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COMFORTS OF A PRAU.
intelligible, and, except in words that have evidently been introduced during a long-continued commercial intercourse, seem to have no affinity whatever with the Malay languages.
Jan. 6th.—The small boats being finished, we sailed for Aru at 4 P.M., and as we left the shores of Ké had a fine view of its rugged and mountainous character; ranges of hills, three or four thousand feet high, stretching southward as far as the eye could reach, everywhere covered with a lofty, dense, and unbroken forest. We had very light winds, and it therefore took us thirty hours to make the passage of sixty miles to the low, or flat, but equally forest-covered Aru Islands, where we anchored in the harbor of Dobbo at nine in the evening of the next day.
My first voyage in a prau being thus satisfactorily terminated, I must, before taking leave of it for some months, bear testimony to the merits of the queer Old-world vessel. Setting aside all ideas of danger, which is probably, after all, not more than in any other craft, I must declare that I have never, either before or since, made a twenty days' voyage so pleasantly, or, perhaps more correctly speaking, with so little discomfort. This I attribute chiefly to having my small cabin on deck, and entirely to myself, to having my own servants to wait upon me, and to the absence of all those marine-store smells of paint, pitch, tallow, and new cordage, which are to me insupportable. Something is also to be put down to freedom from all restraint of dress, hours of meals, etc., and to the civility and obliging disposition of the captain. I had agreed to have my meals with him, but whenever I wished it I had them in my own berth, and at what hours I felt inclined. The crew were all civil and good-tempered, and with very little discipline every thing went on smoothly, and the vessel was kept very clean and in pretty good order, so that on the whole I was much delighted with the trip, and was inclined to rate the luxuries of the semi-barbarous prau as surpassing those of the most magnificent screw-steamer, that highest result of our civilization.
THE ARU ISLANDS-RESIDENCE IN DOBBO.
JANUARY TO MARCH, 1857.
On the 8th of January, 1857, I landed at Dobbo, the trading settlement of the Bugis and Chinese, who annually visit the Aru Islands. It is situated on the small island of Wamma, upon a spit of sand which projects out to the north, and is just wide enough to contain three rows of houses. Though at first sight a most strange and desolate-looking place to build a village on, it has many advantages. There is a clear entrance from the west among the coral reefs that border the land, and there is good anchorage for vessels, on one side of the village or the other, in both the east and west monsoons. Being fully exposed to the sea-breezes in three directions, it is healthy, and the soft sandy beach offers great facilities for hauling up the praus, in order to secure them from sea-worms and prepare them for the homeward voyage. At its southern extremity the sand-bank merges in the beach of the island, and is backed by a luxuriant growth of lofty forest. The houses are of various sizes, but are all built after one pattern, being merely large thatched sheds, a small portion of which, next the entrance, is used as a dwelling, while the rest is parted off, and often divided by one or two floors, in order better to store away merchandise and native produce.
As we had arrived early in the season, most of the houses were empty, and the place looked desolate in the extremethe whole of the inhabitants who received us on our landing amounting to about half a dozen Bugis and Chinese. Our captain, Herr Warzbergen, had promised to obtain a house for me, but unforeseen difficulties presented themselves. One which was to let had no roof, and the owner, who was building it on speculation, could not promise to finish it in less than a month. Another, of which the owner was dead, and which I might therefore take undisputed possession of as the
TAKING A HOUSE.
first comer, wanted considerable repairs, and no one could be found to do the work, although about four times its value was offered. The captain, therefore, recommended me to take possession of a pretty good house near his own, whose owner was not expected for some weeks; and as I was anxious to be on shore, I immediately had it cleared out, and by evening had all my things housed, and was regularly installed as an inhabitant of Dobbo. I had brought with me a cane chair and a few light boards, which were soon rigged up into a table and shelves. A broad bamboo bench served as sofa and bedstead, my boxes were conveniently arranged, my mats spread on the floor, a window cut in the palm-leaf wall to light my table; and though the place was as miserable and gloomy a shed as could be imagined, I felt as contented as if I had obtained a well-furnished mansion, and looked forward to a month's residence in it with unmixed satisfaction.
The next morning, after an early breakfast, I set off to explore the virgin forests of Aru, anxious to set my mind at rest as to the treasures they were likely to yield, and the probable success of my long-meditated expedition. A little native imp was our guide, seduced by the gift of a German knife, value three half-pence, and my Macassar boy Baderoon brought his chopper to clear the path if necessary.
