Picturesque New Guinea/Chapter 11
MR. CHALMERS' NARRATIVE.
Visit to Killerton Islands—The Juliade Islands—Reprisals for the Murder of Captain and Mrs. Webb—Colombier Point—Unsuccessful attempts to communicate with Natives—Hoisting the Union Jack at Moapa—Inland excursion to Koiari villages—Ascent of Mount Variata—Meet Mr. Forbes—Sogeri, Mr. Forbes' Station—Return to Port Moresby and Hula—Bentley Bay—Ascent of Mount Killerton—Illness of Sir Peter Scratchley—Character of the Coast—The Jabbering Islands—From Collingwood Bay to Cape Nelson—Mountains and Harbours—Departure of the "Blackall" for Australia—Illness of Sir Peter Scratchley—His Death—His Funeral.
HE closing scene of the expedition I was not privileged to witness, but by the great kindness of Mr. Chalmers I have been supplied with a full account of what occurred between my departure in the "Dart," on the 21st October, and the lamented death of Sir Peter Scratchley on the 29th of the following month. That I was spared this painful episode I am thankful. I give an abstract of Mr. Chalmers' narrative in his own words. It commences with an account of a visit to the Killerton Islands, on the 21st October, in consequence of a hostile attitude of the natives of Bon being reported. On the landing of the General and myself, Mr. Chalmers says, all the natives disappeared. Soon one old man, their chief, came out weeping bitterly, and explained the cause of his grief to be the refusal of his men to appear and show the friendliness with the white men and teachers, as they had no quarrel with them, but only with the natives of Barabara. I certainly believed in the sincerity of his professions, and subsequently walked over the largest of the group, finding in some parts good plantations, a lagoon at the east end, and a very good mission station at the west. On the 22nd we returned to Dinner Island, and on the 23rd anchored between Dufaure Islands and the mainland in a very tine harbour, which it is proposed to call Port Scratchley. In the afternoon we landed, and, after meeting the good old Chief Meandi (since dead), we strolled into the thick tropical bush with which the island abounds. From sea level to summit it is covered, with dense scrub, greatly impeding exploration. The "Ellengowan," which arrived this day from Cooktown, brought the ships' mails, which rejoiced all on board.On Saturday, the 24th, we weighed anchor and proceeded to the Juliade Islands, where the "Blackall" and "Diamond" remained, the General and myself going on board the "Raven" to Port Milport, the scene of the murder of Captain and Mrs. Webb. The object of sending one vessel only was to invite a collision with the natives. As soon, however, as they saw the ship they commenced clearing out, and sought shelter in the scrub behind the villages, where it was impossible to follow them without great risk and with no reasonable probability of any substantial result. As they persistently declined to show themselves, the villages where the skulls of the victims were said to be were shelled and destroyed on Monday morning. This step, I have since heard from Toulon, has had a very good effect, the people being thoroughly frightened and sorry for their conduct, without indiscriminate and unnecessary effusion of the blood of not only men, but women and children who, in all probability, took no part in the outrages. Although these cannot be defended, much less exculpated, it must be borne in mind that Captain Webb and his wife owed their fate to their own rashness. They were warned not to venture among the natives of this island, who were known to be treacherous and unfriendly, and as the result of their temerity they were attacked and killed soon after setting foot on shore. After the return of the "Raven" to Port Milport, the "Blackall" steamed to Aroma, where Koapena was taken on board, and the three vessels rendezvoused in Cloudy Bay, proceeding thence to Colombier Point, where the village of Dedele formerly stood
"BOATING SCENE," BERTHA LAGOON: THE CLOUDY
MOUNTAINS IN DISTANCE.
