Saruwaget Mountains Fig 210

At first, about ten birds a day were collected which increased with growing experience of the two Malayan skinners. Mayr's plan was to search the surroundings of three stations at different elevations: (1) Sattelberg (700-1,000 m), (2) Junzaing (1,100-1,400 m), and (3) Ogeramnang (1,600-2,000 m). Christmas and New Year were spent at Sattelberg. On 7 January 1929 the expedition left for Nanduo, stayed there overnight, and arrived at Junzaing on the 8th. Interesting birds obtained at this locality included, e.g., Pseudopitta (Amalocichla) incerta, Sericornis ar-fakianus, and Casuarius bennetti. From 18-27 January Mayr visited Sattelberg and Finschhafen to send off part of his collections but was rather desperate because the ammunition which he badly needed had not arrived. Now he had to continue reloading his brass cartridges for the bird guns every evening.

Camp move to Ogeramnang was scheduled for 2 February. They crossed a ridge and descended into a deep valley reaching Joangeng in the afternoon. The village of Kulungtufu (1,529 m) was their next home for several days after they had crossed the deep valley of the Mongi River. Departing for Tobou on 8 February they reached Ogeramnang on the following day. A watershed between the Kuac and Burrum Rivers had to be crossed and just before reaching Ogeramnang (1,785 m) they had to descend once more into a deep valley. This village was the center of their collecting activity during the next several weeks. Much forest had been cut and now was interspersed with plantations. Most birds occurred along the forest edges, while hunting in the deep forest was poor. Mayr listed the names used by the


3-8 December 1928

9 December 1928

10 December 1928-6 January 1929

7-8 January 1929

9 January-1 February 1929 2-9 February 1929

10 February-4 March 1929 5-7 March 1929

8-12 March 1929 13-14 March 1929

15 March-3 April 1929

4-9 April 1929 10-27 April 1929

en route from Rabaul to Finschhafen en route to Sattelberg at Sattelberg collecting en route from Sattelberg to Junzaing at Junzaing collecting en route from Junzaing to Ogeramnang at Ogeramnang collecting climbing Rawlinson Range (Saruwaget Mts.)

high mountains, collecting returning to Ogeramnang at Ogeramnang, collecting en route from Ogeramnang to Finschhafen at Finschhafen

Fig.2.10. Huon Peninsula, southeastern New Guinea. Expedition routes in the Saruwaget Mountains and the Herzog Mountains (dashed lines). Approximate locations of villages in the Saruwaget Mountains are based on a map by Wagner and Reiner (1986: 63). For a location map see Fig. 2.4. Sa Sattelberg, N Nanduo, J Junzaing, Jo Joangeng, K Kulungtufu, To Tobou, O Ogeramnang, Z Zangung, T Mt. Titaknan, M Mindik, E Ebabe, RAW Rawlinson Range, D Dawong

Fig.2.10. Huon Peninsula, southeastern New Guinea. Expedition routes in the Saruwaget Mountains and the Herzog Mountains (dashed lines). Approximate locations of villages in the Saruwaget Mountains are based on a map by Wagner and Reiner (1986: 63). For a location map see Fig. 2.4. Sa Sattelberg, N Nanduo, J Junzaing, Jo Joangeng, K Kulungtufu, To Tobou, O Ogeramnang, Z Zangung, T Mt. Titaknan, M Mindik, E Ebabe, RAW Rawlinson Range, D Dawong

Burrum people and all they knew about bird life. On 22 February he had a severe malaria attack which he treated with quinine and the next day with plasmochine, an experimental drug offered by a pharmaceutical firm in Germany. It had never been licensed for it sometimes caused bad side-effects, particularly on the spleen. In his case it worked wonders. Mayr coped well with his situation, remembering that Erwin Stresemann also suffered with malaria throughout his expedition to the Moluccas in 1912. Although still weak, Mayr made a first short excursion on 25 February to watch one of the dance festivals of the natives some of whom wore large grass skirts. Each of the mountain tribes in this region had its own dialect or language and, besides it, the natives usually knew no more than one or two of the adjacent tribes. Therefore Mayr who spoke Pidgin English and Malay needed up to four local interpreters to communicate with certain groups of people.

