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Record number: WCP3677

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Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
[not recorded]
22 March 1859

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, [address not recorded] to [addressee not recorded] [address not recorded] on 22 March 1859.

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11 January 2012 by Catchpole, Caroline


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ENCLOSURE (WCP3677.3581)

An enclosure handwritten in English.

Manuscript entitled "Notes of a voyage to New Guinea" written by Alfred Russel Wallace.

Held by:
Royal Geographical Society
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Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate

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Notes of a voyage to New Guinea. By Alfred R Wallace F.R.G.S.

Having been for three months the sole European inhabitant of the vast island of New Guinea, I trust a few notes of my visit may prove interesting, in the absence of much definite information as to that remote & imperfectly known country. Even at Macassar, Amboyna & Ternate, whence a considerable trade is carried on with the north western coasts & adjacent islands, I could learn nothing, except about one or two spots which had been visited by my informants, & even as regards them the points on which I was most interested had seldom been enquired into. I was led to believe there were several places where the natives had been sufficiently in communication with Mahoumedans & European traders to render it safe to reside among them. I have now ascertained however that there is on the main land only one such place, viz. Dorey; where more than thirty years ago they inhabitants were found by Lesson & Duperrey to be quiet & inoffensive -- According to the best information I have been able to obtain there are at the present time absolutely no other inhabitants than the native Papuans over the whole of this great island. Not [[2]] a single Malay or Bugis or Ceramese settlement exists, though several are scattered over the outlying islands; the principal being at Salwatty, a large island forming the apparent north west extremity of New Guinea from which it is separated by a very narrow strait. The statement often found on maps that New Guinea is "inhabited by Papuans & Malays" is therefore incorrect.

The whole northern peninsula of New Guinea as well as the islands of Waigion Salwatty & Balauta, is are exceedingly rugged & mountainous. There is a continued succession of jagged & angular ranges of hills, & every where behind them ridge behind beyond ridge stretch far away into the interior. Over the whole country spreads an unva[r]ying forest of a somewhat stunted appearance, broken only by the very widely scattered clearways of the natives on the lower slopes. Near Dorey the loftier mountains retire a little backward, & seem to reach the greatest altitude in the Arfak range, which the officers of the "Coquille" ascertained to have an elevation of nine thousand five hundred feet.

[[3]] Dorey harbour or bay is formed by a long low promontory curving round towards the Arfak range, which rises abruptly from the opposite side of the bay -- Towards the extremity of this promontory is situated the village of Dorey & opposite, at about a mile, is the inhabited island of Mansinam & a smaller one uninhabited. At the village of Dorey, I built a rough jungle house in which I resided for three months, occupying myself (in the intervals of fever) with exploring the natural history of the surrounding district.

The Dorey promontory is a raised coral reef, & geologically speaking, a very recent one. The beach is a mass of dead & broken coral, not yet ground into sand & quite impracticable for walking; & from this beach up into the jungle & even on to the hill to the height of two or three hundred feet, there is a scarcely a perceptible change in the coral rock & the masses of coral & shells that every where strew the surface -- In some of the gullies however, I found traces of a core of stratified rock. During my whole stay at this place rain was the rule, sunshine the exception -- On half the days there was heavy rain, - on half the remainder, a [[4]] 4 continual drizzle or intermitting showers, while even on fine days there was often a full haziness in the atmosphere, very different from our usual notions of the sunshine of the tropics. The last month of my stay should have been the dry season, but if there was any difference it was rather wetter & cloudier than before. Neither were the winds any more to be depended on than the weather. According to theory we went in the west monsoon & came back in the East; - but we found the winds directly opposite in both cases, whenever it was not a dead calm, & this made a 17 & 16 days passage of a distance of 500 miles.

