"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 10, 1926 : Albatross Camp (Base Camp) ; Mamberamo River

May 10th

"...the five Americans."

Everyone has been busy today with various occupations. Hans and Prince are working, on the float for the aeroplane with a bunch of Dyak assistants. Dick is building a dark room for photographic work and for storing photographic supplies. Stanley has fallen heir to the job of chief [V1: interlineated: cook; crossed out: chef] for the five Americans. He has been having a great time breaking in our convicts as chefs. Prince has unexpectedly blossomed out with hidden talent along culinary lines and is chief {p. 59} instructor along the lines of baking and fancy dishes. In addition he has also become head barber. Dick and Hans are now sporting nude crania as devoid of hair as door knobs. Prince was in turn performed upon by Hans and is clipped to the skin excepting for a single long golden, curly forelock in front, "Something to serve as a handle as a convenience to the Papuans in case they collect my head[,]" says Prince. The Dyaks are making good progress on their big house. It is covered with shingles which they make with their knives. They cut a hole in one end of each slab and lash them in place with rattan. It is quite a job to cut the hole in, so Prince produced a bit and brace and demonstrated to Anji Ipoei. The Dyaks were so pleased with it that Prince has promised to give it to Ipoei after the expedition. Incidentally the Dyaks have a natural instinct for tools and mechanics. They learn to use a new tool with no difficulty. When Prince was rigging the boom for the plane, he brought out the chain hoist. The Dyaks were astonished at the way it lifted the heavy log and gave the hoist a careful study. Next day when Prince brought it out they rigged it themselves and did it correctly. Today they have put up two huge elaborately carved wooden ornaments at the gables of their house. They have the same curious curved pattern as the tattooing on their hips.

"The Dyaks are making good progress on their big house."

Today I climbed up a high knife edge ridge back of Albatross camp where I had a good view of the river and the mountains on either side, as well as a birds eye view of Havik Island. The ridge falls away in a rather breath taking cliff nearly a thousand feet high to the river and even the opposite {p. 60} slope is so steep as to be descended with difficulty. In spite of its singular formation the ridge is almost entirely clothed with jungle which conceals its true form so that I did not realize the cliff was present until I was on its actual brink. This afternoon Stanley, Hans, Van Leeuwen, le Roux and I discussed plans for establishing a camp at the Upper Rouffar by means of the plane. Today the Dyaks, worried that the river does not go down, set up a wooden rain god in front of their house. Last night the peaceful calm of the evening was disturbed some time around midnight by a war whoop from Stan, who had an encounter in bed with a critter which appeared to be a cross between a scorpion and a centipede. Stanley swore it was a foot long, but he was guilty of gross exaggeration as I saw its carcass this morning and it only measured seven inches. The only damage done was to Stan's mosquito netting as he left his cot without stopping to raise the netting.

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