Picturesque New Guinea/Chapter 1




Geographical Position—First Discoveries—First Explorers—The Missionaries—Dutch Settlement—English Surveys of the Coasts—Attempts of Australian Settlement—Annexation by Queensland—Refusal of Imperial Sanction—Australian Colonists remonstrate—Proposal of a British Protectorate—Annexation by Great Britain—Dissatisfaction of the Colonists—Announcement of German Occupation—Arrival of Sir Peter Scratchley—His first Proceedings and Premature Death—Appointment of a Successor—The German Settlement.

Geographical Position.

NEW GUINEA, the latest addition to the magnificent Colonial empire now owned by Great Britain, is the largest island on our globe, counting Australia as a sixth continent. It lies to the north of Australia, from which it is separated by a narrow strait named after Torres, a Spanish navigator, who, in 1606, sailed through it on his way from the New Hebrides to the Philippine Islands.

First Discoverers.—It is doubtful whether anything relating to this large island was known to the European world before the time of Columbus. No mention of it is found in the works of any of the ancient geographers. The earliest reference to it that can be traced is given in the narrative of their voyages and adventures left by two Portuguese navigators, Francisco Sorrani and Antonio d'Abriu, who in 1511 saw and described a portion of the south-west coast. In the absence of any fuller information on the subject, the honour of discovering New Guinea falls to these two adventurers. Fifteen years later another Portuguese navigator, Don Jorges Menenes, was voyaging from Malacca to the Moluccas, and encountering a storm, was driven out of his course to the eastward, and came upon the great island, where, finding a safe and convenient harbour, he remained for a month to refit his shattered vessel. He named the island Papua, a Malayan expression for black or curly hair, which is a very marked feature of the native population. Under that name New Guinea is shown on a chart published in Venice in 1554. Another Portuguese mariner visited the island in 1528, and gave it the high sounding title of the Isla del Oro, or Island of Gold, from a belief that it abounded in the precious metals. But the honour of giving the island the name it will bear permanently falls to Inigo de Retez, a Spanish sailor, who in 1545 sailed 250 miles along the northern coasts, and, thinking that he saw in the appearance of the country a resemblance to the Guinea coast on the west of Africa, called it Nueva Guinea. The next we hear of the place is an account given by Torres of the southern portion and its inhabitants, whom he describes as being "dark in colour, naked except having some clothing round the middle, and armed with clubs and darts ornamented with tufts of feathers." Schouten, a Dutch navigator, discovered some volcanoes in the island in 1616. Twenty-seven years later Abel Janez Tasman, the greatest of the Dutch navigators and the discoverer of Tasmania (which he named Van Dieman's Land) and of New Zealand, visited and minutely examined a portion of the west coast. On the New Year's Day of the year 1700, William Dampier, the prince of English maritime adventurers, voyaging in quest of new lands, sighted New Guinea, and never left it until he had sailed completely round it, although his vessel (named the "Roebuck") was both old and leaky. His account of the place and people is very racily written, and was probably read by De Foe before he wrote "Robinson Crusoe." "The natives," he says, "are very black; their short hair is dyed of various colours—red, white, and yellow; they have broad, round faces with great bottle-noses, yet agreeable enough, except that they disfigure themselves by painting and wearing great things through their noses, as big as a man's thumb and about four inches long. They have also great holes in their ears, wherein they stuff such ornaments as in their noses." The illustrious navigator, Cook, rediscovered Torres Strait in 1772, and added much to the previous knowledge of the island and its inhabitants. In 1828 the Dutch took possession of the western portion and attempted to make a settlement there, but failed. In 1843 Captain Blackwood, in H.M.S. "Fly," discovered the river, which he named after his ship. Subsequently, Captain Owen Stanley, in the "Rattlesnake," made a rough survey of a great portion of the coast, and in 1873 Captain Moresby, in the "Basilisk," completed our knowledge of the external form and dimensions of New Guinea.

