Page:Picturesque New Guinea.djvu/398

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176
BRITISH NEW GUINEA.

head the country presents a more open appearance. The river above Ellengowan Island is not nearly so straight as it is below, it winds in almost complete circles, so that progress up country was much slower here. Alligator tracks are very numerous, the country generally low and swampy, and very few birds about. We did not see any natives for a considerable distance, until we saw a canoe round a point ahead, with some men, apparently drawing their bows. We stationed our party to act on the defensive, and held out a large table-cloth as a sign of friendship. On rounding the point we found a large number of canoes full of men, who kept pulling ahead, close into the bank, until they entered a small creek. On both sides of the river there were a large number of low houses, roofed in a very primitive manner, and standing about four feet high; these houses were apparently abandoned by everybody excepting one man, who extended his arms, evidently to show that he was not armed, and was friendly disposed. He was black, and perfectly nude, excepting the usual shell, which the Sumautese call "We-der-ow." The creek that the canoes had entered we found connected with the river round a small grassy island. I did not stop to communicate with these natives; but as we passed them I saw several of them in the trees watching us, and when we had passed by, the canoes came out of the creek again, apparently greatly relieved at our not having molested them. We now found the country altering a great deal. The outstretching spits were now more sandy than before, and the country appeared more open; grassy plains stretching to the westward, where I could also see several lagoons inland, and to the north-west there appeared higher land thickly wooded. About 4.30 p.m. on the same day, July 28th, we came to a junction of the river, one arm going north-east and the other north-west. On the east point of this junction, where the sand spit extended, it was completely covered with large logs of drift-wood, forming, in fact, a complete timber stack. I carefully examined both branches, and finding a strong current and large logs of wood drifting down the north-east branch, determined upon ascending that river, it lying in the direction the Society wished to explore. This branch joins the Fly in latitude 7 degrees 34 minutes south, longitude 141 degrees 21 minutes east; I named this the Strickland River, in honour of Sir E. Strickland, President of the Administrative Council of this Society, and Chairman of the Melbourne Geographical Conference, at which the New Guinea Expedition was decided upon. We upon the voyage wondered why this river was not noticed in Mr. Hargrave’s notes concerning the exploration of the river Fly {vide vol. i. of the Society’s proceedings), and unfortunately had no copy of D’Alberti’s work with us; but since returning I have read his work on New Guinea, and find in vol. ii., page 260, that he dis-