"Koapena and people of Aroma! On behalf of Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria, I have come here to hoist this flag to-day. It will be to you a token of friendship and an emblem of peace, and in all future dealings with her people you will keep a kindly remembrance ever before you. If at any time the white man should offend against your customs, you will at once report the matter to the proper authorities, and they will see that justice is properly dealt towards you. Rest assured that Queen Victoria will ever regard you as her own children, and as she cherishes her children so will she cherish you, and bear in mind that when the white man comes among you, you must treat him well, and on no account interfere with him, always remembering that the ceremony you have seen performed this day is the abiding emblem of peace and lasting good will. God save the Queen!" The Union Jack was then hoisted, a feu-de-joie fired, and the "Diamond" gave a royal salute of twenty-one guns; the band playing the National Anthem. Great enthusiasm and excitement prevailed among the natives, of whom some 3,000 were present, and no dissatisfaction of any kind was evinced. We all then marched back, followed by a great crowd showing the most friendly disposition, and when about half way to the ship an invitation from Koapena was conveyed to Captain Clayton that all should sit down and take refreshment. This hospitality was accepted, and soon native lads were seen climbing trees in all directions and throwing down cocoa-nuts, which were opened and handed round by others, while Koapena, sitting on the platform of his plantation, superintended all the proceedings. After this interesting episode he came on board the "Diamond," and was much interested in all he saw. He made an earnest application for the release of the prisoner Diaveri who was on board, and begged that he might not be hung. In the evening we left Aroma, and, steaming slow all night, were off Port Moresby in the morning of the 31st October. The following day the "Blackall" left for Townsville with Mr. Askwith, who was much prostrated by fever, the General and his private secretary remaining on shore.
The High Commissioner being anxious to visit inland, and if possible to get as far as Sogeri, where H. O. Forbes had his head camp, a party was formed, and on Wednesday, the 4th November, started at daylight. The sun was very hot by the time we got to the creek, where we decided to breakfast. About 1 p.m., when the south-east breeze found us out, we started for the nearest Koiari village, Sadāra, where we arrived about 4 p.m. We pitched our camp on a spur about one mile from the village. The General was tired, but nothing much. After dinner he got to his hammock, and was soon asleep. The next morning we were away by dawn, and reached the foot of the Astrolabe about 9.30, where we breakfasted. After a rest we ascended the mountain at Variata, 2,500 feet, and there we remained some time. It was cheering to see the General in such good spirits and splendid walking trim. We walked leisurely into Taburi, where we arrived about 3.30 p.m. About 5.30 Mr. Forbes arrived on his way to Port Moresby. We arranged with him he should return with us to Sogeri, and all come to port the following week. We all sat long after dinner chatting, and the most lively of the party was the General. The next morning we were away early, and after crossing the river about three miles inland of Taburi, we kept on until mid-day, having had breakfast at camp in the morning. In a pleasant shade by a small stream we rested, and had something to eat. Accompanied by Mr. Sharpe (a young missionary), who was one of the party, I started for Nakāri, to arrange the camp for the night. Assisted by the people of the village, we soon had tents up and water boiling. About five the General and his party came in just in time to avoid heavy rain, the first we have had in all our wanderings. We got a pig from the chief, which greatly pleased our carriers, and added new life to the camp.
The following morning, after breakfast, we struck camp, and got speedily into marching order. It was fine, bright weather, and the ground being less difficult than hitherto, we succeeded in reaching Sogeri before nightfall. On our way Mount Owen Stanley had been visible to its summit, while on our right Mounts Bellamy and Nisbet marked the lay of the Stanley range till the view was stopped by Mount Obree, whose lofty mass rises over ten thousand feet above sea level. Mr. Forbes had sent on a native attendant of our party to warn his Malay servants of our approach, so that we had a warm welcome, and a good set meal ready for us by the time we had refreshed ourselves with a wash, and settled the quarters for the night.
The next day was a day and "the day" of rest. The General made a careful inspection of the station, and congratulated Mr. Forbes warmly on his arrangements, promising material assistance for his explorations. Mr. Forbes' house, built of native materials, stood on the steep side of a natural basin, without doubt the crater of an extinct volcano; through it ran a small river; on the opposite side of the crater stood the native village, backed by steep and thickly wooded crags reaching to the summit of Mount Owen Stanley. Mr. Forbes discoursed with Sir Peter on the explorations he had made and contemplated, on the observations in which he was engaged, and showed the natural history specimens he had collected.
The next day our party, including Mr. Forbes, started on the return journey to Port Moresby through an undulating country, with a dry, parched soil, stunted gum-trees, and occasional extensive patches of long, coarse grass. It was a good hunting country, swarming with wallaby and pig. We encamped for the night before commencing the rough ascents of the Astrolabe range, and by the evening of the third day we reached Port Moresby. The whole journey had been accomplished without danger, and without any serious fatigue. Our native attendants were rewarded with presents of red cloth, fish-hooks, and tobacco, and went off with shouts and rejoicing to the fishing village of Hula, to which they belonged.
