Page:Picturesque New Guinea.djvu/236

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86
PICTURESQUE NEW GUINEA.

We first made for a little island about mid-way between Samarai and the mainland of New Guinea. If I recollect rightly, it is named on the chart Middle Island. This little spot, though probably not containing more than ten acres of land and at the highest part not above fifty feet higher than the sea level, is covered with an endless variety of tropical verdure, from the graceful cocoa palm to the wonderful orchid. The rocks and the gnarled stems of the Malavas near the water's edge are now covered with many kinds of dendrobia, some of them in flower; I noticed one beautiful species, white waxlike pendant blossoms, and another with green flowers delicately shaded from olive to brown in the centre. Shells in profusion were found on the beach; Mr. Smart, being an ardent conchologist, was in his glory, and we experienced some difficulty in getting him to leave the new wonders he was discovering at every turn. A gigantic white convolvulus attracted our attention, and I collected about a dozen kinds of seeds in this locality. Some of each kind I gave to Mr. Guilfoyle, the Director of the Melbourne Botanical Gardens, on my return. It was about 7 a.m. when we pulled away towards Heath Island. We had to row hard to cross a swirling tide-rip, and it took us nearly two hours to reach the smooth water of the little straits that separate Heath Island from Bonarua Island, where Miller had erected a cobra station not long before his untimely death. The place was then in charge of a family of natives from Heath Island. The Heath Island natives are reputed cannibals, and were said to be at war just then with a tribe from a neighbouring shore. But as we were not actually forbidden the place we made up our minds to visit a few of their villages. Near Miller's store we landed and lit a fire to boil a billy of tea and have some breakfast. We were soon noticed, and the natives flocked around us both from the little island we were on, as also from the shores of Heath Island opposite. There were men, women, and children among the crowd, and they certainly appeared a most peaceful lot of people. After breakfast Smart amused them with his conjuring tricks while we inspected Miller's Store. Several tons of dried cocoa nut (cobra) were stacked up there ready for shipment, but the industrious owner now rested peacefully in his grave near the Mission Station