Page:Picturesque New Guinea.djvu/141

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47
EXCURSION UP THE AROA RIVER.

banks of the Thames or the Isis. On the 4th September the trial trip was made, the Lakatois from the village at Fairfax, Planuabada, and Koitapu, at the foot of the mission station, rendezvousing at the western extremity of the harbour. I landed with my instruments, and succeeded in getting some excellent views of these picturesque vessels, which, when in full sail, resemble a bird flying with its wings blown over its head. The craft, with sails lowered, are poled against the wind to the starting point, where they lie awaiting the fresher breeze of the afternoon. About 3 p.m. we noticed sails being hoisted and a general bustle, upon which we hastened from the mission house to the beach, and found collected there some 400 men, women, and children, whose interest in the sport was intensified by most of them being part owners in one or other of the craft. On the signal being given, moorings were slipped, and away went the boats, well together at first, but eventually those furthest from shore getting the strongest wind, and forging ahead amidst frantic shouts of delight from their owners. When some distance out the boats luff, reverse sails, converting what was the bow into the stern, and make for the point where the spectators are posted, greeted by shouts of admiration and enthusiasm. This trial trip is regarded as a semi-religious ceremony, charms and mystic rites being practised to ensure fine weather and make the expedition a success. During the race a native ballet is performed by the young girls on board the craft, who swing their bodies to a chant composed of two notes only, and accompanied by the monotonous beat of drums. Notwithstanding the high winds, I was able to get several most successful unique instantaneous pictures of the scene, which convey a more vivid impression of the Lakatois than any written description could afford.

On the 8th September the "Governor Blackall" got under weigh shortly after 7 a.m., and left Port Moresby to visit Red Scar Bay. Leaving Mourilyan to the right, we took the inner passage, skirted Fisherman Island, steered for Lily Island, and passed Boera about 10 a.m., the islets of Vari Varu now showing on our port bow. From a distance they seem three disconnected rocks, the one nearest the Australian coast being covered with timber, leafless at this season, but