The General stayed at his quarters at Port Moresby till the return of the "Governor Blackall" on the 15th, when he resumed command, and on the 19th proceeded to Milne Bay, passing on the 20th into hitherto unsurveyed waters at the head of the bay to a place called Maivara. From here to Bentley Bay, the most southerly portion of the N.E. coast, calling on the way at Killerton Islands, and as reports were rife of the Bentley Bay natives and their antagonism to white men, and feeling sure it was a mistake, we arranged a party to test it. By six the following morning (21st), we left the ship and the General, and on landing got a number of natives as carriers. We followed the creek for some miles until we reached the Stirling Range, ascended Mount Killerton, where we had breakfast. It was indeed cold on the top, and I was glad when the descent on the other side was begun. It was very steep, and in many places merely side paths like goat paths along the side of precipices. On our arrival at the first village, the women at once got us water to drink, and set to cooking yams, taro, and bread-fruit for us and party, several of them bringing us fine ripe bananas. All were exceedingly friendly, and showed no appearance of timidity. The "Raven" passing to the anchorage, we went along the beach with a crowd of men, women, and children increasing at every village, until we came opposite the anchorage, when there were several hundreds all anxious to show us some kindness, supplying us with an abundance of mangoes and cocoa-nuts. We were kindly entertained on board the "Raven" by Commander Ross and his officers until the arrival of the "Blackall" about 4.30 p.m. On going on board we found the General in his cot on deck, and complaining of feeling out of
MAGIRI VILLAGE, BERTHA LAGOON, SOUTH CAPE.
Reference page 79.
On the 23rd we rounded Cape Vogel to the Jabbering Islands, where we anchored. We spent several hours ashore with the natives, climbing the sandstone cliffs, and walking back into the country, which was poor, and terribly burned up for want of rain. The natives were very noisy, and yet very friendly. Their houses were small, miserable huts, built on posts, with small verandahs on the side, on which cooking was done. They have earthenware pots as in other parts, in shape similar to Teste Island. On the morning of the 24th we were away from our Jabbering friends, through Collingwood Bay, keeping close in round Hardy Point to Cape Nelson, and passing many good harbours, one of which we named Fort Harbour after our hearty, pleasant friend, the private secretary, whose life seemed entirely devoted to the General. When in good health, he and the General appeared as if father and son; the General becoming sick, Fort, as a son, nursed him day and night, assisted by Dr. Glanville. Only when Fort was near the cot was the General satisfied.
Two very high mountains seen to-day, and position taken, were named Mount Romilly and Mount Ross, the former after the well-known Western Pacific Commissioner, and the latter after the excellent commander of the "Raven." Rounding Cape Nelson we skirted the shore of Porlock Bay to Dyke Acland Bay, and anchored about 3.30 p.m. near to Cape Sud Est.Before coming to Hardy Point Mount Nelson was very distinct, and had all the appearance of a crater on its east side, and certainly there were more on board in favour of its being a living volcano than against it. Heavy clouds hung over the top, and at various places long jets of steam appeared to rise. The country we passed to-day seemed much better and more suitable for agricultural purposes. Early on the 25th we were under way, and passed some splendid looking country through Holnicote Bay, round Caution Point to Richie Island, and on to Mitre Rock. The country was well wooded, with apparent large plains; a very good harbour is just on our side of 8th parallel, which we called Annabella Harbour. Some of us landed on the rock, but not having a line with us we could not ascend. It is in German territory, just beyond the parallel. The General feeling better, seemed to enjoy the sight of the boundary. There was no time to lose, so without anchoring we went round and away full speed to the south-east, anchoring in Holnicote Bay. On the morning of the 26th, it being impossible for our good captain to see his way amongst innumerable reefs with the sun ahead of him, we landed at a number of small islands named by us "Glanville Islands," after our Zulu Soudan doctor. The natives were noisy and friendly, and came out to the boat quite unarmed. They are dark, and very much like the natives of Motumotu, only they are circumcised, which is unknown on the south-east coast. Their ornaments were very poor, and they seemed to have little to trade. About ten we were under way, and steamed through Dyke Acland Bay, where we saw a large river, which seemed to drain all the back country. We called the river "Rossitter River," after our second mate. There seems a very large mangrove fringe all round this bay. We anchored about 6 p.m. in Porlock Bay, and the following morning at six o'clock pulled in shore, and into a large inlet or lagoon, which we named "Clayton Inlet." We rowed up what seemed to be a river, and were met
GROUP AND NATIVE HOUSE, MAIRY PASS. MAINLAND
OF NEW GUINEA IN THE DISTANCE.