On 5 March he left Ogeramnang for the high mountains, the Rawlinson Range, part of the Saruwaget Mountains (Fig. 2.10). Walking for him was still difficult and every step an effort. Ascending all day they reached a forest with tree ferns and unknown bird voices. The night was cold with pouring rain and only about 5°C. Marshy meadows, tree ferns, stretches of grassland along the water courses and woodland on the upper parts of the hills made it a very diversified landscape. The occurrence of grassland birds with endemic subspecies (Megalurus and Anthus) again indicated that much or at least most of the grasslands are old (see p. 65). On 8 March they reached a plateau with a lot of rhododendron and a high altitude bog. Here they found shelter in a hunting cottage of the natives. On the way up Mayr saw pipits (Anthus), the Alpine Thrush (Turdus poliocephalus), Rhipidura brachyrhynchus, high altitude species of Crateroscelis, Sericornis, etc. Above the tree limit on 9 March only Megalurus, Turdus and Anthus were observed. From the top of Mt. Titaknan (close to 4,000 m in elevation) they had a beautiful view over the Markham Valley to the southwest, the Huon Gulf in the south and toward the eastern part of the Rawlinson Range. The Saruwaget Mountains proper to the west were cloud covered. Collecting of birds and plants continued until 13 March, when they started the descent via Zangung, which was reached after dark; they were back in Ogeramnang the next day.

There was no mail, only disappointment, fatigue and exhaustion. Nevertheless the bird collection now comprised 1,000 specimens. Mayr here used again his system of paper money which, as in the Arfak Mountains (p. 58), was readily accepted by the mountain tribes. A very desirable bird was worth ten paper slips. A forest rail which Mayr later described as a new subspecies was at first such a most desirable bird, but after the natives had brought in more than ten specimens, he was forced to reduce its value (Mayr 2004g). Eventually, he had a total of 42 specimens of this montane rail which is shy, retiring and most difficult to observe. The explanation of why his natives had been able to collect so many specimens of this bird was their knowledge of how to catch them in their sleeping nests at night. This bird builds characteristic football-sized sleeping nests of moss and leaves in low trees in which several birds crowd together to spend the night (later confirmed by Mayr and Gillard 1954f). Thirty-five specimens of Mayr's series are still preserved in the Museum of Natural History of Berlin (Steinheimer 2004).

Finally the mail arrived in two installments on 26 and 30 March, the first in 2 months. Mayr's beloved grandmother in Lindau had passed away in December. Included in the mail was a box with Christmas cookies from his mother and a puzzling telegram from the Museum in Berlin: "Director favors Whitney suggestion." An explanatory letter was possibly on its way on the same April steamer with which Mayr intended to leave this region.

Collecting of birds, plants and insects around Ogeramnang continued until 4 April, when the expedition left this area and returned directly to the coast, this time along a different route than before, i.e., almost straight south via Mindik and Ebabe to Butala where they arrived on 6 April (Fig. 2.10).

"On the way we had to cross a torrent on a native bridge which essentially consisted of three rope-like lianas. One walked on the bottom liana, which was somewhat widened by additional vegetable material, and held on by the arms on the two other lianas. All the time the 'bridge' was swaying quite frighteningly. Even the natives were rather scared using it and the women in front of us at first refused to do so and wailed and cried. The men literally had to beat them to make them go. What a pity I didn't have a movie camera."

On the morning of April 7th, Mayr visited the mission station Deinzerhill across the bay from Butala and learned that the mission boat would pass by on 9 April. It brought him and his crew back to Finschhafen. A week later, on 16 April, he made an excursion to watch the displays of Paradisaea raggiana:

"We left at daybreak for the heights above Finschhafen. It went higher and higher and I was perspiring copiously. Finally the calls of Paradisaea electrified me and accelerated my ascent. We walked through a small piece of woodland and finally I see the orange-red feathers through the foliage. I sat down precisely under the tree which according to the natives is the favorite display tree. I waited here with my Malay. The birds are not yet very active since the real display time has not yet come. The plumage had been freshly molted and the feathers had not yet fully grown. There was a good deal of scattered calling on neighboring trees. Finally one male arrived on the display tree, my heart beating faster. The bird makes various intention movements and a moment later he begins to call, first slowly then accelerating and beginning with the display. The wings are spread and are beaten jerkingly, the plumes are raised. The bird during this display jumps excitedly on the branch on which he is standing and turns and rotates occasionally. The whole display lasts only a short time. Shortly afterwards two females appear which are vigorously pursued by the male but no copulation takes place even though the males at this time already have greatly enlarged testes. Copulation, according to the natives, takes place on the display tree and the activity is so vigorous that sometimes both of them together fall down from the display tree and can then be caught by the native standing under the tree."