First Explorers.—Up till very recently the only information possessed by the civilised world respecting the island and its inhabitants amounted to little more than that the people were negroes, and that beautiful birds of paradise were to be found there. Alfred Wallace, the distinguished naturalist, was the first European that gave the world a larger knowledge of the native population and the natural productions. After him came Dr. Mickluoho Maclay, in 1871. He lived with the natives for fifteen months, enduring the severest privations and risking his life in the cause of science But amongst the explorers of New Guinea preeminence must be given to Signor D'Albertis, who, in 1872, in company with his fellow-countryman. Dr. Beccari, penetrated into the interior in many directions, and made himself intimately acquainted with the names and habits of the natives. At various subsequent times Signor D'Albertis continued his explorations and observations, the results of which he has given to the world in two handsome volumes beautifully illustrated. This distinguished Italian is a born explorer. He is possessed with the true spirit of martyrdom in the cause of science. His pluck, perseverance and patience, seem only to grow with the difficulties he has to encounter, and the obstacles he has to overthrow. His personal privations and sufferings wring from him no complaints; and he merely records them in his simple matter-of-fact manner as among the facts and incidents of the time, and as affording an insight into the ideas and ways of the natives in view of such circumstances. A German explorer, Dr. A. B. Meyer, made some important additions to our knowledge of the country by explorations, vigorously prosecuted in 1873. Dr. Beccari, alone, went on an expedition into the interior in 1875, and returned with a large and valuable collection of specimens of the flora and fauna of the island.

The Missionaries.—Those active pioneers of civilisation, the English missionaries, have not neglected New Guinea; but their work amongst the natives has been seriously hindered by the unhealthiness of the country and climate. The Rev. S. McFarlane was appointed by the Directors of the London Missionary society to establish a mission in the island in 1870. With him was associated the Rev. Mr. Murray; and subsequently the Rev. W. G. Lawes and the Rev. James Chalmers joined the mission. The labours of these gentlemen amongst the native population have been of a quite heroic kind; and to them is mainly due the merit of taking possession of the country for the British people. At the hourly risk of their lives they have carried on their apostolic labours, facing a thousand dangers, overcoming a thousand difficulties, unwearied in their high purpose of civilising and Christianising this savage people. They have established primary school training institutions, for native teachers, schools for teaching the industrial arts, mission stations at many points along the coast, and churches with regular congregations and enrolled members. A real triumph of missionary achievement was witnessed at the mission station on Murray Island on the 14th May, 1885, when the 15-ton mission yacht, Mary, was launched from the yard of the Papuan industrial school, amid great feasting and rejoicing. The wood for the little vessel had been cut, and the building of it was executed by the hands of the pupils of the school under the supervision of the Rev. Mr. McFarlane. The yacht is intended for missionary work in and about the Fly River.

Dutch Settlement.—So far as is known, the Dutch, as already stated, were the first European nation to attempt settlement in New Guniea. In 1828 Captain Steenboom, in the ship "Triton," landed on the island and took possession in the name of the Dutch Government of the territory extending from the 141st parallel of E. longitude westward to the sea. He built a fort at a place he called Triton Bay, on the N.W. coast, the scenery around which was very beautiful. But (as a Dutch gentleman at Macassar told Wallace) the officer left in charge of the settlement, finding the life there insufferably monotonous, killed the cattle and other live stock, and reported that they had perished through the unhealthiness of the place, and that, besides, the natives were very fierce and intractable. The settlement at Triton Bay was on this account abandoned. Seven years later another Dutch commander surveyed what was then called the Dourga River, and found it to be a strait, ninety miles long, dividing Frederic Henry Island from the mainland. The Dutch still hold nominal possession of the territory proclaimed by Captain Steenboom, but practically the acquisition is of no value to them.

English Surveys of the Coast.—The southern shores of New Guinea have been mostly surveyed by British ships, Captain Blackwood, in H.M.S. "Fly," discovered in 1843 the river which he named after his ship. The next English commander that surveyed part of New Guinea was Captain Owen Stanley, who, in 1847, in H.M.S. "Rattlesnake," sketched a large extent of the coast and marked off a number of mountains, one of which, called after him, is over 13,000 feet high. In 1873 Captain Moresby, in the "Basilisk" discovered and named Port Moresby, and determined the form of the south-eastern extremity of the island. Hoisting the Queen's flag he took possession in her Majesty's name, by right of discovery, of Moresby Island and the surrounding archipelago.

