"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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October 13, 1926

October 13

Early this morning le Roux and Stanley left with all the carriers, hoping to establish camp at our bivouac of the 3rd by the rock gorge. I think it will be too much for the carriers to go there, return and go back, as it is a long way and a steep trail up the longest climb of the trip. The Papuans did not leave with the carriers and Stan and le Roux, evidently to make certain that they would not have to return for a double trip. Dick and I with one soldier stayed with them to guard our baggage. Finally, about noon the Papuans decided to move {*} on and Dick and I followed them. Igoon stayed with Dick and I on the trail, but the others set a hot pace and we did not catch up with them until we reached the rocky river we crossed on the 4th. Here the Papuans were cooking their lunch which {p. 289} consisted of baked potatoes and a small bird which Dick shot. They shared their meal with us, else we would have gone short as our supply of rice is about gone. It was about 2:30 P.M. when they moved on and as it seemed now too late for the transport to return, Dick and I decided to stay until the Dyaks and carriers came back. In case they did not return we planned to return to the soldier so that he would not have to spend the night alone. While we waited, we started trying to construct a shelter as it looked like it was going to rain shortly. We were contemplating the possibility of climbing a cliff after some wild bananas when the first group of carriers came down to the river. Dick and I then went on up the long mountain and down to join Stan and Le Roux in the camp by the gorge. Night came and no transport, so we decided they had made camp somewhere on the river. We were about to go to bed when we heard a shout up on the mountainside. It had then been dark for two hours at least. Dick lit a candle and went up the trail. It turned out to be Oompah and Sian with their packs. They were the only ones who had left the camp where we stayed last night. They had put in twelve hours of carrying in one day and the last two hours in black dark over a mountain jungle trail, difficult enough to follow in broad daylight. Their feat of reaching here from the top of the ridge in the dark I would have thought humanly impossible. The jungle is a weird spectacle here after dark, almost all {p. 290} of the fallen logs are lighted with phosphorescence and here and there a dead tree standing is outlined in greenish white fire.

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