Discoveries in Australia/Volume 1/Chapter 12
LEAVE PORT ESSINGTON—REACH TIMOR LAUT—MEET PROAS—CHIEF LOMBA—TRACES OF THE CREW OF THE CHARLES EATON—THEIR ACCOUNT OF THE WRECK AND SOJOURN ON THE ISLAND—CAPTAIN KING'S ACCOUNT OF THE RESCUE OF THE SURVIVORS—BOY IRELAND'S RELATION OF THE SUFFERINGS AND MASSACRE OF THE CREW—APPEARANCE OF THE SHORES OF TIMOR LAUT—DESCRIPTION OF THE INHABITANTS—DRESS—LEPROSY—CANOES—VILLAGE OF OLILIET—CURIOUS HOUSES—REMARKABLE ORNAMENTS—VISIT THE ORAN KAYA—BURIAL ISLET—SUPPLIES OBTAINED—GUNPOWDER IN REQUEST AS BARTER—PROCEED TO THE ARRU ISLANDS—DOBBO HARBOUR—TRADE—PRESENT TO CHIEF—BIRDS OF PARADISE—CHINAMING JUNKS' BOTTOMS—CHARACTER OF NATIVES—SOME OF THEM PROFESS CHRISTIANITY—VISIT THE KI ISLANDS—VILLAGE OF KI ILLI—HOW PROTECTED—PLACE OF WORSHIP—POTTERY—TIMBER—BOAT-BUILDING—CULTIVATION OF THE EASTERN KI—NO ANCHORAGE OFF IT—VISIT KI DOULAN—ANTIQUE APPEARANCE OF—LUXURIANT VEGETATION—EMPLOYMENT OF NATIVES—DEFENCES OF THE PLACE—CARVINGS ON GATEWAY—CIVILITY OF CHIEF—HIS DRESS—POPULATION OF THE KI GROUP—THEIR RELIGION—TRADE—PLACE OF INTERMENT—AGILITY OF AUSTRALIAN NATIVE—SUPPLIES—ANCHORAGE OFF KI DOULAN—ISLAND OF VORDATE—VISIT FROM CHIEF—EXCITEMENT OF NATIVES—THEIR ARMS AND ORNAMENTS—CARVED HORNS ON HOUSES—ALARM OF THE ORAN KAYA—PUNISHMENT OF THE NATIVES OF LAARAT BY THE DUTCH—REVISIT OLILIET—DISCOVER THAT MR. WATSON HAD RESCUED THE EUROPEAN BOY—RETURN TO PORT ESSINGTON—MR. WATSON'S PROCEEDINGS AT TIMOR LAUT.
In pursuance of orders from Sir G. Bremer, C.B. we sailed from Port Essington on the 18th March, 1839, having on board, Captain Kuper (then 1st Lieutenant of H.M.S. Alligator) and one of the Australian natives, who was induced to accompany us, partly by his own curiosity, and partly by liberal promises and plenty to eat. He was known at the settlement by the name of Jack White, and from his great good humour and intelligence, was a favourite with everyone. I hoped by keeping him on board for some time, away from his tribe, to wean him in some degree from his savage habits; and that by being able to communicate with him with greater facility, we might learn more of the manners and customs of his countrymen, than we had yet been able to do; in addition to which we anticipated no small amusement from witnessing his astonishment at seeing countries and people so different from his own.
Light airs prevented our clearing the harbour till the morning of the 19th, and at 3 p.m. on the 20th, we made the land of Timor Laut; but from our ignorance of the coast, we were obliged to keep under easy sail during the night, which was squally with heavy rain.
At daylight on the 21st, we made all sail to the northward, and about 10, observed two large proas, with Dutch colours flying, standing out from the land under sail; they were full of men, and for some time appeared to be in great doubt, whether they should come near us or not, as they shortened sail and consulted together several times; at last, however, they came under our stern, which was the only way in which they could approach, as their long outriggers, projecting 10 or 12 feet on each side of their narrow canoes, prevented them from coming close alongside.
As soon as they got hold of the rope we gave them, they hauled close up, and a little thin shrivelled old man came scrambling over the taffrail: he was dressed in a long black serge coat, check shirt, and black trousers, and as soon as he had regained his breath, after the violent exertions he had made, presented me with a neat little basket containing some papers which he seemed very anxious I should examine. I took them up, rather to please him, than with any expectation of being able to understand them, but to my surprise and great interest, found carefully rolled up in several envelopes, two pieces of lead pencil, part of the leaf of a Norie's Navigation Tables, and some scraps of paper, on which, written in pencil, was a rough journal of the proceedings of the men who left the ill-fated Charles Eaton (soon after she was wrecked in Torres Strait) in one of her cutters, in which they reached this island, and after remaining for thirteen months got to Amboyna in a trading proa, and thence to Batavia, where they gave the following account of their misfortunes to the Resident, Mr. D.W. Pietermaat.
The Charles Eaton sailed from Sydney on the 26th July, 1834, and on the 15th of August, about 10 o'clock in the forenoon, during a fresh full sail breeze, the vessel struck on a reef called the Detached Reef, situated at the entrance of Torres Strait.
During the preceding night the Captain, as a measure of prudence, had ordered the first reef to be taken in the topsails, in order not to enter the passage before daylight.
The ship struck on the reef so violently, that both keel and rudder were instantly knocked off and carried away, and the Captain declared the vessel to be totally lost; at the same time giving orders to get the boats ready and furnished with provisions, in order to endeavour to reach the island of Timor.
At the time the vessel was wrecked, she had four boats, the longboat, two cutters, and a dinghy or small jolly boat. In the largest cutter, W. Grindall, Laurent Constantine, and George Pigot, left the wreck, and Richard Quin, and James Wright, joined them the next morning by swimming across a bar or reef at the risk of their lives.
The other boats were knocked to pieces and lost, by the vessel falling over on her side, and they were unable to save any more of the passengers or crew, as it was impossible to pull the boat up against the strong current; and none of them would venture amidst the heavy breakers to reach the boat by swimming. They were unable to state what became of the Captain, passengers, and rest of the crew; but at the time Richard Quin and James Wright left the wreck, all the passengers and crew were alive on the forecastle of the vessel, with the exception of one sailor named James Price, who was drowned by the smallest of the cutters swamping at the time she was lowered.
