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casks were filled, and clothes and mat-sails mended and strengthened for the run home before the strong east wind. Almost every day groups of natives arrived from the most distant parts of the islands, with cargoes of bananas and sugar-cane to exchange for tobacco, sago, bread, and other luxuries, before the general departure. The Chinamen killed their fat pig and made their parting feast, and kindly sent me some pork, and a basin of birds'-nest stew, which had very little more taste than a dish of vermicelli. My boy Ali returned from Wanumbai, where I had sent him alone for a fortnight to buy paradise birds and prepare the skins; he brought me sixteen glorious specimens, and had he not been very ill with fever and ague might have obtained twice the number. He had lived with the people whose house I had occupied, and it is a proof of their goodness, if fairly treated, that although he took with him a quantity of silver dollars to pay for the birds they caught, no attempt was made to rob him, which might have been done with the most perfect impunity. He was kindly treated when ill, and was brought back to me with the balance of the dollars he had not spent.
The Wanumbai people, like almost all the inhabitants of the Aru Islands, are perfect savages, and I saw no signs of any religion. There are, however, three or four villages on the coast where schoolmasters from Amboyna reside, and the people are nominally Christians, and are to some extent educated and civilized. I could not get much real knowledge of the customs of the Aru people during the short time I was among them, but they have evidently been considerably influenced by their long association with Mohammedan traders. They often bury their dead, although the national custom is to expose the body on a raised stage till it decomposes. Though there is no limit to the number of wives a man may have, they seldom exceed one or two. A wife is regularly purchased from the parents, the price being a large assortment of articles, always including gongs, crockery, and cloth. They told me that some of the tribes kill the old men and women when they can no longer work, but I saw many very many old and decrepit people, who seemed pretty well attended to. No doubt all who have much intercourse with the Bugis and Ceramese traders gradually lose many of their
THE RETURN VOYAGE.
native customs, especially as these people often settle in their villages and marry native women.
The trade carried on at Dobbo is very considerable. This year there were fifteen large praus from Macassar, and perhaps a hundred small boats from Ceram, Goram, and Ké. The Macassar cargoes are worth about £1000 each, and the other boats take away perhaps about £3000 worth, so that the whole exports may be estimated at £18,000 per annum. The largest and most bulky items are pearl-shell and tripang, or “bêche-de-mer," with smaller quantities of tortoiseshell, edible birds' nests, pearls, ornamental woods, timber, and birds of paradise. These are purchased with a variety of goods. Of arrack, about equal in strength to ordinary West India rum, 3000 boxes, each containing fifteen half-gallon bottles, are consumed annually. Native cloth from Celebes is much esteemed for its durability, and large quantities are sold, as well as white English calico and American unbleached cottons, common crockery, coarse cutlery, muskets, gunpowder, gongs, small brass cannon, and elephants' tusks. These three last articles constitute the wealth of the Aru people, with which they pay for their wives, or which they hoard up as "real property." Tobacco is in immense demand for chewing, and it must be very strong, or an Aru man will not look at it. Knowing how little these people generally work, the mass of produce obtained annually shows that the islands. must be pretty thickly inhabited, especially along the coasts, as nine-tenths of the whole are marine productions.
It was on the 2d of July that we left Aru, followed by all the Macassar praus, fifteen in number, who had agreed to sail in company. We passed south of Banda, and then steered due west, not seeing land for three days, till we sighted some low islands west of Bouton. We had a strong and steady south-east wind day and night, which carried us on at about five knots an hour, where a clipper ship would have made twelve. The sky was continually cloudy, dark, and threatening, with occasional drizzling showers, till we were west of Bouru, when it cleared up and we enjoyed the bright sunny skies of the dry season for the rest of our voyage. It is about here, therefore, that the seasons of the eastern and western regions of the Archipelago are divided. West of
this line from June to December is generally fine, and often very dry, the rest of the year being the wet season. East of it the weather is exceedingly uncertain, each island, and each side of an island, having its own peculiarities. The difference seems to consist not so much in the distribution of the rainfall as, in that of the clouds and the moistness of the atmosphere. In Aru, for example, when we left, the little streams were all dried up, although the weather was gloomy; while in January, February, and March, when we had the hottest sunshine and the finest days, they were always flowing. The dryest time of all the year in Aru occurs in September and October, just as it does in Java and Celebes. The rainy seasons agree, therefore, with those of the western islands, although the weather is very different. The Molucca sea is of a very deep blue color, quite distinct from the clear light blue of the Atlantic. In cloudy and dull weather it looks absolutely black, and when crested with foam has a stern and angry aspect. The wind continued fair and strong during our whole voyage, and we reached Macassar in perfect safety on the evening of the 11th of July, having made the passage from Ary (more than a thousand miles) in nine and a half days.
