"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 6, 1926 : Albatross Camp (Base Camp) ; Mamberamo River

May 6th

Early this morning Dick and I went ashore in the motor boat, gathered a few belongings and came back on board. {p. 49} At 8 A.M. the Albatross turned around and headed down river for Soeroe; we made the trip down in one day, whereas it required 2-1/2 days to make the trip upstream. It was noticeable that sago palms were absent in all the region where the river went through the mountains, but as soon as we reached the coastal plain, they became abundant. We also saw a cocoanut grove at the mouth of a small stream before we had left the mountains but no signs of habitation around them. We saw more Papuans, or probably some of the same we saw coming upstream. One group saw us in time to send out a canoe with 3 men that came almost alongside by the time we were abreast the village. The wake of our ship as we passed almost swamped them and as the middle paddler lost his balance and fell into the bottom of the canoe, all 3 laughed heartily. At 4 P.M. we entered the ocean and headed for Soeroe where we are due for our rendezvous tomorrow. Dick and I, being the only passengers now, eat in state with the Captain. As we left the river I noticed again the abundance of cassowary trees which brought to mind that I did not see another at any point on the river than right on the coast. The most conspicuous piece of vegetation on the Mamberamo is a beautiful climbing vine with large clusters of crimson blossoms. There are others with white blossoms, yellow blossoms and blue blossoms, but the first is by far the most striking. The variety of trees which comprise the jungle growth is amazing. You can scarcely locate 2 trees of the same species in one sweep of the eyes. About 12 or 15 kilometers up the river are large open spaces, grown {p. 50} over with grasses - principally a saw grass with great white plumes like pampas grass, with here and there a sago palm rearing its head.

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