We had to walk about half a mile along the beach, the ground behind the village being mostly swampy, and then turned into the forest along a path which leads to the native village of Wamma, about three miles off on the other side of the island. The path was a narrow one, and very little used, often swampy, and obstructed by fallen trees, so that after about a mile we lost it altogether, our guide having turned back, and we were obliged to follow his example. In the mean time, however, I had not been idle, and my day's captures determined the success of my journey in an entomological point of view. I had taken about thirty species of butterflies-more than I had ever captured in a day since leaving the prolific banks of the Amazon, and among them were many most rare and beautiful insects, hitherto only known by a few specimens from New Guinea. The large and handsome spectre-butterfly (Hestia durvillei), the pale-winged peacock-butterfly (Drusilla catops), and the most brilliant
and wonderful of the clear-winged moths (Cocytia durvillei), were especially interesting, as well as several little "blues," equalling in brilliancy and beauty any thing the butterfly world can produce. In the other groups of insects I was not so successful, but this was not to be wondered at in a mere exploring ramble, when only what is most conspicuous and novel attracts the attention. Several pretty beetles, a superb "bug," and a few nice land-shells were obtained, and I returned in the afternoon well satisfied with my first trial of the promised land.
The next two days were so wet and windy that there was no going out; but on the succeeding one the sun shone brightly, and I had the good-fortune to capture one of the most magnificent insects the world contains, the great birdwinged butterfly (Ornithoptera poseidon). I trembled with excitement as I saw it coming majestically toward me, and could hardly believe I had really succeeded in my stroke till I had taken it out of the net and was gazing, lost in admiration, at the velvet black and brilliant green of its wings, seven inches across, its golden body, and crimson breast. It is true I had seen similar insects in cabinets, at home, but it is quite another thing to capture such one's self-to feel it struggling between one's fingers, and to gaze upon its fresh and living beauty, a bright gem shining out amid the silent gloom of a dark and tangled forest. The village of Dobbo held that evening at least one contented man.
Jan. 26th.-Having now been here a fortnight, I began to understand a little of the place and its peculiarities. Praus continually arrived, and the merchant population increased almost daily. Every two or three days a fresh house was opened, and the necessary repairs made. In every direction men were bringing in poles, bamboos, rattans, and the leaves of the Nipa palm to construct or repair the walls, thatch, doors, and shutters of their houses, which they do with great celerity. Some of the arrivals were Macassar men or Bugis, but more from the small island of Goram, at the east end of Ceram, whose inhabitants are the petty traders of the far East. Then the natives of Aru come in from the other side of the islands (called here “blakang tana,” or “back of the country") with the produce they have collected during the pre
I PUZZLE THE NATIVES.
ceding six months, and which they now sell to the traders, to some of whom they are most likely in debt. Almost all, or I may safely say all, the new arrivals pay me a visit, to see with their own eyes the unheard-of phenomenon of a person come to stay at Dobbo who does not trade! They have their own ideas of the uses that may possibly be made of stuffed birds, beetles, and shells which are not the right shells—that is, "mother-of-pearl." They every day bring me dead and broken shells, such as I can pick up by hundreds on the beach, and seem quite puzzled and distressed when I decline them. If, however, there are any snail-shells among a lot I take them, and ask for more—a principle of selection so utterly unintelligible to them that they give it up in despair, or solve the problem by imputing hidden medical virtue to those which they see me preserve so carefully.
These traders are all of the Malay race, or a mixture of which Malay is the chief ingredient, with the exception of a few Chinese. The natives of Aru, on the other hand, are Papuans, with black or sooty-brown skins, woolly or frizzly hair, thick-ridged prominent noses, and rather slender limbs. Most of them wear nothing but a waist-cloth, and a few of them may be seen all day long wandering about the half-deserted streets of Dobbo offering their little bit of merchandise for sale.
Living in a trader's house, every thing is brought to me. as well as to the rest-bundles of smoked tripang, or "bêche de mer," looking like sausages which have been rolled in mud and then thrown up the chimney; dried sharks' fins, motherof-pearl shells, as well as birds of paradise, which, however, are so dirty and so badly preserved that I have as yet found no specimens worth purchasing. When I hardly look at the articles, and make no offer for them, they seem incredulous, and, as if fearing they have misunderstood me, again offer them, and declare what they want in return-knives or tobacco, or sago, or handkerchiefs. I then have to endeavor to explain, through any interpreter who may be at hand, that neither tripang nor pearl-oyster shells have any charms for me, and that I even decline to speculate in tortoise-shell, but that any thing eatable I will buy-fish, or turtle, or vegetables of any sort. Almost the only food, however,