"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 16, 1926 : Albatross Camp (Base Camp) ; Mamberamo River

June 16th

This morning we found the river had dropped to such an extent that the float of the Ern was almost resting on the rocks which are now coming close to the surface at our landing place. It was obvious that another drop such as last night would leave the plane stranded on the rocks. The river has now dropped twenty-five or thirty feet from what it was when we arrived. The boom at our landing which formerly just cleared the water is now sticking out over dry land at a dizzy height. Hans, Prince and I with a few Dyaks got in a canoe and prospected for a new landing place. We found a good one by the mouth of the Otkin river but the difficulty of transportation across the river caused us to veto it. We then skirted the west bank of the Mamberamo from about a mile below camp to a mile above. The aspect of the shores has certainly changed a lot since our first arrival. Where formerly the water was flush with the tops of the bank all along or overflowing them, there is now a thirty foot bank and where formerly there was only mud at the waters edge there is now rock and gravel and the river is much more interesting to travel. We finally selected a place at the opposite end of camp from our old site just opposite our new vegetable gardens. The mud there is sufficiently soft to suit the taste of any delicate pontoon. Hans brought the float drums and all to the new location up the river by the simple expedient of starting the motor of the plane and taxiing up, plane roosting on top of the float. By this ingenious method the removal {p. 126} was accomplished with little difficulty save that Moon and I, who were on the receiving end, had to wallow around up to our hips in mud until we could attach lines and make her fast. As we will have to move our work shop and carry gas and oil and cargo a half mile, the new location is going to be much more inconvenient than before. Dick went on a hunting trip today and reported seeing lizards about ten inches in length that ran across the water like a skater fly. The canoes for the transport were loaded this afternoon, principally with gas and oil for the motor boats. Tomorrow the transport will start with Jordans and van Leeuwen and they will continue through to head camp, or at least to Motor camp. This afternoon one of the Dyaks - their youngest member - a boy of about 16, was badly burned by a pot of boiling water while cooking. His condition is rather serious.

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