Reference page 80.
Getting on board we were under way by eight o'clock, and steaming all day we anchored at the Jabbering Islands about 6 p.m. We did not think the General looked worse, only he complained of feeling terribly prostrated, and at night could not sleep. He would not take quinine in any form whatever. On Saturday (28th) before daylight, we were under way and off for Lydia, where we arrived about 2 p.m. We spent several hours ashore, and everywhere met with kindness. Several boys from Queensland were here, who told us frequently, "White man no good. New Guinea man very good;" "White man no gammon, too much fight."
When passing through Chads Bay, we had difficulty in getting canoes alongside. One approaching with clothed men, our interpreter recognized boys as some who had been returned in "Victoria," and knew they belonged to a place where a labour vessel killed several natives and stole quite a large number. Of the latter were some of those in the canoe.
On Sunday morning, the 29th, the General was much worse. We arrived at Dinner Island about 10 a.m., got mails on board, and away to Suau. When reading his letters he seemed to revive, and spoke quite hopefully and pleasantly of his return next year, when together we should do the north-east coast and D'Entrecasteaux Group well, visiting every nook and corner, and making excursions inland, meeting the vessel at points decided on.
At 2 p.m. Mr. Forbes and I landed at South Cape, and the "Blackall" steamed away for Australia, we hoping that the next news would be that our good kind General would have quite recovered, and that a quiet rest in Hobart with Lady Scratchier and family would set him up for another season.
On the "Raven" coming to take us to Port Moresby, Commander Ross told us the sad, sad news, that the General was dead, died when near Townsville—the natives, knowing by our looks something had happened, pressed round to know, and on being told, they too felt full of sorrow as for a friend. He was much respected on board, and by all who met him. He was kind and true, would do his duty, and never mind the consequences. He came rather prejudiced against natives, he left their friend, and much interested in them. He would have done a splendid work if only he had lived two years more, and laid the basis of a good government that both races would have felt to be for their benefit.
We all deeply sympathize with Lady Scratchley and her family in their great sorrow.
The remains of General Scratchley were brought to Melbourne in the "Governor Blackall," and temporarily interred in the St. Kilda Cemetery on the 16th December, 1885. The Dean of Melbourne and clergy performed the funeral service. Sir Henry Loch was present in person, and all the Australian colonies. Governmental departments, civic bodies, and learned professions were largely represented. The pall-bearers were Mr. Fort, Captain Lyster, Lieutenant-Colonel Sargood, Major-General Downes, Colonel Roberts, Mr. J. C. Tyler, Mr. James Service (Premier of Victoria), and Colonel Trench. The "Melbourne Age," of December 17th, describing the occasion, says:—"The half-masted flags floating yesterday over Melbourne, the predominance of sombre costumes among civilians, and the presence of officers bearing mourning badges hurrying off to their rendezvous, betokened the day to be one of sorrowful observance. The duty of the day was that of paying the last tribute of respect to the memory of the late Sir Peter Scratchley, High Commissioner for New Guinea, by honouring his remains with a public funeral, attended by his Excellency the Governor in person, a special representative of Lord Carrington, Governor of New South Wales, and deputies from all the Australian colonies. The ministry of Victoria, the consular body, the bench, the bar, the other learned professions, and the local forces contributed to
YOUNG COCOA-NUT TREES ON STACEY ISLAND;
FARM PEAK IN THE DISTANCE.
Reference page 81.
Such was the fatal termination of an expedition which had about it, from first to last, an air of romance and adventure, which acquired information respecting the south coast and immediate interior of New Guinea far in excess of any previously obtained, and which, it is confidently hoped, has prepared the way for the settlement of a valuable British possession.