Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

1. Paradisea apoda (the Great Paradise Bird). Aru Islands.

2. Paradisea papuana (The Lesser Paradise Bird). New Guinea, Mysol, Jobie. 3. Paradisea rubra (l'he Red Paradise Bird). Waigiou.

4. Cicinnurus regius (The King Paradise Bird). New Guinea, Aru islands, Mysol, Salwatty.

5. Diphyllodes speciosa (The Magnificent). New Guinea, Mysol, Salwatty.

6. Diphyllodes wilsoni (The Red Magnificent). Waigiou.

7. Lophorina atra (The Superb).

New Guinea.

8. Parotia sex pennis (The Golden Paradise Bird). New Guinea.
9. Semioptera wallacei (The Standard Wing). Batchian, Gilolo.
10. Epimachus magnus (The Long-tailed Paradise Bird).
11. Seleucides alba (The Twelve-wired Paradise Bird).

New Guinea.

New Guinea, Salwat

ty.

12. Ptiloris magnifica (The Scale-breasted Paradise Bird). New Guinea.

13. Ptiloris alberti (Prince Albert's Paradise Bird). North Australia.

14. Ptiloris paradisea (The Rifle Bird). East Australia.

15. Ptiloris victoriæ (The Victorian Rifle Bird). North-East Australia. 16. Astrapia nigra (The Paradise Pie). New Guinea.

17. Paradigalla carunculata (The Carunculated Paradise Pie). New Guinea, 18. (?) Sericulus aureus (The Paradise Oriole). New Guinea, Salwatty.

We see, therefore, that of the eighteen species which seem to deserve a place among the birds of paradise, eleven are known to inhabit the great Island of New Guinea, eight of which are entirely confined to it and the hardly separated island of Salwatty. But if we consider those islands which are now united to New Guinea by a shallow sea to really form a part of it, we shall find that fourteen of the paradise birds belong to that country, while three inhabit the northern and eastern parts of Australia, and one the Moluccas. All the more extraordinary and magnificent species are, however, entirely confined to the Papuan region.

Although I devoted so much time to a search after these wonderful birds, I only succeeded myself in obtaining five species during a residence of many months in the Aru Islands, New Guinea, and Waigiou. Mr. Allen's voyage to Mysol did not procure a single additional species, but we both heard of a place called Sorong, on the main-land of New Guinea, near Salwatty, where we were told that all the kinds we desired could be obtained. We therefore determined that he should visit this place, and endeavor to penetrate into the interior among the natives, who actually shoot and skin the birds of paradise. He went in the small prau I had fitted up at Goram, and through the kind assistance of the Dutch Resident at Ternate,

LAST SEARCH AFTER.

573

á lieutenant and two soldiers were sent by the Sultan of Tidore to accompany and protect him, and to assist him in getting men and in visiting the interior.

Notwithstanding these precautions, Mr. Allen met with dif ficulties in this voyage which we had neither of us encountered before. To understand these, it is necessary to consider that the birds of paradise are an article of commerce, and are the monopoly of the chiefs of the coast villages, who obtain them at a low rate from the mountaineers, and sell them to the Bugis traders. A portion is also paid every year as tribute to the Sultan of Tidore. The natives are therefore very jealous of a stranger, especially a European, interfering in their trade, and above all of going into the interior to deal with the mountaineers themselves. They of course think he will raise the prices in the interior, and lessen the supply on the coast, greatly to their disadvantage; they also think their tribute will be raised if a European takes back a quantity of the rare sorts; and they have besides a vague and very natural dread of some ulterior object in a white man's coming at so much trouble and expense to their country only to get birds of paradise, of which they know he can buy plenty (of the common yellow ones which alone they value) at Ternate, Macassar, or Singa pore.

It thus happened that when Mr. Allen arrived at Sorong, and explained his intention of going to seek birds of paradise in the interior, innumerable objections were raised. He was told it was three or four days' journey over swamps and mountains; that the mountaineers were savages and cannibals, who would certainly kill him; and, lastly, that not a man in the village could be found who dare go with him. After some days spent in these discussions, as he still persisted in making the attempt, and showed them his authority from the Sultan of Tidore to go where he pleased and receive every assistance, they at length provided him with a boat to go the first part of the journey up a river; at the same time, however, they sent private orders to the interior villages to refuse to sell any provisions, so as to compel him to return. On arriving at the village where they were to leave the river and strike inland, the coast people returned, leaving Mr. Allen to get on as he could. Here he called on the Tidore lieutenant to assist him,

and procure men as guides and to carry his baggage to the villages of the mountaineers. This, however, was not so easily done. A quarrel took place, and the natives, refusing to obey the imperious orders of the lieutenant, got out their knives and spears to attack him and his soldiers; and Mr. Allen himself was obliged to interfere to protect those who had come to guard him. The respect due to a white man and the timely distribution of a few presents prevailed; and, on showing the knives, hatchets, and beads he was willing to give to those who accompanied him, peace was restored, and the next day, travelling over a frightfully rugged country, they reached the villages of the mountaineers. Here Mr. Allen remained a month without any interpreter through whom he could understand a word or communicate a want. However, by signs and presents and a pretty liberal barter, he got on very well, some of them accompanying him every day in the forest to shoot, and receiving a small present when he was successful.

