Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/585

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567
HOW THE EARTH WAS EXPLORED IN 1876.

and are opposed to the polygamy and cannibalism which exist among the Papuans. The southern peninsula of New Guinea was explored; a range of mountains forms the backbone, running north and south; at a height of 4,000 feet were found dense forests of tropical vegetation, covering the whole northern range except the top of Mount Owen Stanley, which rises in a double peak 13,205 feet. The soil of this region is very rich; sugar-cane, yams, sweet-potatoes, and tobacco, are cultivated; bread-fruit and mango are indigenous. The people have frizzled hair, and are darker than the Malays, differing from them also in disposition, being inoffensive and friendly. "The women take an active part in any disturbance, and were found more capable of making a hard bargain than the men. None of the tribes believe in a God, and attribute everything extraordinary to some supernatural agency.

"The climate of this part of the peninsula is relaxing. It is impossible to live in the valleys without impairing the constitution, from the excessive moisture; but in the interior it is more salubrious. Birds are very numerous, conspicuous among which is the bird-of-paradise, but flowers are scarce. Miclucho Maclay, who has made extensive explorations in New Guinea, was engaged last July in explorations on the northeast side of the island, about Astrolabe Bay, the part of the coast which has been named after him; and he reports that in April an earthquake occurred in the highlands in that vicinity, which destroyed many villages."

The island is 1,400 miles long, and from twenty to 450 miles wide; it possesses great vegetable and mineral wealth, and large portions of it are suitable to European colonization. It may in the future become the seat of an important civilization.

"The islands of the northeast coast of New Guinea have been visited. The natives are nude savages of the Oriental negro type, who live more like beasts than human beings. Cannibalism prevails throughout the islands, not as a religious rite, but as a means of subsistence. The details of this horrible practice are too revolting to repeat. The natives say that there is in the islands a race of human beings with tails, who are not monkeys; that the tail is bony and inflexible, so that those with this caudal appendage have to dig a hole in the sand before they can sit down, as they die if the tail is broken. We have thus revived the account of the men with tails heretofore reported to exist in Borneo and the interior of Africa, but always upon native information, with the exception of hearsay information alleged to have been given by a sailor cast away on the coast of Borneo, and, like all such, of little value."

Exploration has been made of that portion of the Australian Continent lying between Murchison and the Overland Telegraph line. The Ashburton River was traced to its source, thus defining the extent and position of the western water-shed which abuts on the