The passengers on board at the time the vessel was wrecked, were Captain D'Oyly of the Bengal Artillery, his wife, and two sons, George and William; an English gentleman named Armstrong; and a Bengalese native servant.
The ship's crew consisted of twenty-four persons: J.G. Moore, master; J. Clare, chief mate; W. Mayer, second mate; G. Pigott, third mate; J. Grant, surgeon; L. Constantine, carpenter; W. Montgomery, steward; W. Perry, J.P. Ching, midshipmen; R. Quin, A. Quail, W. Moore, C. Robinson, J. Caen, W. Hill, J. Berry, R. Lounce, W. Jeffrey, J. Wright, W. Gumble, J. Miller, and W. Williams, seamen; J. Ireland and J. Sexton, boys.
The five seamen in the cutter, not seeing any possibility of saving more of the ship's company, and the next morning not perceiving a single person on the wreck, concluded that these unhappy persons had been washed off by the increasing swell of the sea during the night. On Sunday morning, August 17th, they left the wreck, and steered as westerly a course as possible by the sun and stars—they had no compass—in order to reach the Dutch settlement of Coupang in the island of Timor. The whole of their provisions consisted of 30 pounds of bread, one ham, and a keg containing about four gallons of water; which had been placed in the boat before she was lowered.
After driving about for fifteen days on the ocean, they descried land which they took to be Timor; they went on shore and procured some water and coconuts; but afterwards pursuing their course along the coast, they were attacked by a number of native proas, and being warn out with fatigue, and without any arms to defend themselves, they were forced to surrender. The natives upset the boat, and stripped them of all their clothes, after which they were brought on shore, where the natives at first seemed inclined to kill them, but through the intercession of two chiefs, named Pabok and Lomba, their lives were spared.
They afterwards learnt, that they were at the native village of Oliliet, in the island of Timor Laut; part of their clothes were given back to them, and they were well treated, without being compelled by the natives to perform any labour; their sustenance consisted of Indian corn, yams, a little rice and some fish, but the quantities given them were only just sufficient to keep them alive.
During their abode in this island, they learnt that in one of the neighbouring settlements called Laouran, at that period at war with the one in which they lived, there was another European, formerly belonging to an English brig, that had been wrecked seven years ago, and of whose crew he, and a boy since dead, had alone been spared by their savage captors.
After remaining more than thirteen months at Oliliet, a trading proa arrived from Amboyna, in which they received permission to depart, promising to return soon in an English ship, with arms and ammunition to assist the chiefs in defeating their enemies. In this proa, after a passage of five days, they arrived at Amboyna, on the 7th of October, 1835.
Of the melancholy fate of those who remained on the wreck, the boy Ireland gave the following account, which was published at Sydney by Captain P.P. King, R.N. Ireland and the younger D'Oyly, were rescued from the savages by Captain C.M. Lewis, of the Colonial schooner, Isabella, who was sent to look for them in consequence of Captain Carr of the ship Mangles* having reported that he had seen two white persons among the natives of Murray's Island, but had been unable to induce the natives to give them up.
- * I afterwards met Captain Carr in the Mangles; he expressed great regret that so much blame should have been attached to him for not bringing away the children. His account differed very much from young Ireland's, and it is but justice to him to state that it was owing to his report that the vessels were sent in search of Ireland and young D'Oyly. J.L.S.
The Charles Eaton left Sydney on the 29th of July, 1834, bound to Canton, by way of Torres Strait; and experienced a series of fine weather and favourable winds until she approached the Barrier Reef, when the weather became thick and rainy.
The master was provided with Captain Ashmore's chart, guided by which he boldly steered for the reefs. Unfortunately, however, for him the weather was so clouded on approaching the Barriers, that he could obtain no observation for the latitude, and yet it would appear that the ship was in a very favourable position.
"About ten o'clock in the morning the reefs were suddenly perceived right ahead, upon which the ship was hove up in the wind and both anchors let go, and the cables paid out to the end; but as the depth was probably unfathomable they had no effect, for she drifted on the reef and fell over on her beam ends. The chief mate then cut her masts away, but the bottom was soon bilged, and everything destroyed by the water, which broke over the decks, and the ship became a perfect wreck. Happily the upper part of the vessel kept together, on which the crew and passengers collected. Soon after she struck, a vessel was observed three or four miles to windward, high and dry upon the reefs, with her masts standing, and royal yards across, and sails set, in which position she must have been left by her crew.*
- * The Flora, Sheriff, master.
"During the confusion that existed, one of the quarter-boats was lowered, but immediately swamped, by which one man, named Price, was drowned. Soon afterwards, three of the crew, namely G. Pigott, the third mate; L. Constantine, the carpenter; and W. Gumble, one of the seamen, put sails, provisions, and water, and arms, and all the carpenter's tools, into the other quarter-boat, and lowered her down; and kept near the wreck during the day and following night. The next day R. Quin and J. Wright, two seamen, joined them, after which they refused to take any more; although six of the crew made their way over the reef the next morning, and wished to be taken on board. The boat, however, bore away, and was seen no more.
"The master then, assisted by those who remained, attempted to make a raft, which was not completed before the expiration of seven days. During this interval they had managed to distil the contents of a cask and some bottles of water from the sea, by the aid of the ship's coppers, and a leaden pipe from the quarter gallery cistern, the whole of which they placed on the raft with a basket containing beer, and a cask of pork. Whilst they were on the wreck they were upon a daily allowance of two wine glasses of distilled water, and a few pieces of damaged biscuit.
"As soon as the raft was completed, they got upon it, but finding that it was not buoyant enough to hold them, they threw over the water the pork and beer. Still it did not support their weight, so the greater number returned on board; leaving Mr. Moore the master, Mr. Grant the surgeon, Captain and Mrs. D'Oyly, and their two children, their nurse, a native of India, and Mr. Armstrong, passengers; also two seamen, named Lounce and Berry, who determined to remain upon it all night. In the morning, however, it was found that the rope by which the raft had been made fast to the stern of the wreck had been cut, and nothing was seen of their companions. It is probable that the uncomfortable situation in which they found themselves, up to their waists in water, and the sea constantly breaching over them, induced the master to cut the rope and trust to Providence to guide himself and the passengers to some place of safety.
