"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 24, 1926 : Ambon

April 24th

"At 3 P.M. we cast off..."

This morning we packed up our luggage and at 2 P.M. boarded the "Albatross". So did all of our convicts and Dyaks and soldiers, to say nothing of our two cows and a number of wives of our Malay sailors. If the Fomalhout was loaded to the {p. 30} gunwhales [sic], the Albatross is loaded to the masthead. Every inch of available deck space is crowded and the convicts and Dyaks have not room enough to lie on the decks to sleep but must sleep on drums, packing cases and in the motor boat and life boats. We are loaded with highly inflammable "atap" and high test gasoline to say nothing of dynamite. As there are no lifeboats available now, we can only hope no fire starts. Smoking has been prohibited and fire guards posted in all parts of the ship. If the crowd of humanity on board increases the likelihood of fire, it also increases the likelihood of its speedy discovery. Our sides are bulging with the 10 big Dyak canoes lashed on the rail, as well as huge bundles of bamboo poles for erecting the storerooms and barracks at Pioneer Camp. At 3 P.M. we cast off and before a motley assemblage of European Government officials and curious natives, we left the dock of Ambon. Most of our 10 days in Ambon were rather rainy and gloomy but today has been bright sunshine all day. It is a most curious fact that in the little island of Ambon, when it is the wet season in the south, it is dry season on the North only ten or fifteen miles distant; vice versa also holds true. During the afternoon we have sailed along the rugged coast of Ambon and about sunset could see Ceram to the North, Boeroe to the west, and numbers of smaller islands. Tonight we pass through the straits between Boeroe and Ceram. Anji Ipoei has promised le Roux and I each one of his ear ornaments which are most beautifully and intricately carved. We have promised him a rifle when we return. He explained the carvings on the {p. 31} canoes which represent human elbows and leeches. One of the Dyaks who injured his foot while assisting in loading the ship was carried aboard pick-a-back by one of his mates. The strait which we are now passing through was passed through by the Victoria, the last remaining ship of Magellan's fleet on the way to Spain. Among the spectators on the Deck at Ambon as we pulled out, was Hans. He was to leave on the Fomalhout carrying the plane, 3 hours after us. The Fomalhout is going to Ternate and several other ports before meeting the Albatross at Soeroe on the Island of Japen, on her return from her initial trip up the Mamberamo. Our rendezvous at Soeroe is fixed for May 7th. Hans will have quite a cruise in the meanwhile. As soon as we had left the bay of Ambon we were soon all in pajamas and a number of clipped heads were exposed as hats were removed. Ambon is our last touch of civilization, although we have yet to visit Manoekwari [sic], so all formalities have been discarded. Stanley for coolness sake operated his typewriter on the after[-]deck. As he wields a dextrous [sic] set of digits he was soon the center of an admiring group of Malays. Also noticed a group of Dyaks in intense study of a package of wood and [V1: "and" is crossed out] veneer or ply[-]wood which we have for repairing pontoons. They were obviously mystified as to how it could have been made.

CreditsPermissionsMore Expeditions & Voyages