"By Aeroplane to Pygmyland" Accounts of the 1926 Smithsonian-Dutch Expedition to New Guinea

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Journal of Matthew Stirling
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April 7, 1926 : Java (Soerabaia)

April 7, 1926

After the busiest week of our stay in Java, we sailed on schedule this morning at 9 o'clock. The Fomalhout [sic, = Fomalhaut] came to Batavia from Soerabaia day before yesterday and Dick, Hans and Prince came with her. She is a 1000 ton ship with very comfortable cabins. Her entire after superstructure has been cleared away to make a place for the plane which we will pick up Friday at Soerabaia where we will stop only long enough for this, and to take on the rest of our gasoline.

"Spent part of the day looking over the ship."

We left Tanjong Priok this morning in a blaze of glory with a military band and the elite of Batavia on hand to give a huzzah as we left, including floral pieces for some of the members. The wives and families of some of our Dutchmen were on hand to shed a tear, so all in all it was a successful affair. Even a number of our Malays had their "Baboes" down to see them off. They stood with their naked children wide eyed and solemn in contrast to the more emotional Europeans[,] and their colored sarongs added a picturesque note to the scene on the pier as we pulled out. A number of our new Dutch friends came down to see us off as well as our two friendliest friends, Captain Davidson, the British war aviator, and his wife. They not only brought us bag and baggage to the dock in their car but loaded us with presents, including a couple of dozen {p. 2} books and magazines and two cases of candy of many sorts in jars, which will no doubt be a pleasant luxury in the jungle.

The Fomalhout is loaded to the plimson [sic, = plimsoll] line. We have forty or fifty tons of food on board, all kinds of camp equipment, 1000 gallons of gasoline (we take on 1500 more at Soerabaia). On the top deck we have, where supplies are not piled, in addition to the captain of the Fomalhout, Stanley, Dick, Hans, Prince and myself; Dr. Docteurs [sic, = Docters] van Leeuwen, le Roux, Dr. Hoffman, the M.D., and Lieut. Jordans. On the lower deck we have in addition to the crew, 40 Malay convicts, 30 soldiers, several Dutch Sergeants, and the wives and families, who live in negligée, of the crew, a few dozen chickens and two cows. At Macassor [sic, = Makassar] we are to pick up 40 of our 70 Dyaks from central Borneo. In addition to all of this we have two motor boats for use in New Guinea and are towing a large motor cruiser and a schooner, both loaded to the gunwhales [sic, = gunwales] with supplies. On April 20th Captain Posthumous will sail with the second detachment of the expedition including 100 convicts, 50 soldiers, and 30 Dyaks, which latter he will also pick up at Macassor.

If we go without delay we will arrive on the Mamberamo about the 21st.

Spent part of the day looking over the ship. She is a trim ship but loaded like Santa Claus' bag on Christmas eve. Went below to look over the live stock. I like the look of our sergeants. One is a veritable giant with the look of an outdoor man stamped on {p. 3} his face. His compatriot boasts the largest moustache I have ever seen, despite his insignificant stature.

The soldiers spent the whole day sharpening their sabers which they have all honed to a razor's edge.

After siesta we listened to the new phonograph and exchanged yarns on the somewhat precarious after[-]deck, from which the railing has been removed.

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