns and crotons, and there were innumerable festoons of orchids hanging down all round us.

"It was a luxuriance of vegetation I had never seen before and had not imagined possible. I had been in hopes of shooting some birds, but such a thing was quite impossible.

"The orchids I had not seen before anywhere, and there were several Borts of crotons quite new to me. Unfortunately there was no room on board the ship to carry cuttings. After walking some time we heard shrieks and the sound of people running, and then we came to a clearing in the bush, with a few wretched bamboo huts in the centre of it. This village, the name of which I have forgotten, was entirely deserted. evidently on account of our arrival. "We could hear the people talking, no doubt discussing us, quite close in the bush, but we could not see one. As there were no points of interest in the external appearance of this village, and as in the absence of the owners I could not enter any house, we started off again. After walking some time we came to another large clearing and a larger number of huts, which, Sa-ul informed us with a proud air of proprietorship, was Gorendu. We heard the same shrieks there and retreating footsteps, but this town was not absolutely deserted.

"An aged lady, totally devoid of clothing, no doubt owing to her extreme anxiety to get away, as it is not the habit of the women to go naked, was discovered sitting on the ground, in the middle of the town, and one by one they began to come in. Only one woman, however, made her appearance, perhaps, owing to the fact that she possessed a garment of grass which came down to her knees. After the people had come in there was a great deal of patting and pinching to be endured which could have been dispensed with, as they had all got skin diseases. I went into Sa-ul's house, but he seemed to have hardly any property in it. There were some very rough earthenware cooking pots and a few spears and bows, but nothing else. Sa-ul was perfectly civil to us all the time we were on shore; but it is rather remarkable that though I gave him a good many things, he never offered me anything in return. In the Admiralties, where they looked infinitely more savage than they do here, the chief insisted on making me presents in return for mine to him.

"After walking about for some time round about Gorendu wo turned back to the boat with a crowd at our heels, and got back to the ship about two o'clock. At all the places we called at before going to New Guinea I made inquiries about an interpreter for Astrolabe Bay, but at no place could I hear of anyone who had been there. I made out that two ships had been at Port Constantine, both English, but how long ago I could not find out. I believe the only foreigner of any country who has stayed with them and can speak their language is Maclay. I could see no sign page 9 of European implements, beads, or cloth, which there probably would have been had they mixed with foreigners."

Maclay says every yard of land is owned by someone and every fruit bearing tree has its owner. There may, no doubt, be scented woods on the mountain ranges, but we saw no signs of them, Tobacco, I should say, there certainly was not, as we not only saw no signs of it in the towns, where it most probably would have been planted, but the natives did not at all seem to care about ours, though some of them did know the use of it. As far as the appearance of the people goes, I imagine Wallace must be wrong when he says that the Astrolabe natives are not true Papuans, but a colony from another place. They are utterly unlike the New Britain, New Ireland, or Admiralty islanders, and where else they could have come from I do not know. They are copper-coloured instead of black, and have Jewish features. There is none of the flat-nosed, thick-lipped type about them, and their heads are better shaped than those of any of the natives round about. If they did not all suffer from skin diseases they would be a very fine looking people. It is possible they were more civil to me than they would have been to anyone else, owing to the fact of my acquaintance with Maclay, which I made the most of. They seem to fight very little among themselves. None of them were scarred like the Solomon Islanders, and the bows they sold us had evidently been out of use for a long time, and had all new cane strings. There seemed to be very few weapons of any sort in any of the houses I went into.

No doubt there must be very fine land up the rivers. Indeed, up the valley of the Gabina Hiver we could see plains stretching for some twenty miles or more.

The natives of New Guinea vary very much in appearance and language. It may be roughly said that in the east and west they are fair skinned small men; and that in the centre they are powerfully made black men, probably the true aboriginals; while their neighbours are colonists from other places. They are always fighting amongst themselves, and as a rule the black men have the best of it, as their weapons are superior and they keep themselves in constant practice

I have found, also, that the black men are more to be trusted than their fair skinned neighbours, in spite of their being cannibals, which the others, as a rule, are not.

The population of the country has been estimated at between three and five millions, Some parts of the interior are densely populated by wandering tribes, so that it is difficult to form anything like a correct estimate. Mr. Chalmers, who should know more about the country than anyone else, believes the population to be about three millions. In conclusion, I must apologise for the rambling nature of this paper, and thank you once more for the honour you have done me in asking me to read it.

The Chairman referred to the lucidity of Mr. Romilly's paper and the pleasure it had given the members in listening to its reading.

Mr. Thomson said that after the reading of a paper it was usual to invite discussion, and thought it was very desirable to do so, as it made the subject more [unclear: interii-üno] to the members and more satisfactory to the author. Referring to that part of the paper which described the native of New Guinea. he had travelled over a great portion of the South Sea Islands, many places frequented by the page 10 author himself, and had associated much with the natives, and being a keen observer of human nature generally, he had taken great interest in studying the habits of the natives, and considered that while they could be trained to make excellent servant when away from the influence of their own tribes they are naturally inclined to be treacherous when influence [unclear: ane] by a close association with their own people and could not be trusted like a European

In the absence of the author, the hon. Secretary read a paper entitled