Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/713

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
689
A CORNER OF THE DUTCH EAST INDIES.

helpmate. This apparatus consists of two bamboo cylinders, about two feet long, at the bottom of each of which a small bamboo conveys the current of air into a still smaller one, leading into the charcoal-fire. Each of these bamboo cylinders contains a spear of the same material, at the lower end of which are tied bunches of feathers. Generally a native of Key will prefer the rough workmanship of the tools made by the village blacksmith to the finely finished and polished ones imported from Europe.

The natives are largely engaged in felling and selling timber. For felling the trees the woodman uses a wedge-shaped axe only, by which he is able to cut down the largest tree. After lopping off all the branches and bark, he squares the trunk in such a skillful though wasteful manner that, as a rule, the four sides represent exactly the same dimensions. The islands produce large quantities of various kinds of very hard and soft timber, suitable for different branches of building, but the most valued sort is the bayam, or New Guinea teak, called by the natives by a Malay word signifying iron-wood, because of its flexibility and durability, and its immunity from the attacks of white ants. Mother-ofpearl shell is found in the bays and inlets, and other valuable shells are plentiful. Tortoise-shell is exported in very small quantity.

On the perpendicular face of a cliff on the northwest coast of Nuhu-roa are to be seen rude native drawings of various shapes and meanings, chiseled in the rock, which appear to have been once filled in with red pigment. It is a marvel how the chiseler could have been suspended over these very steep rocks, so as to be able to engrave the figures. The eye may distinctly perceive such forms as a little sailing boat, a human head, hand, foot, starfish, tombstones, and many other objects; and it is strange that similar figures are still drawn and painted on various articles in use. Natives, on being questioned about these rock-engravings, answer that they can not account for them, nor were their fathers before them any wiser; but they think that the spirits of the dead suspend themselves over the cliffs at midnight and engrave them. All natives shun the spot, and by no means whatever can they be induced to climb the cliff in order to copy these strange drawings. No native can be persuaded to accompany a European to this spot, where, according to their belief, the spirits hold their meetings. Certain trees are also held sacred, and believed to be the abode of an invisible god, to whom the native offers sacrifice whenever any mishap occurs in his family, or when one of its members leaves home to go over the sea. The sacrifices are made in the following manner: Some cooked sago or rice is wrapped up in a palm-leaf, and, before tying the same with a piece of split cane in the shape of a parcel, the person sacrificing scrapes over