"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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May 2, 1926 : Albatross Camp (Base Camp) ; Mamberamo River

May 2nd

"This morning we began the work of unloading the Albatross..."

This morning we began the work of unloading the Albatross and continued the clearing of the camp site. Leveling was started for our large storage house and the soldiers built a temporary barracks. The soldiers, convicts and Dyaks brought all of their equipment ashore and will stay on shore from now on. Le Roux is busy making a map of the camp site and Van Leeuwen is already collecting. We have been very fortunate thus far in regard to weather. There has been no rain to speak of since we entered the river. On the other hand, the flooded condition of the river makes our work very difficult and will cause delay in starting the canoe transport upstream. It would be impossible to pass through the rapids with the river in its present condition. A lot of interesting insects and snakes were brought to light during the work of clearing. One was a snake with apparently a head at each end. {p. 46} One is not a head, however. Several large insects four or five inches long mimicked green leaves or pieces of rotten bark. The mimicry was perfect even to fungus spots on the leaves. One python of a sort peculiar to New Guinea was found. He was extremely thick and heavy in proportion to his length. The health of the expedition thus far has been quite good. Dick has dengue fever but it will likely be over in a few days. One of our Dyaks has pneumonia, which is the only case of serious illness we have. The river is beginning to drop. Today and yesterday it has lowered about a foot but still has thirty feet to drop before it will be safe to send a canoe transport upstream. The ingenuity of the Dyaks is more and more apparent as they are seen at work in their element. They made tables today using the big slabs cut from the bolsters at the butt of "ficus" trees. By evening our camp was beginning to take form. We have two landing places one in back of the camp on the small creek, the other in front on the main river. Part of our main storage house has been built and temporary shelters for the soldiers, Dyaks and convicts have been erected and are being used tonight. The six mile an hour current make unloading a difficult task.

"...temporary shelters for the soldiers, Dyaks and convicts have been erected..."

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