"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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August 24, 1926 : Head Camp (Lower & Upper) ; Rouffaer River

August 24

The transport returned this morning from the Upper Camp, and Le Roux and I loaded our two "coffins" full of ethnological material and shipped them downstream. In the afternoon we crossed the river and went downstream about a mile to a Papuan house which Saleh had discovered on an island in the morning. It had been occupied fairly recently as there were still plenty of fleas in it. There were a dozen or more banana trees growing around it. There were two big bunches of bananas but they are not yet ready to pick. Practically everything had been taken from the house, only a couple of sago bark baskets and some ragged pieces of tin from one of our rice tins, probably one left by the aeroplane. This house is probably the farthest {p. 221} upstream of any of the river Papuans, as from here on the mountains become very steep and there is no trace of human habitation. Speaking of the aeroplane cache, we found some strips of bright red pasteboard from our "Sunmaid" raisin boxes in some of the net begs we collected along the river on our way up. Across the river today we saw quite a number of crowned pigeons and black chickens. There is plenty of bird hunting to be had here, but there seem to be no fish in the river. Probably the water here is too cold for them. There are very few pigs and cassowary also. Only rarely is a track seen of either, whereas the lake plain is alive with them. This lack of fish and game other than birds, combined with the rough nature of the country and the impossibility of using Papuan canoes in the rapids here accounts for the uninhabited state of this section. If the pygmies are inside the mountains, I think they will have had no contact with these Papuans, the barriers between being too great to be surmounted.

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