"Those that remained then made another raft of the vessel's topmasts lashed together with coir rope, and made a sail out of some cloth which formed a part of her cargo. It took seven days before it was completed, when they launched off and bid adieu to the ill-fated vessel, which was probably soon broken up, for at high-water the sea breached over her.
"The vessel that was seen with her masts standing, was too far to windward for them to reach, for even the boat could not make way against the wind and current. Upon casting off, they set their sail and steered before the wind, but the raft was so heavy and deep that very little progress was made. She drifted rather than sailed, and probably did not go more than a mile or one mile and a half an hour. After some time they came to a reef upon which they remained for the night, and the next morning proceeded before the wind, but saw no more reefs.
"After being two days and nights upon the raft, up to their waists in water, and partaken of very little food, they passed an island, and then saw several more ahead. Soon afterwards a canoe was perceived paddling towards them, containing ten or twelve Indians, who as they approached stood up and extended their arms to show they had no weapons and were inclined to be friendly. On reaching the raft the Indians got upon it, and conducted themselves very peaceably; and after a short time proposed that they should leave the raft and go into the canoe, which they at first hesitated to do, until Thomas Ching, a midshipman, said he would go, as he should then have a better chance of getting to England, upon which they all consented, and embarked in the canoe. Before they left, the Indians searched the raft very narrowly for iron implements, but only found a few hoops which they collected and took with them. They left the raft about four o'clock in the afternoon, and in less than an hour were landed on an island which they subsequently found was called Boydan, and which is probably that on the chart called Number 1, to the eastward of Hannibal Island.*
- * On their way to it the canoe passed, first, three islands on the right (northward) and one on the left (southward). The mainland was also distinguished from Boydan Island, and appeared to be about twelve or fourteen miles off, which agrees very well with the island it is supposed to be.
"Upon disembarking, the natives accompanied them round the island in search of food and water, but they were so exhausted by fatigue and hunger, that they could scarcely crawl. Upon their return to the place where they landed, they threw themselves on the ground in despair; as it was evident from the ferocious bearing and conduct of the savages, who stood around their party grinning and laughing in the most hideous manner, that they were exulting in the anticipation of their murderous intentions. In this dreadful state of suspense, Mr. Clare, the first officer, addressing his companions, recommended them to be resigned to their fate; and read to them, in a most impressive manner, several prayers from a book which he had brought with him from the wreck; after which, commending themselves to the protection of the Almighty, they laid down, and worn out by severe exhaustion, were soon asleep; but it was to them the sleep of death; for no sooner had they composed themselves than, as Ireland describes, he was roused by a shout and noise, and upon looking up saw the Indians murdering his companions by dashing their brains out with clubs. The first that was killed was poor Ching, and after him his companion Perry, and then Mr. Mayer, the second officer: after which the confusion became so great, that Ireland could not distinguish what passed. The last however, that met his fate was Mr. Clare, who in the attempt to make his escape to the canoe, was overtaken by his pursuers, and immediately despatched by a blow on the head."
Ireland and another boy named Sexton, were now left awaiting their fate: the former, the narrator of this melancholy tale, thus describes his deliverance:
"An Indian came to me with a carving knife to cut my throat, but as he was about to do it, having seized hold of me, I grasped the blade of the knife in my right hand and held it fast, struggling for my life. The Indian then threw me down, and placing his knee on my breast tried to wrench the knife out of my hand, but I still retained it, although one of my fingers was cut through to the bone. At last I succeeded in getting uppermost, when I let him go and ran into the sea, and swam out; but being much exhausted, and the only chance of my life was to return to the shore, I landed again fully expecting to be knocked on the head. The same Indian then came up with an infuriated gesture, and shot me in the right breast with an arrow; and then in a most unaccountable manner suddenly became quite calm, and led or dragged me to a little distance, and offered me some fish and water, which I was unable to partake of.
"Whilst struggling with the Indian, I observed Sexton, who was held by another, bite a piece of his arm out, but after that knew nothing of him, until I found his life had been spared in a manner similar to my own.*
- * Upon interrogating Ireland to obtain some explanation of the reason their lives were spared, he says, that he has frequently seen the Indians recover themselves in a moment from a violent paroxysm of fury; and he attributes their safety to a circumstance of this nature. P.P.K.
"At a short distance off, making the most hideous yells, the other savages were dancing round a large fire, before which were placed in a row the heads of their victims; whilst their decapitated bodies were washing in the surf on the beach, from which they soon disappeared, having been probably washed away by the tide. Sexton and I were then placed in charge of two natives, who covered us with the sail of the canoe, a sort of mat, but paid no attention to my wound, which had been bleeding profusely.
"The next day the Indians collected all the heads; and, embarking, removed to another island where the women lived, which they called Pullan. On landing there, Ireland saw two of Captain D'Oyly's children, and the ship's dog, called Portland; the elder (George) D'Oyly, told him that the first raft had landed on the island, and that all the passengers, excepting himself and his brother, had been instantly murdered; that his mother was killed by a blow with a club, and that his little brother was in her arms at the time, but was saved by one of the women, who afterwards took care of him. The child was seen by Ireland, when they landed, in the woman's arms, crying very much. He also saw some pieces of the ship's cabin doors, attached as ornaments to the heads of their canoes, which they appeared to prize very much, and other relics, among which were the heads of the passengers and crew, of the first raft; those of Mrs. D'Oyly and Captain Moore being plainly distinguishable; the former by the hair, the latter by the features. The heads were suspended by a rope to a pole that was stuck up near the huts of the women; round which they danced every night and morning, accompanying their infuriated gestures with the most horrid yells.
"The number of Indians collected amounted to about sixty; they were merely residing on the island during the fishing season; for their home, as it afterwards turned out; was at a considerable distance off. Their principal subsistence was turtle and small fish, which they caught with hook and line, and shellfish which abound on the reefs. The island also produces a small fruit like a plum with a stone in it, probably a species of Eugenia. The fish were broiled over the ashes of a fire, or boiled in the basin of a large volute (Voluta ethiopica) which being rather a scarce shell is of great value to them.
"The island of Pullan is covered with low trees and underwood, and the soil is sandy. In the centre of it is a spring, which supplied the whole party with sufficient water for their consumption; and, as Ireland says, they used a great deal, it must at least have yielded fifteen or twenty gallons a day, for the hole was always full. Upon a voyage they carry their water in bamboo joints, and coconut shells, as do the Malays.
