Arfak Mountains Vogelkop5


5 April 1928 arrival in Manokwari

12 April 1928 en route from Manokwari to Momi

13-15 April 1928 at Momi

16-17 April 1928 ascent to Siwi

18 April-24 May 1928 at Siwi collecting

25-27 May 1928 en route from Siwi to Ditchi via Ninei

28 May-8 June 1928 at Ditchi collecting (climbing Mt. Mundi and Mt. Lehuma)

9-10 June 1928 en route from Ditchi (via Dohunsehik) to Kofo

11-15 June 1928 at Kofo (Anggi Gidji Lake) collecting

16-23 June 1928 en route from Kofo to Momi (via Dohunsehik, Ditchi and Siwi)

24-25 June 1928 en route from Momi to Manokwari

After several days of preparations, Mayr and his crew of seven (3 mantris and four Christian Papuas) departed on the government boat, the "Griffioen," on 12 April to Momi, 90 km south of Manokwari and located at the eastern foot of the Arfak Mountains (Fig. 2.5). Obtaining the necessary porters and converting the baggage into many small portable loads took another four days until the expedition was ready to leave Momi and to enter the foothills of the Arfak Mountains in a northwesterly direction on 16 April. The general plan was to collect birds at different altitudes up to the shores of one of the two Anggi Lakes at 1,925 m. Considering the steep mountainous terrain and the poor condition of the trails, the porters refused to take loads weighing more than thirty pounds. About 60 porters were required to carry the equipment and supplies. They entered the rainforest soon after leaving Momi and new bird calls were heard everywhere. It was quite a sensation when Mayr saw the first brilliant bird of paradise (Ptilorhis magnifica) alive, a species which he had known so far only as a museum skin. On the second day the hunters brought two adult males of the Superb Bird of Paradise (Lophorina superba) and a female with large eggs of the Dwarf Whistler (Pachycare flavo-grisea). Mayr and his mantris had collected around Manokwari several common species like Meliphaga albonotata, members of Rhipidura, Cinnyris jugularis and C. sericeus, Aplonis cantoroides, Oriolus szalai, Halcyon sancta and H. albicilla, and had listened to the incessant calling of Philemon novaeguineae.

5 Mayr (1930f, 1932e) published two accounts of this expedition based on his detailed diaries which have been preserved and are deposited in the archives of the Staatsbibliothek Berlin (Mayr Papers). Moreover, this archive holds the letters he wrote to his family, to Ernst Hartert and to Erwin Stresemann (Haffer 1997b). I have used all of these documents in the preparation of this account of the expeditions to New Guinea and the Solomon Islands (1928-1930). I did not include the rich information contained in the diaries and letters on the natives and their customs, general considerations on colonialism and life in the tropics or on the many logistic problems regarding camp moves, porters, and transportation which fill many pages of these diaries.

6 The dates are taken directly from Mayr's diary; a few of them differ slightly from those given by Vink (1965: 487).

Fig. 2.5. Vogelkop region, NW New Guinea. Expedition routes (dashed lines) (1) from Momi on the coast to Anggi Gidji (Male Lake) in the Arfak Mountains and (2) from Wasior into the Wondiwoi Mountains, Wandammen Peninsula, April-July 1928. Stippled contour line-2000 m elevation; solid areas-mountains over 2500 m elevation. A1 Anggi Gidji (AG), A2 Anggi Gita (AGi, female lake), K Kofo, Do Dohunsehik, D Ditschi, N Ninei, S Siwi. M Momi,

W Wariap, R Ransiki. For a location map see Fig. 2.4 <-

Mayr felt absolutely fantastic when he entered the forests. He stepped from the shore into the tropical jungle and at that time New Guinea was virtually untouched. Walking into the interior, he came to villages where no white man had ever been. And to wake up in the morning and hear those tropical birds calling and singing around the camp was an overwhelming experience for him. While ascending the forested mountain slope on the first day, having heard many stories about the treachery of the mountain tribes, he became startled because:

