"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 27, 1926 : Head Camp (Lower & Upper) ; Rouffaer River

August 27th

This morning I resolved to take a hike up the River "C". The water of the Rouffaer had risen during the night about six feet and had backed up the water in the mouth of River "C" so that it would have been a matter of swimming a couple of hundred yards. The banks on both sides are high vertical cliffs so there is no way to descend to the river by climbing the mountain. I tried it and finally came to a breath-taking cliff that put further progress out of the question. About a hundred yards from camp I saw a big kangaroo, the biggest I have yet seen. He was tame as a barnyard cat and let me walk within five yards of him. As is usually the case in such circumstances I did not have my gun along. When I returned, I told Tomalinda {p. 224} and we got a gun and went back on his trail which was soon lost as the ground is very rough. However, we kept climbing the ridge back of camp until we again reached the cliff which had stopped me only much higher up. The real nature of this 1000 foot cliff, like the one near Albatross camp is masked by the heavy jungle growth which overhangs its brink. Tomalinda cleared away a space with his parang along the brink and we had a magnificent view up the river "C" and could see the treeless summit of the Doorman top in the distance. Tomalinda was with Doorman on his trip and pointed out the route they took up the river "C" and up the mountain. It took them more than a month from here to reach the Doorman top. Last night my roof leaked through most of the rain, so on the way back we cut a lot of palm leaves for thatching purposes.

There are only two Dyaks in camp, Tomalinda and another with a wound on his foot, which temporarily incapacitates him. I visited with them all afternoon, telling them many of the marvels of America, to which they never tire listening and considering the complicated and utterly unfamiliar nature of the subjects, comprehend with surprising intelligence. This afternoon was devoted principally to sky-scrapers, ocean liners, astronomy, and electricity. In exchange I learned many Dyak customs and beliefs, and quite a bit concerning their social organization. They enjoy these visits immensely and for that matter, so do I. Birds seem {*} remarkably scarce in this region. {p. 225} As soon as one enters the gorge of the river they greatly decrease in numbers. On my hike into the jungle this morning with Tomalinda we did not see a single bird. There are a good many butterflies here, some of them of very striking appearance particularly one of a dazzling blue color, but it does not seem to me they are as numerous, varied and beautiful as on the headwater streams of the Amazon in the Eastern Andes. Here too, they are far from easy to capture. I have been trying to get one of the blue ones and have not yet succeeded. This evening I hiked up the river "C" about a mile and a half after swimming the mouth to where the boulder bed begins. It is a pretty stream with huge square granite boulders along the bed, some of them as big as a small sized house. The rock formation is all granite and serpentine. The bed of the river rises quite rapidly and the stream is a continuous series of small falls and rapids. Erosion here is going on at a rapid rate and one can see great chunks freshly knocked off the big boulders in the stream bed by other big boulders coming down. After a heavy rain above, at night there is an incessant cannonading of these boulders, a strange sound which can be heard a great distance. If the Dyaks come up from the lower camp tomorrow we will start up the Rouffaer either tomorrow or the next day, depending upon the time they arrive here.

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