"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 13, 1926

April 13th

This morning we passed by the island of Buton, quite close to the shore, and afterwards past a number of smaller islands. They were all jungle clad and with their strips of white sand beach look quite attractive from close inspection. A curious feature of the islands is that for a couple of hundred feet or more above the sea they are symmetrically terraced, obviously from a succession of elevations the land has here received above sea level. I played bridge all morning and at noon a terrific thunder storm came up. For about an hour lighting flashed close about us and thunder crackled and crashed at intervals of only a few seconds. At least four or five flashes caused our aerials to crackle and the flash and the report in each instance came simultaneously. The skipper, who has been in these parts for almost 30 years, said it was the worst thunder storm he had ever experienced. Since our ship is loaded on the decks from stem to stern with gasoline, it was not a pleasant experience.

There was scarcely any wind accompanying the atmospheric disturbance and the seas remained quite calm. Each evening at sundown we stop and send a small rowboat back to our motor boat {p. 12} which we are towing, in order to refuel and light her lights. This evening they found the motorboat propeller had been turning and had heated up the engine. We lost an hour while it was being fixed. This evening [I] played bridge again until 10:45 P.M.

The part of the Molucca sea in which we are now steaming between Celebes and Boeroe is one of the great deeps of the world. The charts show that it is more than 20,000 feet deep at this place. On practically all of these islands the shore slopes down so steeply that there is no anchorage possible, even very close to land.

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