"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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June 12, 1926 : Albatross Camp (Base Camp) ; Mamberamo River ; Papuans of Bisano

June 12th

Our Papuan friends from Bisano have come down again and are building some houses across the river in the jungle where they are out of sight from camp and from the river. They intend to hold this territory against all comers as long as we are here. This afternoon Sally, Leroux and I, with a Papuan and a Dyak, got in the Papuan canoe and paddled up the Otkin river about a mile and a half, then headed cross country for the Mamberamo. We shot a crowned pigeon and saw two kangaroos. Sally could have shot one of these but the bolt on his gun jammed so our kangaroo {p. 122} steak escaped. A half or three-quarters of a mile from the mouth, a small stream enters the Otkin river from the north side. We crossed this stream at some point between the Otkin and the Mamberamo. The bed of this small stream was a mixed sand and gravel and was literally covered with large chunks of coal at the point where we crossed.

"Here Komaha, the Papuan with us, got the thrill of his life..."

As the stream is too small to have much float, the vein cannot be far from this place. As it is less than a mile from the Mamberamo at the head of navigation, it may be a deposit of considerable economic importance some day. When we had reached the edge of the river we returned to old Pioneer camp where our nine cows are grazing at pasture. Here Komaha, the Papuan with us, got the thrill of his life as we stepped into the clearing and the cattle were suddenly before us. His eyes started from his head and he fixed an arrow to his bow. He was not reassured until our attitude showed that we did not fear the cows. Coming back to camp after a stiff paddle upstream, I enjoyed my first bath in our new bath house just completed on the bank in front of our house, alongside the Dyak figure. The legs of this colossus make a fine attachment for clothes lines and so in addition to protecting us from evil spirits he now serves a concrete utilitarian purpose as well. The Papuans still eye him with some uneasiness as they pass our house. [V2: crossed out and marked "Omit": This evening I read "When Nile was young" and owing to the paucity of literature here, I enjoyed it immensely. This evening we received a wireless from Davidson, sent from Tosari, but unfortunately the crucial word in the message has been garbled in transmission so we don't know when or where he wishes to join us.]

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