"After remaining here two months, the Indians separated. One party taking Ireland and the infant D'Oyly with them, embarked in a canoe, and after half a day's sail reached another islet to the northward, where they remained a day and a night, on a sandy beach; and the next morning proceeded and reached another island similar to Pullan, low and bushy, where they remained a fortnight. They then proceeded to the northward, calling on their way at different islands, and remaining as long as they supplied food, until they reached one,* where they remained a month, and then they went on a visit to Darnley's Island, which they called Aroob, where for the first time, Ireland says, he met with kind treatment.
- * Probably one of the group of the northward of Halfway Island, near Aureed, named by Mr. Lewis, Sir Richard Bourke's Group.
"After a fortnight they again embarked and returned by the way they came, to an island they called Sir-reb,* situated near Aureed, where their voyage ended, and they remained until purchased by Duppar, the Murray Islander; who, it appears, upon hearing that there were two white boys in captivity, at Aureed, embarked in a canoe with his wife Pamoy, and went for the express purpose of obtaining them, taking for the purpose of barter some fruit. The price of their ransom was a branch of bananas, for each. They returned by way of Darnley's Island, where they stopped a few days, and then reached Murray's Island, where they remained ever since, and were most kindly treated. Duppar gave little D'Oyly to a native named Oby to take care of; a charge of which he faithfully acquitted himself, and both Oby and his adopted child soon became very fond of each other; for as the child was a mere infant, he soon forgot his mother, and naturally attached himself to his nurse. When at Aureed the Indians had named Ireland, Wak; and little D'Oyly, they called Uass; names which they retained at Murray's Island, and by which they are doubtless now known all over the archipelago.
- * Sir-reb, according to Ireland's information is Marsden Island. P.P.K.
"Ireland lived in the same hut with Duppar and his family; his employment was to cultivate a plantation of yams, and during the season to assist in taking turtle and shellfish. On one occasion he accompanied them on an excursion towards New Guinea, where they went for the purpose of barter and trade; which they frequently did, to obtain bows and arrows, canoes and feathers, for which they give in return shells;* and which from their scarcity, the New Guinea people prize very much, but as Duppar was fearful that the New Guinea people would steal or murder him, he was left at Darnley's Island, in charge of Agge, an Indian, until their return. Duppar and his friends, however, were not long away; for having stopped at an island, Jarmuth (Campbell's Island) to pass the night, one of the islanders attempted to take away by force from one of the visitors, his moco moco (a sort of bandage worn round the calves of the legs, made of the bark of bamboo) upon which a quarrel ensued, in which the Murray Islanders used their bows and arrows, and wounded several, one being shot through the body. The Jarmuth people then retreated to their huts, and the others embarked; but instead of going to New Guinea, returned to Darnley's Island, where in a few days they received a message from Jarmuth, offering peace; which, however, they would not accept; nor did they afterwards make friends.
- * Ireland describes the shell to be a cone, and recognized it among the plates in the Encyclopedie Methodique, as the Conusmille punctatus.
"Ireland's account of the visit of the Mangles, is so different from what Captain Carr describes, that the discrepancy must be received with much caution.
"He states that Captain Carr's object seemed to be entirely that of trading for tortoise-shell; he was alongside the Mangles, and not "at a considerable distance off;"—he was so near as to ask one of the people on the poop to throw him a rope, to get fast to the vessel, which was done, but owing to the sea running high he was obliged to let it go; upon which he asked for a boat to be lowered for him to get on board, which was also done, and he should have made his escape, had not one stood up in the bow with a naked cutlass and the others flourished their weapons over their heads; which frightened the Indians so much that they pulled away on shore, followed by the boat for a little distance, and there concealed him. Ireland declares, that he did not say, that the natives would not give him up.
"When under the Mangles' stern one of the crew offered him some tobacco which he declined. Had Captain Carr offered an axe for him, he would have been given up immediately as well as little D'Oyly, who was on the beach, in the arms of one of the natives. The natives knew that Ireland was anxious to be taken away, and were averse to his going off to the vessel, saying, "You shall not go there to be killed;" but as he hoped to make his escape he persisted, and the result was a bitter disappointment to him."
Such is the succinct narrative, of which old Lomba offered me the first rude materials.
As soon as I had read the papers contained in the basket, I endeavoured, by the help of the Malay dictionary, to gain some more information from the old man, and after some time succeeded in making out that he was the chief Lomba, mentioned by the seamen in their narrative; which was confirmed by finding that the shirt he wore was marked with the name of the unfortunate midshipman, J.P. Ching, who so early fell a victim to the murderous savages on the reef. From our ignorance of the language I was unable to gain any information of the European boy, said to be still on the island. Lomba pointed out the village he came from, prettily situated on the crest of a well-wooded hill, and gave me to understand that I should there find the other chief, Pabok, who was too old and infirm to come down. Upon which I determined to remain for the night, in order to visit the village, in hopes of getting some more information, and also to make Pabok a present, which he well deserved for his good services.
The gig was accordingly sent inshore to sound, and soon made the signal of having found an anchorage, upon which we stood in, greatly to the delight of the natives, who, as they were not armed, were allowed to come on board, where they behaved very well. Some went aloft with great activity to assist in furling sails, and two came aft to the wheel, the use of which they seemed to understand perfectly.
At one o'clock we anchored in 11 fathoms sand and coral, three quarters of a mile from the shore; and as soon as the ship was secured, a party of us landed, accompanied by the old chief, and followed by most of the natives in their canoes.
On landing, the contrast to the Australian shores we had so recently sailed from, was very striking. We left a land covered with the monotonous interminable forest of the eucalyptus or gumtree, which, from the peculiar structure of its leaf, affords but little shelter from the tropical sun. Shores fringed with impenetrable mangroves; a soil producing scarcely any indigenous vegetable, either in the shape of root or fruit fit for food. The natives black, naked, lowest in the scale of civilized life; their dwellings, if such they can be called, formed by spreading the bark rudely torn from the tree, over a few twigs placed in the ground, under which they creep for shelter; dependent almost entirely on the success of the chase for their daily food, not having arrived at the first and simplest form of cultivation, and in like manner destitute of all trace of religion, except the faint symptom of belief in an evil spirit.