Attempts at Australian Settlement.—The Australian colonists have not been wholly indifferent to the probable advantages to be gained from effecting a settlement in New Guinea. During the past twenty years several expeditions have been either planned or partially executed with that object, and the Imperial Government has been again and again asked to take action for the establishment of a British occupation of the territory. To these requests unfavourable answers were given, although it was known at the Colonial Office that so long back as 1793 the island had been formally annexed to Great Britain. In that year, two commanders in the service of the East India Company, William Bampton, Master of the "Hormuzeer," and Matthew B. Alt, Master of the "Chesterfield," were exploring in these waters; and on the 10th July an armed party of forty-four men from the two vessels, under the command of Dell, chief mate of the "Hormuzeer," landed on Darnley Island in Torres Strait, and took possession of that island and the neighbouring island of New Guinea in the name of His Majesty King George the Third. All the formalities customary on such occasions—hoisting the union jack, reading the proclamation, and firing a volley—were duly observed on this occasion. Nevertheless, it was not until nearly a century had elapsed that the imperial authorities at Downing Street condescended to take notice of the fact that there was such a place as New Guinea in existence.

Annexation by Queensland.—The fact was forced upon their attention by the spirited action of the Premier of Queensland, Sir Thomas McIlwraith, who, weary of the rebuffs repeatedly inflicted on the Australian colonists by the colonial office in regard to this matter, patriotically resolved upon annexing New Guinea on his own authority. Accordingly he instructed Mr. H. M. Chester, at that time police-magistrate at Thursday Island, to proceed to the great island, and take possession in the name of Her Majesty the Queen, of all that portion of it which was not claimed by the Netherlands Government. In obedience to these instructions Mr. Chester sailed for New Guinea; and, on the 4th April, 1883, he performed the ceremony of formal annexation of all that part of the territory lying between the 141st and the 155th meridians of east longitude. These facts were duly reported to the Imperial authorities, and strong representations were made to them by the Governments of the United Colonies to induce them to endorse with their approval the action of the Queensland Premier.

Refusal of Imperial Sanction.—But Lord Derby, who then held rule in the Colonial Office, was adverse. He addressed a despatch to the officer administering the Government of Queensland, Sir A. H. Palmer,

Plate III.



REV. G. W. LAWES (Centre).


Reference page 4.

black and white photograph of a man with a white beard in a suit. black and white photograph of a man with a large dark beard, streaked with white. black and white photograph of a man a short dark bears, wearing a suit.
formally refusing to sanction the act of annexation. At this time it was well known that Germany was meditating the project of taking possession of a part, or the whole of New Guinea; and yet Lord Derby affirmed that there appeared to be no reason for supposing that any Foreign Power harboured such a design. His lordship objected, moreover, to the unnecessarily vast extent, as he deemed it, of the territory annexed by Mr. Chester. The utmost that his lordship would concede was that possibly a protectorate might be established over the coast tribes, under the direction of the High Commission for the Western Pacific, but absolute annexation was quite out of the question.

Australian Colonists remonstrate.—This fresh rebuff, instead of paralysing the Australian colonists, only roused them to greater activity. Mr. Service, Premier of Victoria, was the first to move in the matter. He asked the Governments of the other Colonies to send delegates to an Intercolonial Convention, at which this and other questions would be considered. The request met with immediate and general compliance. Accordingly, the Convention assembled in Sydney in November, 1883; all the Australasian Colonies were represented, and the Governor of Fiji, Sir G. W. Des Voeux, was present, but did not vote. Resolutions affirming the desirability of promptly and effectually securing the incorporation with the British Empire of such parts of New Guinea as were not claimed by the Netherlands Government, were unanimously adopted.

Proposal of a British Protectorate.—To such an emphatic expression of the wishes of the Australian Colonists, Lord Derby could not be indifferent. In May of the following year his lordship addressed a despatch to the Governor of Queensland, intimating that the Imperial authorities were inclined to sanction the appointment of a High Commissioner for New Guinea, provided that the Australian Colonies would agree to pay a subsidy of £15,000 per annum towards the expense of a protectorate. At once the two Colonies of Queensland and Victoria offered to guarantee, between them, payment of the whole amount, and the other Colonies subsequently consented to pay each its quota of contribution, but upon condition that annexation was really intended by the Imperial Government.

Annexation by Great Britain.—In October, 1884, several vessels of war on the Australian station left Sydney Harbour one by one, bound northwards, and on the 6th November, five British war-ships were lying at anchor in Port Moresby. Commodore Erskine then formally proclaimed the British Protectorate, and the British flag was hoisted with great ceremony, in the presence of about 250 officers and men of the squadron, the missionaries, and as many of the natives and representative chiefs as could be collected for the occasion. All acquisition of land from the natives was forbidden, and regulations prohibiting the introduction of alcohol and firearms were drawn up. A representative chief, Boi Vagi, of Port Moresby, was chosen, and Mr. H. Romilly was left as Acting Commissioner, to enforce the regulations, and to act with authority until the arrival of the High Commissioner. Shortly afterwards the appointment was conferred on Sir Peter Scratchley, who at once proceeded to enter upon his duties.