"Our column had lengthened very much and I was alone at its head accompanied by a number of Papuans fully armed with knives, bows, and arrows. Suddenly a terrifying howling started at the end of the caravan, advancing toward me and getting louder and louder until it became a blood-curdling series of screams and yells. I had no idea what this could mean and had not read anything like it in the entire New Guinea literature. I was frightened, feeling certain that this was a signal to attack, and I expected every moment to feel the knives of the carriers in my back. As it turned out, it was really the war-cry of the Manikion tribe, but on this occasion it was uttered only to inspire the energy of the carriers."

The night was spent in Ingeni, a small campong (village) with three large houses. "I slept peacefully in my tent. Apparently everybody had gotten up early and there was an active camp life with much chatter and noise. Suddenly complete silence, when I had stepped out of the tent. If that doesn't give one megalomania, I don't know what will. I simply can't get used to playing the role of the tuan besar (big master). A little while later while I was supervising the breaking up of the camp the chief of the Papuas suddenly came to me and urged me to go to the head of the column because that is the place where the tuan should be."

On 17 April a camp was established at Siwi at about 800 m elevation after they had crossed a mountain range at over 1,300 m. Mayr climbed Mt. Taikbo (ca. 1,400 m) on the following day. A leg wounded from bathing on a coral reef at Manokwari had become worse during the climb but improved with medication and rest during the following days. The hunters collected special birds and everybody was busy skinning. Nothing would be wasted: The skins with the feathers were saved, but the bodies of somewhat larger birds went to the kitchen for dinner! Mayr ate more birds of paradise in those years than any other modern ornithologist. Peltops and Halcyon sancta, an Australian migrant, were shot near the camp, as were Amblyornis and Rhipidura albolimbata. There was much rain which, however, did not last for more than one or two days. On such occasions Mayr filled three notebooks with words of the native language with the help of several interpreters. The Papuas and the mantris proved to be faithful workers and sometimes they and Mayr had to stay up skinning at night until 11 p.m. Several local Papuas participated in hunting and some of them had a very good knowledge of animals.

"The people know the birds very well; every one has its own local name. When I describe one, they know immediately which species I have in mind. However, Lamprothorax wilhelminae, Janthothorax mirabilis, Loborhamphus nobilis and Neoparadisea ruysi [some of the "rare Birds of Paradise"] are unknown in this region" (to E. Hartert on 1 May 1928; transl.).

Some species with similar plumage had a group name, e.g., those of Pachy-cephala, Graucalus, Manucodia (including Phonygammus). The natives also knew quite a bit about the displays and life histories of Parotia sefilata, Lophorina su-perba, Drepanornis, Diphyllodes, Paradisaea, and Phonygammus.

On 28 April five police soldiers arrived from Momi sent by the governor for Mayr's "personal protection". However, they needed blankets and frightened the Papuas away from the camp. To dispatch the collections obtained so far Mayr marched down to the coast at Momi on 3 May and was back in camp at Siwi already on the 8th. Collecting had continued during his absence.

Erwin Stresemann stimulated Mayr's ambitions effectively by asking numerous questions on the biology of the birds of paradise and other species inhabiting the mountain forests and also gave specific advice, e.g., "Hartert joins me in the call: Do not overexert yourself and your people! Thou shalt sanction the holiday! Rest at least one day a week. [...] Don't measure your success with the scale. Don't be testy that I preach you this again and again, but I have done myself all those blunders against which I am cautioning you" (19 May 1928; transl.).