We landed on a beach, along which a luxuriant grove of coconut trees extended for more than a mile, under the shade of which were sheds neatly constructed of bamboo and thatched with palm leaves, for the reception of their canoes. To our right a hill rose to a height of about 400 feet, covered with brilliant and varied vegetation so luxuriant as entirely to conceal the village built on its summit. The natives who thronged the beach were of a light tawny colour, mostly fine, athletic men, with an intelligent expression of countenance.
Their dress consisted of a cloth round the waist reaching to the knee, which in some instances was neatly ornamented with small white shells; their arms and ankles were loaded with rings formed of ebony, ivory, and coloured glass, some of the former bore evident marks of having been turned in a lathe. The lobes of their ears were perforated with large holes, from which enormous earrings of ivory and ebony, in the shape of padlocks, were suspended, sometimes as many as three from one ear. A few of the natives had gold earrings of considerable size but rude workmanship. The boys and younger men had their hair cut short, and their heads smeared over with a preparation of lime, which bleaches the naturally black hair to a flaxen colour; as soon as this is effected, the hair is allowed to grow to a considerable length, and in due time presents a piebald appearance, the ends retaining the flaxen colour while the roots are black. When grown to a sufficient length it is wound gracefully round the head and fastened by a comb of sandalwood or tortoise-shell; some specimens of which were very large, and of such superior manufacture as to indicate an intercourse with much more civilized nations.
The natives appeared to be healthy with the exception of a sort of leprosy, from which many of them were suffering. It gave them a most disgusting appearance, but did not appear to cause any inconvenience, nor were they avoided by the rest of their companions, as if the disease had been contagious. On our first landing, very few of the natives had any arms, but they afterwards brought down some bows and arrows, some of which were four or five feet long, neatly headed with iron. We also saw a few iron-headed spears, a few cresses, and some hatchets of a very rude construction.
Their canoes, about thirty of which were hauled upon the beach, were from twenty-five to thirty feet long, and very narrow, with outriggers projecting ten or twelve feet from each side, and supporting a piece of buoyant wood to give stability. They carried one large mat-sail, but did not appear to sail fast.
As soon as we had satisfied our curiosity on the beach, old Lomba led the way to the village on the crest of the hill. The ascent commenced close to the landing place by a flight of steps rudely formed by logs of wood laid across a narrow path cut in the hillside, which brought us to within forty or fifty feet of the summit. After which we had to climb two ladders, made of hard red wood richly carved, placed almost perpendicularly against the cliff. In a recess under the upper step we noticed four small idols that bore a strong resemblance to those of the S. Sea islanders.
After reaching the top of the ladder we passed through a gateway, evidently intended for defence, and then found ourselves in the village of Oliliet, built on a level space of considerable extent, accessible only from seaward by the path we had ascended, which the removal of the ladders would render impracticable, and on the land side protected by a wall, beyond which the jungle appeared to be very dense.
The houses, all raised on piles six or eight feet above the ground, could only be entered by means of a ladder leading through a trapdoor in the floor. The roofs neatly thatched with palm leaves, and formed with a very steep pitch projected considerably beyond the low side-walls, and surmounted at the gables by large wooden horns,* richly carved, from which long strings of shells hung down to the ground, giving the village a most picturesque appearance.
- * See the view annexed.
The houses were arranged with considerable regularity, so as to form one wide street of considerable extent, from which narrow alleys branched on each side.
Our conductor led us to the Oran Kaya, whom we found seated in front of a small house in the widest part of the street, opposite to which there was a circular space marked out by a row of stones placed on the ground, and which appeared to be set aside for religious purposes, as they seemed unwilling we should set foot within it. Here the natives soon afterwards assembled in considerable numbers, and were for some time engaged in serious discussion.
The Oran Kaya, who was an elderly man, received us very civilly, and invited us to sit down beside him. Soon afterwards Pabok came up. He was very old, had lost the sight of one eye, and wore an old straw hat of European manufacture, decorated with stripes of red and blue cloth sewn round it. I tried in vain to get more information from him about the European boy; and on pressing him to come down to the boat to receive a present, he made signs he was too old to do so.
After remaining a short time in the village, during which one of our party caught a transient glimpse of some of the women, we returned to the beach; where we found that the natives had brought a plentiful supply of coconuts, and they promised to bring some other supplies off in the morning.
At sunset the natives all went quietly away, and we returned on board, passing on our way some small rocky islands which appeared to be used as burial places, and emitted an intolerable stench; the bodies were placed in rude wooden boxes, open at the top and quite exposed to the air, from one small rock not large enough to hold a body, there was a long bamboo erected, from which a human hand, blackened by exposure to the sun, was suspended.
On the 22nd, soon after daylight, the natives came off, bringing with them Indian corn and coconuts, in such quantities that they sold the latter for a couple of pins each. They also brought yams, bananas, fowls, chilies, etc. but they did not seem inclined to part with them for anything we could offer, except gunpowder, which I would not allow to be given as barter.
At nine, finding we could get no more information from them, we weighed; the natives all left us very quietly as soon as the capstan was manned, and by signs appeared to wish us to revisit them. During the whole time they were on board, they behaved perfectly well, and did not make any attempt at stealing, though they must have seen many things most valuable to them, which they might easily have taken.
From what we saw of Oliliet, it does not appear to be a place from which any quantity of sea stock can be procured, for although they had plenty of pigs and fowls in the village, they did not seem at all inclined to part with them. Water may be procured on the beach, but a merchant vessel should be very cautious in sending her boats for it, as the crew being necessarily divided, would easily fall victims to any treacherous attack on the part of the natives; and from all we subsequently learnt of them from the traders we met at Arru, they are not always to be trusted.
After clearing the bay we stood to the northward, along the east coast of Timor Laut, which is formed by a range of hills wooded to the very summit, and indented by deep bays which would afford anchorage during the N.W. monsoon, were it not for a coral reef that appears to extend along the coast, at a distance of two to three miles from the shore. During the day we passed six villages, all built like Oliliet on cliffs overhanging the sea, and protected on the land side by dense jungle, through which it would be difficult to penetrate.
At sunset, we passed a small detached coral reef, and then steered for the Arru Islands, in the hope of being able to gain some information from the traders who frequent them, for the purpose of procuring the birds of Paradise, trepang, pearls, etc. which are found in their vicinity.