In the grand matter of the paradise birds, however, little was done. Only one additional species was found, the Seleucides alba, of which he had already obtained a specimen in Salwatty; but he learned that the other kinds, of which he showed them drawings, were found two or three days' journey farther in the interior. When I sent my men from Dorey to Amberbaki, they heard exactly the same story-that the rarer sorts were only found several days' journey in the interior, among rugged mountains, and that the skins were prepared by savage tribes who had never even been seen by any of the coast people.

It seems as if Nature had taken precautions that these her choicest treasures should not be made too common, and thus be undervalued. This northern coast of New Guinea is exposed to the full swell of the Pacific Ocean, and is rugged and harborless. The country is all rocky and mountainous, covered everywhere with dense forests, offering in its swamps and precipices and serrated ridges an almost impassable barrier to the unknown interior; and the people are dangerous savages, in the very lowest stage of barbarism. In such a country, and among such a people, are found these wonderful productions of Nature, the birds of paradise, whose exquisite beauty of form and color and strange developments of plumage are

DIFFICULT TO OBTAIN.

575

calculated to excite the wonder and admiration of the most civilized and the most intellectual of mankind, and to furnish inexhaustible materials for study to the naturalist, and for speculation to the philosopher.

Thus ended my search after these beautiful birds. Five voyages to different parts of the district they inhabit, each occupying in its preparation and execution the larger part of a year, produced me only five species out of the fourteen known to exist in the New Guinea district. The kinds obtained are those that inhabit the coasts of New Guinea and its islands, the remainder seeming to be strictly confined to the central mountain-ranges of the northern peninsula; and our researches at Dorey and Amberbaki, near one end of this peninsula, and at Salwatty and Sorong, near the other, enable me to decide with some certainty on the native country of these rare and lovely birds, good specimens of which have never yet been seen in Europe.

It must be considered as somewhat extraordinary that, during five years' residence and travel in Celebes, the Moluccas, and New Guinea, I should never have been able to purchase skins of half the species which Lesson, forty years ago, obtained during a few weeks in the same countries. I believe that all, except the common species of commerce, are now much more difficult to obtain than they were even twenty years ago; and I impute it principally to their having been sought after by the Dutch officials through the Sultan of Tidore. The chiefs of the annual expeditions to collect tribute have had orders to get all the rare sorts of paradise birds; and as they pay little or nothing for them (it being sufficient to say they are for the Sultan), the head men of the coast villages would for the future refuse to purchase them from the mountaineers, and confine themselves instead to the commoner species, which are less sought after by amateurs, but are a more profitable merchandise. The same causes frequently lead the inhabitants of uncivilized countries to conceal minerals or other natural products with which they may become acquainted, from the fear of being obliged to pay increased tribute, or of bringing upon themselves a new and oppressive labor.

CHAPTER XXXIX.

THE NATURAL HISTORY OF THE PAPUAN ISLANDS.

NEW GUINEA, with the islands joined to it by a shallow sea, constitute the Papuan group, characterized by a very close resemblance in their peculiar forms of life. Having already, in my chapters on the Aru Islands and on the Birds of Paradise, given some details of the natural history of this district, I shall here confine myself to a general sketch of its animal productions, and of their relations to those of the rest of the world.

New Guinea is perhaps the largest island on the globe, being a little larger than Borneo. It is nearly fourteen hundred miles long, and in the widest part four hundred broad, and seems to be everywhere covered with luxuriant forests. Almost every thing that is yet known of its natural productions comes from the north-western peninsula, and a few islands grouped around it. These do not constitute a tenth part of the area of the whole island, and are so cut off from it, that their fauna may well be somewhat different; yet they have produced us (with a very partial exploration) no less than two hundred and fifty species of land birds, almost all unknown elsewhere, and comprising some of the most curious and most beautiful of the feathered tribes. It is needless to say how much interest attaches to the far larger unknown portion of this great island, the greatest terra incognita that still remains for the naturalist to explore, and the only region where altogether new and unimagined forms of life may perhaps be found. There is now, I am happy to say, some chance that this great country will no longer remain absolutely unknown to us. Dutch Government have granted a well-equipped steamer to carry a naturalist (Mr. Rosenberg, already mentioned in this work) and assistants to New Guinea, where they are to spend some years in circumnavigating the island, ascending its large rivers as far as possible into the interior, and making extensive collections of its natural productions.

« AnteriorContinuar »