Announcement of German Occupation.—So far the Imperial Authorities had complied with the wishes of the Australian Colonists, at least in appearance. But the favour shown them was materially lessened in value by the limitation of the area of territory taken under the British protection. They, very naturally, desired that the whole of the island not claimed by the Dutch should be annexed to the British Empire; but Lord Derby drew a line across the map, bisecting the eastern half into two nearly equal parts, and made this line the boundary of the protectorate, leaving the northern section free to be snapped up by any Foreign Power that might choose to take it. With reason the Colonists complained that good faith had not been kept with them, and that their agreement to pay the subsidy of £15,000 a year was invalidated by Lord Derby's act. But his lordship refused to alter his decision, and, unfortunately for the cause of the Colonists, New South Wales, which had formerly been in hearty accord with all its sister Colonies in this matter, drew off now, and stood aloof. It seemed as if the Secretary of State for the Colonies, secretly abetted by the New South Wales Government, was bent upon tacitly inviting some Foreign Power to take possession of the unannexed portion of the island. Before the close of the year—as

Plate IV.




Reference page 13.

Black and white photograph of a group of men and women posing on the desk of a steamship.
Black and white photograph of a group of men and women posing on the desk of a steamship.
any person gifted with the least degree of sagacity might have foreseen—the expected claimant made his appearance on the scene. The news flashed along the electric wires in all directions that the German flag was floating over several points along the north-east coast of New Guinea, and on many of the adjacent islands. Fuller information showed that the German Government had formally annexed the whole of the territory marked off by Lord Derby as lying outside the area of the British protectorate, together with the islands of New Britain, New Ireland, and many others in that extensive archipelago. It must be recorded, to vindicate the truth of history, that this intelligence caused a movement of strong indignation in the minds of the Australian Colonists, and vigorous protests against the action of the German Government were addressed by the Australian Agents General to the Imperial Authorities. The feeling of resentment was all the more keen, because the guarantee to pay £15,000 a year towards the expense of the protectorate had been given under a distinct understanding that the whole of New Guinea, excepting the part claimed by the Dutch, should be annexed. Lord Derby, moreover, up till the very hour of the declaration of the German occupation, had denied all knowledge of any such intention on the part of any Foreign Power. With reluctance the Australian Colonists accepted the limitation of area imposed by his lordship; but it was only their fervent loyalty to the British connexion that prevented them from marking in a very emphatic manner their sense of what they held to be a most unjustifiable surrender of the Imperial rights on the part of the Secretary of State for the Colonies.

Arrival of Sir Peter Scratchley.—Sir Peter Scratchley arrived in Australia at the beginning of 1885. His first task was to secure the consent of the several Colonial Governments to share in the payment of the stipulated subsidy for the maintenance of the protectorate. He visited each of the Colonies in succession, and after some demurs on the part of one or two of the governments had been overcome, succeeded in his object. He next chartered a fine steamer, the "Governor Blackall," from the Australian Steam Navigation Company, and on the 20th August sailed for the seat of Government.

His First Proceedings and Premature Death.—He selected Port Moresby as his first station, living on board the "Governor Blackall," and taking a general inspection of the surrounding locality, with a view to selecting a fitting site for the proposed capital of the new protectorate. His intention was to make himself thoroughly acquainted with the country before framing any regulations for the settlement of whites within the territory. It was with this purpose that he joined the expedition, the history of which is narrated in the present volume, and which ended, for him, in his untimely death from the malarial fever incident to the climate. The loss thus caused, both to the Australian Colonies and to the Imperial Interests, was deeply felt and universally mourned.

Appointment of a Successor.Mr. John Douglas, ex-Premier of Queensland, was appointed by the Imperial Authorities to succeed Sir Peter Scratchley. The new High Commissioner has set himself with characteristic energy to carry out the purposes of his predecessor.

The German Settlement.—The German government has granted a charter to a company to promote settlement in its newly acquired possessions, and very liberal inducements are held out to enterprising adventurers to become the pioneers of the German Colony.