During our passage across, we had very irregular soundings, and at daylight on the 24th of March, saw the Arru Islands; all the islands of this group, which extends from N. to S. about 100 miles, and the eastern limits of which are but imperfectly known, are very low and swampy, but from being well-wooded, have the appearance of being much higher than they really are: many of the trees that we saw attained a height of ninety feet, before they began to branch out.
We stood along the islands to the northward all day, with very light winds, and on the 25th were off the entrance of Dobbo harbour, situated between the two islands, Wamma and Wokan. As there were several square-rigged vessels in the harbour, we tacked and made signal for a pilot, and were soon afterwards boarded by the master of one of the vessels, who to our great delight hailed us in very good English. Under his pilotage we ran in and anchored off a low sandy point, on which the traders establish themselves during their stay, by building very neat bamboo houses thatched with the palm leaf. Several hundred people, including some Dutchmen from Macassar, and Chinamen, remain throughout the year. The house of Messrs. Klaper and Nitzk, cost above 300 pounds and contained goods to the amount of ten times that sum and upwards. The trade with these islands appears to be carried on in the following manner. Towards the end of the N.W. monsoon, the trading vessels from Java and Macassar, having laid in their stock for barter, come over to Dobbo, generally touching at the Ki Islands to procure boats, which are there built in great numbers. On arriving they make the chief of the island (who carries a silver-headed stick, with the Dutch arms engraved upon it, as an emblem of his authority) a present, which he considers to be his due, consisting generally of arrack and tobacco. The large boats they have brought from the Ki Islands having been thatched over, and fitted with mat sails are then despatched through the various channels leading to the eastward, under the charge of a Chinaman, to trade for trepang, pearls, pearl oyster-shells, edible birds-nests, and birds of Paradise, in return for which they give chiefly knives, arrack, tobacco, coloured cottons, brass wire, ornaments for the arms, etc.
These boats return to their vessels as soon as they have procured a cargo, of which the pearls form the most valuable portion. The trepang obtained here is only considered as third-rate; that from the Tenimber group second, and from Australia first-rate.
The birds of Paradise, which are brought from the east side of the island, appeared to be plentiful; they are shot by the natives (from whom the traders purchase them for one rupee each) with blunt arrows, which stun them without injuring the plumage, and are then skinned and dried. The natives describe them as keeping together in flocks, headed by one, they call the Rajah bird, whose motions they follow.*
- * This is also mentioned by Pennant in his work on the Malayan Archipelago, published in 1800.
During the absence of the trading boats, the rest of the crews are employed making chinam of lime, from the coral which abounds on the beach, which fetches a good price at Banda, where fuel is expensive.
As soon as the S.E. monsoon is fairly set in, the junks are hauled up on the western side of the sandy spit at high-water spring tides, a sort of dam is then built round them, with bamboos, and a kind of mat the Malays call kadgang, banked up with sand; from this the water is bailed out by hand, so as to form a dry dock in which they clean and coat the bottom with chinam which lasts till the next season.
The cargo, as it is brought in by the different trading boats, is carefully dried and stowed away in the different storehouses on the point.
Of the natives of the islands we had not on this occasion an opportunity of seeing much, but the traders on the whole gave them a good character for honesty, and described them as a harmless race very much scattered. They used formerly to bring their articles of barter to Dobbo, but discontinued it within the last few years, in consequence of having been ill-used by the Bughis. Many of them profess Christianity, having been converted by Dutch Missionaries sent from Amboyna.
Having completed our survey of the harbour and obtained such supplies as we could, which, from the traders only bringing with them enough for their own consumption, did not amount to much, we sailed for the Ki Islands; a group sixty miles to the eastward of Arru, consisting of two large islands called the greater and lesser Ki, and a number of small islands lying to the westward of the latter.
The great Ki is about sixty miles long, high, and mountainous; the lesser Ki and the small islands are low, few parts of the group attaining an elevation of more than fifty feet.
Owing to the light airs and unsettled weather attendant on the change of the monsoon, it was not till the 3rd that we arrived off the village of Ki Illi, situated on the north-east end of the great Ki, and finding no anchorage, the brig stood on and off, while we landed in the boats at the village which is built close down on the beach and surrounded by a wall, but not so strongly protected by its position as the villages in Timor Laut. The houses, like those at Oliliet, were raised on piles above the ground, but were not surmounted by the carved gables which seem to be peculiar to the Tenimber group.
In the centre of the village we noticed a large building, evidently a place of worship, surrounded by a grass plot, on which a number of stones were ranged in a circle with some taller ones in the middle. Ki Illi is celebrated for its manufacture of pottery, of which we saw many specimens, formed with great taste, of a coarse porous material, which being unglazed is well adapted for cooling by evaporation, in the manner so much used in the east.
We had also an opportunity of seeing the boats, which are built in great numbers from the excellent timber with which all the islands of this group abound. They are much used by the traders frequenting the Arru Islands, and were highly spoken of for their durability and speed. The boats we saw, though they varied considerably in size, were all built on the same plan, having a considerable beam, a clean entrance and run, a flat floor, and the stem and stern post projecting considerably above the gunwales. They were all built of planks cut out of solid timber to the form required, dowelled together by wooden pegs, as a cooper fastens the head of a cask, and the whole afterwards strengthened by timbers, lashed with split rattan to solid cleats left for the purpose in each plank, during the process of hewing it into shape.
Four of the smallest of these boats were purchased for the use of the colony, for about 2½ dollars each, and were found to answer very well.
After leaving Ki Illi we sailed to the southward, along the eastern side of the great Ki, which is well wooded to the summit of the hills, and cleared away for cultivation in many places. There is no anchorage off this side of the island, which is so steep to, that on one occasion we could get no bottom with ninety fathoms, two ships' lengths from the beach.
At daylight on the 5th we entered the strait between the greater and lesser Ki, the shores on both sides of which are lined with small patches of cultivation. During the day we observed several small detached reefs, and at sunset anchored on a reef, extending from the north end of the lesser Ki, in thirteen fathoms.
April 6.—After breakfast, I started with some of the officers to visit Ki Doulan, the principal village in the lesser Ki, and sent another boat to sound towards a small island to the westward. After leaving the brig we passed a luxuriant grove of coconut trees, extending along the beach, under the shade of which we saw several villages, where the natives were busily employed building boats.
