"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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April 8, 1926 : Java (Soerabaia)

April 8th

A quiet day aboard ship. We have sailed all day with the rugged volcanoes of Java on our starboard side and an occasional small island off our port. No rain today but a little hazy and a brilliant sunset to end the day.

Spent some time looking over the convicts. They are principally from the Island of Madoera and are practically all murderers. As van Leeuwen says, "Murderers are much the best." The crime is an index of character and the murderer is usually a man of decision. As a rule they are good workers and like all Madoerese are handy on boats. Thieves are usually a less desirable class for work of this nature. They are less trustworthy and less industrious.

The Madoerese are a hot tempered lot. They all carry knives and use them with fatal intent upon the slightest provocation. Le Roux talked with some of them this morning. They were very anxious to know where they were going and what it is all about. They had been brought abroad and had not the least idea where they were being taken. {p. 4}

They are a strong, hardy looking lot, having been especially picked for the arduous work they will have to do. Their faces for the most part are pleasant excepting for a few who have a decidedly evil cast of countenance. They have to be treated fairly well to get the best results from them. Good treatment is reciprocated by them in kind, bad treatment is never forgotten. We passed the "Plaucius" this evening at 9 P.M. and she signalled us "Good speed and a successful expedition".

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