"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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September 25, 1926

September 25

This morning I started on my trip up the valley of the Delo with two Dyaks, one soldier and Shorty. Early in the morning all of the clouds had cleared and we had a magnificent view up the valley of the Delo to the west and up the Nogullo to the east. Rising from the Delo and parallelling the Nogullo is a great ragged range of mountains with a series of peaks rising to 12,000 and 13,000 feet in altitude. One could see up the valley of the Nogullo as far as the eye could reach. In the dim distance a great sawtooth range cuts across the view up the valley. This range is quite unknown and is not indicated on the map. There can be no doubt that the Nogullo is the main stream of the Rouffaer and that it continues to this distant range in an almost straight line, a little south of east before it turns or forks. It is quite impossible that any river breaks through the big range flanking it on the south. The stream which Doorman from his distant peak, thought was the Rouffaer, there can be no doubt is the Delo. A big river it is but not the main stream. A more inspiring view of great distances and rugged mountains it would be difficult to conceive. {p. 263} The little Papuan clearing is located on a spur at just the right point to command these two big valleys. Looking to the west, the Delo skirts the west end of the big range and enters a series of high, level topped mountains that lie behind the former. It is difficult to conceive that this big stretch of mountains and rivers has not been seen before.

The trail we followed, if it might be dignified by such a name[,] led along the side of the mountain on the north side of the Delo. I was aiming to reach a big native clearing which we could see on the south side, high up the mountain a considerable distance up the river. I expected that the trace would descend towards the river but we have kept our altitude all day and tonight are even higher than when we left. The trail has been very difficult as we crossed 10 side streams during the day. The sixth, which is the largest, was flanked on the west side by a great white perpendicular cliff, with fantastic formations on the top. I thought here we would surely have to descend to the main river but the trail skirted around the cliff over great fallen masses of quartz, the material of which the range is formed. However the Dyaks managed to follow the trail is a mystery to me as most of the time I could not see it at all. The only way I could tell for certain we were on a trail was when now and then we passed a Papuan bivouac under an overhanging rook or in a cave. During the day we must have seen a dozen such. {p. 264} Then too when a big tree had fallen across the way they had cut notched footholds with their stone axes. Birds are very numerous all along the way and this must be the paradise of the birds of paradise, as they are to be seen and heard in vast numbers. Usually very difficult to see even when following their call, I saw about a dozen today without trying. There were also many very fine butterflies such as I have not seen before. At 4 o'clock all hands were well tired out and we decided to make camp at the first water. With the usual perversity of the inanimate for the first time we encountered a long stretch without water. At about 5 o'clock we came to a little trickling spring, and on the steep mountain side in a bamboo thicket - in a spot certainly not designed by nature for a camp - we stopped and made bivouac. By good luck, the usual afternoon rain did not start, but the wood was all pretty thoroughly soaked and we had a bad time getting a fire started. I am hoping the trail will begin to descend pretty soon as I am anxious to see the Delo itself and see what volume of water it carries.

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