Picturesque New Guinea/Appendix 3

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APPENDIX III.



GERMAN NEW GUINEA EXPLORATIONS.

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APPENDIX III.

GERMAN NEW GUINEA EXPLORATIONS.

(Brisbane Daily Observer, September 17th, 1886.)

DR. Knappe, German Consul at Samoa, was a passenger by the “Alexandra,” s., for Sydney yesterday, after making an official tour in the German territories of the Pacific. In the course of a conversation with a representative of this journal on board the steamer, he stated that, acting under instructions from the Imperial Government, he left Samoa in June last, and was transported by the flagship of the German squadron, the “Bismarck,” to New Britain and the Marshall Group, where he consulted the leading German traders with reference to important matters relating to the government of those islands, and the better organisation of the group. After spending a few weeks among the various islands Dr. Knappe arrived at Finschhafen, and at once accompanied a scientific expedition in the “Ottilie” up the Empress Augusta River, which empties into the sea some hundreds of miles from Finschhaven. He describes it as a magnificent stream, varying in width from one to two miles. There is no bar, and the “Ottilie” steamed up it a distance of 310 miles. The party then took the steam launch and navigated the river for another ninety miles. At the furthest point reached they were fifty-three miles from the Dutch boundary on the west, and sixty-three miles from the British boundary on the south. The river for the whole of the way up varied in depth from ten to fifteen fathoms. For the first 250 miles the country was fertile, with portions liable to inundation; not far back on the right hand side, however, a range of mountains towered aloft. The river had previously been explored by Captain Dahlmanu in the Samoa, for a distance of fifty miles, and after his point of exploration was passed, landings were made daily to observe the quality of the country, and to propitiate the natives who assembled in large numbers on the banks. Dr. Knappe's account of these savages is very interesting. He states that they were quite overcome on beholding the "Ottilie," and pointing reverentially to the sun (whom Dr. Knappe believes they worship) they fell at the feet of the explorers, as much as to say—"Children of the Sun we worship you." They are a powerful and apparently a contented race. Although every few miles the language was different, the mode of life and habits were similar. The largest village or plantation met with was about 240 miles up the river. It was situated some distance from the river, and contained from fifteen to twenty large houses at some distance from each other, and built at a height of about twelve feet from the ground on piles. Each house is very solidly built, large beams being used in the framework, which is covered by a thick thatch of grass. A peculiar custom obtains with reference to the separation of the sexes, the males and females occupying different houses. Each house or ward has accommodation for about fifty. The male children, up to the age of about thirteen years, inhabit the female wards. Owing to the brief stay and ignorance of the language. Dr. Knappe says he was unable to ascertain what are their customs with regard to marriage. As in other portions of New Guinea, the natives go in for extensive plantations, their special products being yams and other tubers, of which Dr. Knappe possessed no knowledge. Sago palms, bananas, and cocoa-nut trees also were growing wild in profusion. The favourite kind of ornamentation indulged in in the men's huts were rows of grinning skulls, in which the human and the crocodile were awarded the place of honour, the skulls of the dogs and pigs that surrounded them evidently not being held in such high reverence. The natives are not by any means vegetarians, deriving their supply of flesh from the hordes of dogs and pigs which surround their villages. They have also a kind of fowl, but Dr. Knappe did not observe at any of the feasts at which he was present that poultry was provided. Their bows, arrows, and spears are not nearly so well-made or so formidable as those of the coastal natives, and their canoes are nothing but trees hollowed out, first by chopping with their inferior stone axes, and then by fire. Dr. Knappe said that in one he counted twenty-two occupants. No out-riggers or rowlocks are used, the canoe being propelled by paddles, which are used by the rowers standing up. The natives, both men and women, are inveterate smokers of cigarettes, which they manufacture from the tobacco leaf, which is indigenous. The tobacco leaf is rolled tightly up, and enclosed in the green leaf of a pepper tree. Dr. Knappe smoked one himself and found that though a decided novelty, it was not all pleasant. Another custom is betel-nut chewing. They chew the nut, then place the end of a small stick in their mouth. The moistened part is then dipped in lime and again transferred to the mouth. Dr. Knappe was urgently invited to participate, but not having a cast-iron tongue, declined the request. The costume of the natives is rather primitive. The men go about entirely nude and the skirt worn by the women is remarkably scanty. Iron, which is generally so highly prized by savages, found no favour in the eyes of the natives there, but turkey red had not lost its power to charm, and the native that secured an empty bottle was an object of the greatest envy to his fellows. The prize was at once filled with lime and surrounded by betel-nut-chewers who in ecstasy dipped their lime-sticks in it and were happy. During the trip many geological specimens were obtained, including quartz, but as Dr. Knappe confessed that he was entirely ignorant of such matters he was unable to state whether the country was likely to be auriferous. After a very pleasant and instructive trip of three weeks the party again reached the sea, and on their way to Finschhaven inspected the stations at Feldthaven and Hatsfeldt Harbour. Both were found to be flourishing, especially the latter, which had experienced entire immunity from sickness for the past six months. Dr. Knappe spent a few weeks at Finschhaven as the guest of the Governor, Baron Schleintz, and expresses his belief that there is a great future before German New Guinea. The German New Guinea Company have been so far most fortunate. They have had no trouble to speak of with the natives, over 100 of whom, men and women, they have now working for them, the sole payment in return being an occasional donation of turkey red, scrap iron, or beads. The Malays, too, are working well, but, as is almost invariably the case, have to be ruled with a firm hand. It is intended by the Company to establish stations all along the magnificent stream opened up by Dr. Knappe and his companions, and in order to do so speedily an officer of the Company, Mr. Graboffski, accompanied Dr. Knappe to Cooktown, where he is now waiting the arrival of a British-India steamer. He will then proceed to Batavia, and engage 150 more Malays for this Company, who will employ them on the new plantations. The outlay of the Company up to the present has been considerable, without taking into consideration the loss of the Papua, but Dr. Knappe is of opinion that the privileges they have obtained will be of enormous value in the future. By their charter they have possession of all land not actually claimed by others, and as the natives do not care a rush for the land not comprised in their plantations the company practically own all the German territory. He also believes that the foundations of a prosperous colony have already been laid. Fortunately for Dr. Knappe, the "Ottilie" arrived at Cooktown just in time to catch the "Alexandra," which steamer will reach Sydney next Monday. Dr. Knappe the next day transships into the Lubeck, which steamer will land him at Samoa in time to form one of the Commission recently appointed by the British and German Governments to inquire into matters concerning the islands at present under his especial charge.


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CHISWICK PRESS:—C. WHITTINGHAM AND CO., TOOKS COURT, CHANCERY LANE.