A pull of three miles brought us to the town of Ki Doulan, situated near the beach, and surrounded by a stone wall, which had every appearance of antiquity. On the sea side, where the wall was in its best state of preservation, there were three gates leading towards the beach, but accessible only by means of ladders four or five feet high, which could easily be removed in case of attack. The stones forming the sides of the central gateway were ornamented by rude bas-reliefs, representing figures on horseback; and the gate itself, formed of hard wood, and strong enough to keep out any party not provided with artillery, was richly carved.
Within the walls there was a considerable space in which the houses were built without any regularity, resembling those at Oliliet, with the exception of the carved horns at the gable. We visited the chief's, and found it tolerably clean: it consisted of one storey only; the high-pitched roof being used as a storeroom, to the rafters of which all sorts of miscellaneous articles were suspended. The chief himself, who was an old man, dressed in the black serge denoting his rank, was very civil, and offered us arrack and cocoa nuts. The natives of this group differ considerably from those of Arru, and more resemble those of Timor Laut, but are not so much inclined to treachery. The population is said to amount to 8 or 10,000.
Christianity has not made the same progress here as at Arru, and many of the natives profess the Mahometan faith, to which they have been converted by the Mahometans of Ceram, who have several priests in the islands.
They pay great attention to cultivation, and produce considerable quantities of coconut oil of a superior quality. Tortoise-shell is also found, but their chief source of trade consists in the number of boats and proas, of various sizes, they build of the timber which abounds in both islands. Outside the walls we noticed several burial places; and in a small shed, not very highly ornamented, was a rude figure of a man, nearly the size of life, holding a spear in his hand; and near this shed was a building resembling the one at Ki Illi, but much smaller, and very much out of repair. On the beach two Macassar proas were hauled up to repair, and their crews had erected houses, similar to those at Arru, for the purpose of carrying on their trade. The boats, of which the natives had great numbers in every stage of construction, were more highly finished than those at Ki Illi, but of the same form.
On returning on board, Mr. Hill, who had been away sounding, reported a clear channel to the westward. In the evening we again landed at a small village near the ship, beautifully situated in a most luxuriant grove of coconut trees, and surrounded by a jungle, too dense to penetrate, except where a path had been cleared. Many of the trees were very fine.
We were all much amused and surprised at the extraordinary activity our Australian native, Jack White, displayed in ascending the coconut trees, which he did with as much ease as any of us could have mounted a ladder, and when near the top of one of the highest, finding the sleeves of his frock and the legs of his trousers in the way, he held on with one arm and leg, while he rolled his trousers up above the knee, and then with both legs, while he rolled his sleeves above his elbows. His delight at the coconuts, which were quite new to him, was very great.
Although we were not very successful in obtaining supplies on this occasion, we found on a subsequent visit, when our stay was longer, that they could be obtained at a very moderate price; firewood and water may also be obtained without difficulty.
Off the town of Ki Doulan the water is too deep for a ship to anchor, but the shoal which projects from the point of the island three miles north of the town affords good anchorage in both monsoons.
There seem to be clear passages between all the islands in this group, though contracted in places by reefs, which, from the clearness of the water, can be distinctly seen from the masthead.
On the morning of the 6th we got underweigh, and passing to the westward of the Ki group, saw the Nusa Tello Islands indistinctly through the haze to the westward of us. At dawn on the 7th we made the high land of Vordate, but light winds prevented our making much progress till the evening, when a light air carried us along the land, and soon after sunset we anchored in twenty fathoms off a small village. Daylight on the 8th did not impress us with a favourable idea of our anchorage, for it appeared we had entered by a narrow and deep channel between two reefs upon which there was not more than 4½ fathoms.
At 8 a chief came off from the village in a large canoe pulled by about a dozen men, with a tom-tom beating in the bow. He was very anxious to get some arrack, and promised plenty of supplies.
After breakfast we landed, and were saluted by one gun from a proa hauled up on the beach. Our arrival had evidently caused much excitement among the natives, who came down in great numbers, and formed a semicircle round the boat. They were nearly all armed with cresses and steel-headed spears. Several of them wore a sort of breastplate made of hide, and their heads were ornamented with a profusion of richly coloured feathers and long horn-like projections formed of white calico; long necklaces of shells hung down to their waists, and all had their hair dyed in the same way as at Oliliet. Here we again noticed the carved horns surmounting the gables of the houses.
Soon after we landed, the Oran Kaya made his appearance, and seemed to be in a great state of alarm. As soon as he got within the circle of his countrymen he commenced a series of most profound salaams, bending his head down till he touched my feet. By way of reassuring him, I presented him with a fine gaudy red shawl, which for a time had the desired effect; and he then produced a document in Dutch, signed by Lieutenant Kolff, which appeared to be a certificate of good conduct. By means of the vocabulary and dictionary I tried to make them understand that we only wanted some pigs, vegetables and poultry, for which we had brought money to pay or goods to exchange. These he promised to procure for us, and to send them on board, earnestly making signs all the time that we should go away as soon as possible.
Finding the natives still coming down to the beach in great numbers, and that all were in a highly excited state, we merely gratified our curiosity on the beach, without attempting to go into their village, and returned on board.
We subsequently found out that the natives had some reason to be alarmed at our appearance, as they had been recently visited by a frigate, sent by the Dutch government to punish the inhabitants of the neighbouring island Laarat for the murder of Captain Harris, and part of the crew of the English bark Alexander, on which occasion she destroyed the village and took away several of the natives, who were supposed to have been implicated in the business, prisoners to Amboyna.
After about an hour, during which the natives remained in a compact group on the beach, evidently in deep consultation, the same chief who visited us in the morning came off again, bringing with him the promised supplies, consisting only of a billy-goat and a small pig. We tried some time in vain to convince him we had no hostile intentions, and as the weather was too unsettled to remain in so insecure an anchorage, we weighed, and made sail for Oliliet, passing close along the island of Vordate, which is moderately high, luxuriantly wooded, very well cultivated, and apparently densely inhabited. It is separated from Laarat by a narrow strait, which, from the way the sea broke across it, appeared to be quite shoal.