A few days later, Mayr met Rollo H. Beck (1870-1950), leader of the Whitney South Sea Expedition from 1920 until late 1928 (p. 145). He had just returned from the Hompua-Wareo region, 5-10 kilometers north of Sattelberg, with a fine collection of mountain birds and was about to return to the United States.10 He had mostly collected in the Finisterre, Cromwell and Adelbert Mountains of northern New Guinea. Beck demonstrated with pride a specimen of a new form of forest rail and Mayr did not have the heart to tell him that he had got a large number of specimens of this common, yet shy bird which he (1931l) later described as Rallicula rubra dryas (today placed in the species Rallina forbesi). Before Mayr could stop them, the natives had collected 43 specimens of this rail, because they caught them in rather conspicuous sleeping nests into each of which several birds crowded at night (2004g). Probably Beck also told Mayr details about the Whitney Expedition making him even more curious about the meaning of the cable received earlier.

The Detzner incident. While traveling in former German New Guinea, Mayr heard about an exciting book by Hermann Detzner entitled "Four Years among Cannibals" (1920, Scherl, Berlin). The author, an officer of the small colonial police troop of German New Guinea, had retreated into the interior in 1914, when the Australians occupied eastern New Guinea at the beginning of World War I. There he had hidden at the Neuendettelsauer Mission station Sattelberg, near Fin-schhafen, throughout the war. His book pretended to report his experiences and adventures during these years and his success in thwarting all Australian efforts to capture him. Instead he had been all the time under the protection of the German missionary Christian Keysser with whom Mayr discussed Detzner's "adventures," fights with the Australians, survival in the remote interior, discoveries of various mountain ranges, rivers, and untouched human tribes. Most of these stories were pure inventions! However, upon his return home after the war, the German Geographical Society of Berlin had honored him with the "Nachtigall Medal" for his alleged geographical discoveries; the University of Bonn had awarded him an honorary degree and the government the Iron Cross First Class. The Foreign Office had given him a good position, and a glorious report on his "researches" was published (Behrmann 1919). Detzner's book was reprinted three times in 1921, translated into Swedish in 1925 and into French in 1935.

Mayr was bothered that German science had become the laughing stock of the Australians who knew where Detzner had been during the war and mocked at the naivete of the Geographical Society of Berlin. Mayr investigated the matter carefully and in discussions with missionary Keysser collected convincing material to prove that Detzner's book was nothing but a fairy tale. Upon his return to Germany in April 1930 Mayr informed the Geographical Society of Berlin but heard, after several months delay, that Detzner had been able to defend his stories. When Mayr then threatened to publish all of his evidence against the veracity of Detzner's "discoveries," the Society appointed a committee of three professors who investigated the case in more detail and interviewed Mayr later in New York. They came quickly to the conclusion that Detzner indeed had lied. He was obliged

10 Mayr's expedition to the Huon Peninsula was financed by the German Research Council and all birds collected were going to be sent to the museum in Berlin. Probably for this reason the American Museum of Natural History had asked R. H. Beck to spend some time collecting in this region before returning home in 1929.

to publish a statement that his book of 1920 was meant to be literature rather than a scientific report (see Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft für Erdkunde in Berlin, 1932, pp. 307-308) and to resign as a member of the Society in order not to be expelled. The reputation of the Geographical Society of Berlin was restored.

Even after 1930 and into the 1960s Detzner's name and his "achievements" have been cited approvingly by several authors. Finally Biskup (1968) discussed in detail the contents of Detzner's book and challenged several aspects of his account growing suspicious about certain details, when he read Keysser's autobiography (1929). In an appendix to his article Biskup (1968, p. 21) cited a translation of "Detzner's statement" in Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft für Erdkunde in Berlin and the note indicating his resignation from this Society but, of course, he knew nothing about the background to Detzner's statement and how his resignation had come about.

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