From Aitape to Finschhafen

The steamer that had been scheduled to call at Aitape a week before their arrival had been delayed so much that Mayr and his crew were able to reach it just before its departure. They started for Rabaul, New Britain, on 6 November. The first stop was at Allison Island and then at Mal, one of the Ninigo Islands, to load copra. The next halt was at one of the hilly islands of the Hermit Archipelago where the largest island still had original forest. In Rabaul, Mayr had more time than expected because his steamer, and before continuing to Finschhafen, had to pull a sister ship off a reef. This permitted him to visit Father Otto Meyer (Fig. 2.9) on Vatom Island off the coast near Rabaul who studied the bird fauna of his island and had been in contact with the Berlin Museum of Natural History for over 20 years publishing the results of his valuable research in several scientific journals. His invitation ran: "You must come, because I just got 40 eggs of Megapodius which need to be examined by a scientist—afterwards as an omelet!" He received Mayr most cordially, and they celebrated this meeting in the South Sea with a glass of wine. They had the most lively conversation about ornithological topics, particularly of course about the nesting habits of the mound-building megapodes.

The steamer "Mantura" with Mayr and his crew on board left Rabaul on 3 December reaching Alexis Harbour and Madang on 7 December and calling at Finschhafen on 8 December. There they were received most friendly by the Protestant-Lutheran Neuendettelsauer Mission. After two days of preparations they went up to the

Fig. 2.9. Father Otto Meyer, Uatom Island, off Rabaul, New Britain (Archive, Museum of Natural History Berlin, Orn. 121,5)

mission center at Sattelberg, where Mayr became totally immersed in a Christian atmosphere. He participated wholeheartedly because he was quite serious in testing once more his position toward Christianity. "However," he wrote in his diary, "I fear I simply cannot accept the Christian dogma. It demands too much sacrifice from one's reasoning."

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