On 25 May, after Mayr had sent the five soldiers back to the coast, the expedition left Siwi for the villages of Ninei (800 m) and Ditchi (1,000 m). He was rather weak from diarrhea during the preceding days and had trouble climbing and descending the steep ridges, but was helped by the natives. The group stayed overnight at Ninei and then continued climbing Mt. Mundi where he observed Pachycephala schlegeli, Myzomela rosenbergii, and Ptiloprora erythropleura at 1,500 m. The descent toward Ditchi (1,000 m) was quite gradual following a long ridge. Camp was established in a newly built house on the opposite slope of the valley at 1,200 m elevation on 27 May. Montane birds and plants were collected in the luxuriant forests on the surrounding slopes during the following days, when they climbed Mt. Mundi (1,800 m) and Mt. Lehuma (1,900 m). Mayr made a list of 136 native names for the 137 speciesthe birdsinthe area, andassoonashereceivedspecimens he addedtheir scientific designations. By this method he was certain not to miss any bird. Only two species were confused by the natives (Mayr 1963b: 17). To prevent his helpers to collect more specimens of very common birds he did not "pay" them. Otherwise they would get a little slip of paper that was worth one point, for better ones three or five, and for rarities ten slips of paper. When they had 25 points together, Mayr would give them an ax or a piece of loincloth or something like that. This system worked beautifully, and on the whole Mayr established excellent working relations:

"The Papuas always have great admiration for athletic feats. They are not at all impressed by the fact that I can write letters and that I have a precise idea of the value of each species of birds. This they take for granted. But when I lift a particularly heavy load with the little finger of my left hand and none of them can do that or when I toss a heavy rock a whole meter or more, further than even the strongest among them, then they really are full of admiration." An eclipse of the moon evoked no signs of interest or excitement and Mayr asked them if they had no myth about it. When he continued questioning them, one of the men slapped his shoulder and said soothingly: "Don't worry, master, it will become light again very soon." Mayr never again tried to acquire any information that was not given willingly.

Generally speaking, the habits of the natives varied regionally much more then Mayr had expected. Almost every valley was inhabited by tribes with a different culture. The natives, of course, were aware of Mayr's difficulties when crossing deep ravines on very steep trails or creeks on slippery tree trunks. There was always somebody waiting for the privilege of helping or carrying him across. When a river was not too wide and rather shallow he tried to cross it by jumping from rock to rock, greatly admired by the Papuas. Where they required five little steps he did it with one jump aided by a long stick (visible in Fig. 2.6).

In the interior of the Vogelkop he was alone for weeks and months with his three Malay mantris and New Guinea natives. Of course, he often felt depressed and lonesome. Stresemann's encouraging letters were a great help, praising him for his achievements, criticizing gently whatever he had done wrong asking numerous questions regarding the life history and courtship of many birds. Mayr was grateful for these letters "which I need badly. As you state quite correctly one gradually dulls against all tropical splendor, but such a letter shakes one awake again for a month" (late July 1928; transl.). To be addressed as "Dear researcher and friend" ... "pleased me very much. You will have noticed from my letters how much I consider you as my confidant and friend. After my return home your obligation as a friend will again be to educate me."

On 5 June, the 1,000th bird skin was made, quite a nice achievement. On the same day, a police force of two officers and about 20 soldiers and forty carriers arrived from Manokwari and that was the reason: The five soldiers dismissed at Siwi had told on their return all sorts of stories and rumors about the ambushed camp and murderous natives. Mayr had supposedly insisted on continuing into the interior and probably was no longer alive. The government therefore had sent a major police force into the mountains to rescue him or at least to punish the natives for his death. The five police soldiers were later court-martialed in Manokwari for all the lies they had told causing nothing but trouble.

On an excursion to Sohila (1,350 m) on the slope of Lehuma Mountain several new records entered the notebook and a display ground of Amblyornis inornatus was found: The carefully cleaned platform in front of the "house" was adorned with various red, grayish-green and white flowers (mostly orchids) and an empty snail shell. At 1,800 m the forest with taller trees and less moss covered was quite different from that on Mt. Mundi only 10 km away by air. Several days were devoted to collect plants and to label all bird skins.