My expedition to the Aru Islands had been eminently successful. Although I had been for months confined to the house by illness, and had lost much time by the want of the means of locomotion, and by missing the right season at the right place, I brought away with me more than nine thousand specimens of natural objects, of about sixteen hundred distinct species. I had made the acquaintance of a strange and little-known race of men; I had become familiar with the traders of the far East; I had revelled in the delights of exploring a new fauna and flora, one of the most remarkable and most beautiful and least-known in the world; and I had succeeded in the main object for which I had undertaken the journey—namely, to obtain fine specimens of the magnificent birds of paradise, and to be enabled to observe them in their native forests. By this success I was stimulated to continue my researches in the Moluccas and New Guinea for nearly five years longer, and it is still the portion of my travels to which I look back with the most complete satisfaction.
ARU ISLANDS-PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY AND ASPECTS OF
In this chapter I propose to give a general sketch of the physical geography of the Aru Islands, and of their relation to the surrounding countries; and shall thus be able to incorporate the information obtained from traders, and from the works of other naturalists, with my own observations in these exceedingly interesting and little-known regions.
The Aru group may be said to consist of one very large central island with a number of small ones scattered round it. The great island is called by the natives and traders "Tana busar" (great or main land), to distinguish it as a whole from Dobbo, or any of the detached islands. It is of an irregular oblong form, about eighty miles from north to south, and forty or fifty from east to west, in which direction it is traversed by three narrow channels, dividing it into four portions. These channels are always called rivers by the traders, which puzzled me much till I passed through one of them, and saw how exceedingly applicable the name was. The northern channel, called the river of Watelai, is about a quarter of a mile wide at its entrance, but soon narrows to about the eighth of a mile, which width it retains, with little variation, during its whole length of nearly fifty miles, till it again widens at its eastern mouth. Its course is moderately winding, and the banks are generally dry and somewhat elevated. In many places there are low cliffs of hard coralline limestone, more or less worn by the action of water; while sometimes level spaces extend from the banks to low ranges of hills a little inland. A few small streams enter it from right and left, at the mouths of which are some little rocky islands. The depth is very regular, being from ten to fifteen fathoms, and it has thus every feature of a true river, but for the salt water and the absence of a current. The other two rivers, whose names
are Vorkai and Maykor, are said to be very similar in general character; but they are rather near together, and have a number of cross channels intersecting the flat tract between them. On the south side of Maykor the banks are very rocky, and from thence to the southern extremity of Aru is an uninterrupted extent of rather elevated and very rocky country, penetrated by numerous small streams, in the high limestone cliffs bordering which the edible birds' nests of Aru are chiefly obtained. All my informants stated that the two southern rivers are larger than Watelai.
The whole of Aru is low, but by no means so flat as it has been represented, or as it appears from the sea. Most of it is dry rocky ground, with a somewhat undulating surface, rising here and there into abrupt hillocks, or cut into steep and narrow ravines. Except the patches of swamp which are found at the mouths of most of the small rivers, there is no absolutely level ground, although the greatest elevation is probably not more than two hundred feet. The rock which everywhere appears in the ravines and brooks is a coralline limestone, in some places soft and pliable, in others so hard and crystalline as to resemble our mountain limestone.
The small islands which surround the central mass are very numerous; but most of them are on the east side, where they form a fringe, often extending ten or fifteen miles from the main islands. On the west there are very few, Wamma and Pulo Babi being the chief, with Ougia and Wassia at the north-west extremity. On the east side the sea is everywhere shallow, and full of coral; and it is here that the pearl-shells are found which form one of the chief staples of Aru trade. All the islands are covered with a dense and very lofty forest.
The physical features here described are of peculiar interest, and, as far as I am aware, are to some extent unique; for I have been unable to find any other record of an island of the size of Aru crossed by channels which exactly resemble true rivers. How these channels originated was a complete puzzle to me, till, after a long consideration of the whole of the natural phenomena presented by these islands, I arrived at a conclusion which I will now endeavor to explain. There are three ways in which we may conceive islands which are not volcanic to have been formed, or to have been reduced to