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

Interpretive Essays

Browse Photos and Film

Expedition Source Material

About this Project

expedition source material

Journal of Matthew Stirling
Select a Date:
Select a location/subject:
Current Date and Location/Subject:  

April 22, 1926 : Ambon

April 22nd

Today the Albatross came to dock and we loaded most of our luggage aboard. Although loaded to capacity, she can only bring the necessities for the establishing of Pioneer Camp on the Mamberamo. The Albatross is about the same size and type of ship as the Fomalhout, but a little smaller. She can carry as much cargo, but has not the cabin space of the Fomalhout. In the evening Dick, Stan, Hans, Prince and I went aboard the Albatross as guests of one of the officers of the Albatross and the 2nd officer of the Fomalhout. We had a Chinese supper that was extra fine, obtained from a Chinese ethnic place here. There are quite a number of Christians in Ambon, among the natives. They always wear black robes of a particularly ugly cut and about as uncomfortable a costume as it would be possible to devise for the tropics. The Dutch of the better sort discourage the Christianizing of the natives, as the religion does not fit their temperament and they immediately become useless members of society and stop all work when they become Christians. In their mental process they reason that the Dutch are Christians. Therefore when they accept Christianity they become "Blandas" (Dutchmen). Apparently the Dutch do not work - at any event they do not do the sort work of which the natives are capable. Hence their conclusion (immediately acted upon) that they should do no work. {p. 28} The Mohammedans here are still in the majority, however, and keep the ball rolling in Ambon. Those who have been to Mecca can be distinguished by their white Fez or turban.

Each evening before the fishing boats go out, a great din is heard down by the waterfront, beating of cans, drums, etc. Last night as we were sitting on the bridge of the Albatross the usual racket started. The mate volunteered the information that they were fishermen calling for a wind. (It is worthy to note that two minutes after the noise ceased a fresh breeze sprang up!)

Geologists think the bay of Ambon is the huge crater of an extinct volcano as it is very deep - deeper in feet then the water outside. The bay is too deep for the size of the island and the pressure of the water causes the earthquakes here. The natives think the island of Ambon is in the form of a toadstool, supported by a narrow stem. This idea is strengthened by the steep manner in which the coast shelves off into the sea. The earthquakes are caused by the toadstool occasionally wobbling on its stem.

CreditsPermissionsMore Expeditions & Voyages