The police force returned to the coast on 9th of June and, at the same time, the expedition departed for the mountain lake Anggi Gidji ("Male Lake") which was reached on the following day. Only one assistant accompanied Mayr and

Fig. 2.6. Ernst Mayr (right) and Sario, one of his Malay assistants, at Kofo, Anggi Gidji (Arfak Mountains), former Dutch New Guinea, June 1928 (Photograph courtesy of E. Mayr.)

a much reduced number of porters, while the other two mantris and crew members continued collecting around Ditchi. Actually, Mayr had intended to visit Lake Anggi Gita ("Female Lake") closer to Siwi (Fig. 2.5). But it was Basi, the local chief who provided the porters and chose the route. Why did he prefer this one? As Mayr later discovered, he wanted to get a bride for his son in which, however, he was unsuccessful. At the time Mayr suspected there might be hostile villages in the area or no trails. Sometimes at least he was in the hands of the natives and had to do what they told him.

The march from Ditchi via Dohunsehik consisting of two houses was very strenuous because several deeply incised valleys had to be crossed on slippery trails. At 1,500 m began the moss forest which was here as luxuriant as on Mt. Mundi. Lake Anggi Gidji is located at an elevation of 1,925 m. During the next 5 days, the expedition stayed in the village of Kofo with most friendly inhabitants. Mayr collected birds of a rather surprising Australian/Papuan faunal mixture: On the water Anas superciliosa and Fulica atra, in the marshes rails and Acrocephalus and in the grasslands Megalurus and a new species of Lonchura (L. vana). A few steps away in the forest he encountered such typically Papuan high mountain birds as Machaerirhynchus nigripectus, Amalocichla incerta, Melidectes leucostephes, etc.

Anggi Gidji had once before been visited by a botanical expedition in 1912, and the natives had a great respect for white people. On the fourth day of his stay, the chief made to Mayr a generous offer:

"He appeared before me leading a girl of about 12 years by his hand, his daughter. He proposed that I should marry this girl and become permanent resident of his village. They would build me a house, they would give me a piece of land for my 'garden,' they would plant my fields, and provide everything I need for living, and I wouldn't have to do anything, as I interpreted it. All I had to do was lend my prestige for his greater glory and that of the village of Kofo. As preposterous as the idea was, for a fleeting moment, I thought that if I accepted it, life for me would suddenly be easy, no more worries of any kind, but of course I knew it was impossible. Yet, if I declined the offer, I would insult him and I might get into immediate trouble. Most of all, I would not get the porters that I needed to get back to my base camp, so I gave the chief a very evasive answer stressing that half of my party was back at Ditchi and I had to take care of them and of my Malay mantris and I referred to the future rather vaguely. Fortunately, he accepted my answer and I rejected a carefree life as the guest of a proper mountain tribe."

Fig. 2.7. Ernst Mayr (right) with his assistant Darna in the government guest house at Momi, former Dutch New Guinea, labeling bird eggs, June 1928. (Photograph courtesy of E. Mayr.)

No trouble arose between Mayr and the Kofo people. In fact, on 16 June the whole village was lined up wailing about their visitor's departure. After the delay of a whole day when two hunters had shot a wild boar, they reached Ditchi at noon of the 19th and left for the coast at daybreak of the following morning. While they descended Mayr received the mail of several weeks. Overjoyed, he spent the evening in Ninei reading and rereading his 25 letters. On their arrival in Siwi the next forenoon they found the village empty since the people had left for the coast and for a distant valley to collect dammar7. By paying a whole load of salt to their chief, Mayr persuaded the Ditchi porters to stay with him. They arrived at Momi in the early afternoon of 23 June (Fig. 2.7) and, with a fairly old canoe, left again for Manokwari in the early afternoon on 24 June. They all paddled strongly for many hours until they reached their destination at 10 o'clock in the evening of the following day. Tired, unshaved, dirty, and sunburnt, Mayr immediately had to board the Dutch marine survey ship to tell about his adventures.

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