April 11.—At 10 a.m. we were off Laouran, but finding the swell, occasioned by the strong breezes experienced yesterday, was breaking too heavily on the reef skirting the bay for a boat to land, we stood on for Oliliet, and on rounding the point fired a gun and hove to. Two canoes soon after left the beach, and from the number of articles of European manufacture with which they were decorated, we soon saw that some vessel must have visited the place since our departure; and on the chief coming on board he handed me some papers, from which I ascertained that Mr. Watson, commanding the Essington schooner, had visited the place during our absence; and by having a person on board who could communicate with the natives, he had succeeded by threats and promises held out to the chiefs in getting the European boy given up to him. The boy had nearly forgotten his English at first, but Mr. Watson afterwards made out that he belonged to the Stedcombe schooner, the crew of which were all murdered by the natives while engaged in watering their vessel. He had been ten years on the island, during which time he had been well treated by his captors.
The brig was obliged to stand off and on, as there is no anchorage off Oliliet during the south-east monsoon, which had now set in; but two boats were sent on shore to obtain supplies.
They were well received by the natives, and again visited the village, where they were surprised to find that all the women came out to see them. All, both young and old, were dressed in a dark coloured wrapper, which reached from the waist to the knees, and on their ankles they wore a profusion of bright brass ornaments. The boats were not very successful in procuring stock, but the chiefs promised an abundant supply in the morning, which I determined to wait for, and accordingly worked to windward under easy sail during the night, but found at daylight that we had been sent so far to the southward by a current, that it was 10 a.m. before we were again near enough to send the boats in.
On landing they found all their chiefs, and a considerable number of the natives waiting on the beach with vegetables, etc. for sale. But they had hardly commenced their barter, when a powerful looking man, armed with a large iron-headed spear, in a state of intoxication, came rushing down from the village; he made directly for the crowd upon the beach, apparently with the intention of attacking our party; but the natives immediately closed upon him, and after some trouble disarmed him; after which he continued to rush about the crowd in a violent state of excitement, running against any of our party he could see, and making urgent signs to them to leave the shore.
At the same time the noise and confusion on the beach was so great, that the officer in charge of the party prepared to return on board at once, in order to avoid any collision with the natives. As soon as the chiefs became aware of his intention, they were most anxious he should remain, and made every profession of friendship to induce him to do so; but he had heard so much of their treachery from the traders at Arru that he resisted their entreaties, and returned on board at half-past eleven.
As soon as the boats were hoisted up, we made sail for Port Essington, and anchored there on the 15th of April.
It was our intention to have concluded this volume with Captain Stanley's narrative, but as the following account of the daring manner in which Mr. Watson rescued the English boy from the savages of Timor Laut, has fallen into our hands, and as doubtless it was the cause of the strange and suspicious reception the Britomart's boats met with on their second visit to Oliliet, we here lay it before our readers:
"Mr. Watson had not been off the island long before his vessel, the schooner Essington, was surrounded by eleven armed canoes, for the purpose of attack. The chief wished Mr. Watson to go in and anchor, which he refused, but showed him that he was ready for defence in case of any outrage on their part. The chief, thinking he could entrap him, made signs of friendship, and Mr. Watson allowed him and his crew to come on board. The chief then said that a white man was on shore, and wished the master to go and fetch him off, which was refused. Mr. Watson then laid out an immense quantity of merchandise, which he said he would give for the white man, and desired the chief to send his canoe ashore to fetch him; stating, however, that he would retain him on board till the white man came, and also, that if he was not immediately brought, he would either hang or shoot the chief, and he had rope prepared for the purpose, as also a gun. This manoeuvre had the desired effect on the chief, who immediately despatched his canoe to the shore. For three days and nights Mr. Watson was compelled to cruise off the island, the natives still refusing to bring off Forbes. Towards the close of the third day they brought off the boy, but would not put him on board until Mr. Watson placed the rope round the chief's neck, when they came alongside; and as the crew of the Essington were hoisting Forbes up the side of the vessel, the chief jumped overboard into his canoe. Mr. Watson made the chief come on board again, and told him that although he had deceived and wished to entrap him, yet he would show that the white men were as good as their word; and not only gave the chief the promised wares, but also distributed some to each of the other ten canoes. This line of conduct had a very good effect on the natives, who after receiving the goods expressed great joy, and as they were leaving kept up a constant cheer. Forbes at first appeared in a savage state, but after a short time, stated the following particulars relative to the loss of the "Stedcombe", and the massacre of the crew: The "Stedcombe," Mr. Barns, master, arrived off the coast in the year 1823. Mr. Barns* having left her in charge of the mate, he and two or three others went ashore at Melville Island.
- * When at Sydney, in 1838, I met Mr. Barns, who corroborated Forbes's account. J.L.S.
"The mate ran her into Timor Laut, and anchored; he then went ashore with the crew, leaving the steward, Forbes, and another boy, on board. After they had been ashore a short time, Forbes looked through a telescope to see what they were about, when he saw that the whole of the crew were being massacred by the natives. He immediately communicated that fact to the steward, and advised him to unshackle the anchor, and run out to sea, as the wind was from the land. The steward told him to go about his business, and when he got on deck he found the vessel surrounded with canoes. The natives came on board and murdered the steward; Forbes and the other boy got up the rigging, and in consequence of their expertness the natives were unable to catch them, but at last made signs for them to come down, and they would not hurt them. They availed themselves of the only chance left them of saving their lives, and surrendered. They were immediately bound, and taken on shore; a rope was fastened to the ship, her cable slipped, and the natives hauled her ashore, where she soon became a wreck. Forbes states that several Dutchmen had called at the island, to whom he appealed for rescue, but they all refused to interfere; and latterly, whenever any vessel hove in sight, he was always bound hand and foot, so that he should have no chance of escape. Both himself and the other boy had been made slaves to the tribes; his companion died about three years since. The poor fellow is still in a very bad state of health; the sinews of his legs are very much contracted, and he has a great number of ulcers all over his legs and body. Fortunately for Forbes, Mr. Watson had a surgeon on board the Essington, who immediately put him under a course of medicine, which, without doubt, saved his life; for, from the emaciated state in which he was received on board, it was impossible, without medical aid, that he could have survived much longer. Too much Fraise cannot be awarded to Mr. Watson for his exertions in rescuing this lad."