The inhabitants of Dorey proper, live always on the coast, or more properly in the sea, as they always build their houses at, or below low-water mark, raised on posts & reached by a rough & tottering causeway from the beach -- Of all houses I have yet met with these are the most wretched. They are very low & long, & the roof is shaped like the bottom of a boat. Old mats, cocoa nut leaves, broken boats & bits of board, make [[5]] 5 a dwelling, such as some shipwrecked sailors might hastily set up for a temporary nights shelter, but which it seems hardly credible that any people should contentedly live in. all these The natives of the interior do not differ perceptibly in physical characters, but have a distinct language & are called "Arfaki" by the Doreyans. Their houses are very similar, but are raised twelve or fifteen feet high on a perfect forest of thin poles, a few of which are put diagonally & prevent the whole from falling with the first wind -- It is singular that these people know the use of diagonal struts, whereas the comparatively civilized Bugis & Macassar-men are quite ignorant of it; their houses being invariably inclined to one side by the prevalent winds & only kept from falling by the posts being pretty firmly set in the ground & the building connected with them, framed strongly of bamboos. The Doreyans are fishers & traders; the Arfakis are agriculturists. The former catch turtle & tripang, which they sell for beads, knives & cloth, & purchase of the Arfakis their rice & yams, plantains & bread fruits, & lots numbers of tame cockatoos & lories which they sell agai<n> [[6]] 6 to the Ternate & Tidore traders. All these natives have the characters of the Papuan race very strongly marked; - the flat forehead, heavy brows & large nose with the apex bent downwards are almost universal as well as the harsh curly hair, which often forms an enormous stiff mop & is then highly este[e]med. It has in fact a very grand & imposing effect. The colour of the skin varies greatly -- In general it is a dirty black or sooty colour, but varies to a fine brown, which is often quite as light as that of the pure Malay races, Skin diseases are is very common, & in the children serophulous disease abound, but as they which are seldom seen in adults; it is probably that therefore that the former die from neglect. The men wear the ordinary strip of bark cloth; the women generally a bugis sarong, or any piece of cloth or matting they can obtain. Tatt[o]oing is generally practiced, slightly by the men, but much more extensively by the women, who generally usually have the whole chest covered with elegant tracery, following the curves of the [[7]] 7 8 bosom. The females however are without exception the least engaging specimens of the fair sex it has yet been my fortune to meet with.

In mental & moral characteristics the Papuans differ remarkably from the Malay races. They are much more impulsive & do not conceal their emotions & passions. They are inquisitive, talk much & loudly & laugh boisterously, reminding one of the negro character as much as of the negro form & aspect. The natives of Dorey are not to be trusted in any thing where payment is concerned. If they do not actually steal, it is, I am inclined to think, only from fear of consequences. They are however not a fair sample of the New Guinea tribes, having been too much in contact with the lowest class of Mahometan traders, with whom they find it necessary to take every advantage in self defence. They possess the rude artistic genius of so many of the Pacific Oceanic tribes, decorating their household utensils & the prows of their canoes with elaborate carving, & decorating the posts of their council-house with obscene caryatides.

910 The language of the Doreyans resembles that of the Aru & Ke islands in containing a large [[8]] 11 number of monosyllabic words as well as others excessively polysyllabic, - offering a remarkable contrast to the striking dissyllabic character of the whole Malayan group of languages. It exhibits also the Polynesian characteristics of several distinct terms for certain objects according to the personal prefixed pronoun; - thus "my head", - "your head", - "his head", - are expressed by three distinct terms words. This language or mutually intelligible forms of it, is spoken by the coast dwellers over an extensive area, - at Amberbaki 100 miles west, in the islands of Waigion, Myfor, Jobie & Mysory, - and at Amberpoea & some other islands in the great bay, the natives can converse with those of Dorey & seem very similar to them in appearance & habits. They are evidently a wandering race answering to the Bajees or sea gypsies of the Indian Archipilago[sic].

I found Dorey very unhealthy and altogether a very disagreeable place to stay at, but I was obliged to remain till a schooner trading further East returned to Ternate. Fevers [[9]] 12 remittent & intermittent, with dysentery were very prevalent, & after the first fortnight I generally had two & often three of my servants ill at the same time -- One died of dysentery, & I was myself ill at least half the time of my residence in New Guinea. Neither was I rewarded by great success in my researches; on the contrary I found Dorey a very bad locality; - the low grounds and quagmire, the hills rugged and impracticable, while the principal objects of my search, - the rarer species of paradise birds, - were not to be found -- Mons[ieu]r. Lesson had obtained quantities of native specimens, but now even of these none were to be obtained.

The principal article of trade on the Northern coast of New Guinea is a fragrant aromatic bark called Mussoey, which is entirely carried to Java where the natives extract an oil of great reputed efficacy as a remedy for various disorders -- This is obtained only at one locality Wandammen, - deep in the great Bay -- Besides this Tortoise shell is an important article of trad<e> with a small quantity of Beche de mer & sago<.> [[10]] Wild nutmegs are also plentiful & in the district about Maclures Inlet a small schooner obtains an annual cargo.

The Dutch Government have taken possession of New Guinea up to the meridian of 141o E[ast] of Greenwich. This claim is often looked upon in England as a kind of usurpation, but [word crossed out illeg.] persons so viewing it are not probably aware that along nearly the whole of the coasts included within the northern & southern extremities of this live, an extensive trade is carried on exclusively in vessels sailing from various ports of the Moluccas & carrying the Dutch flag. Considerable portions also of this extensive line of coast have been or are being surveyed by the Dutch Government, and instead of cavilling at their claiming so much, it seems more reasonable to admire their moderation in not claiming the whole of a country with which they are so intimately connected. Should the Royal Geographical Societys collection not yet contain them, I may take this opportunity of calling their attention to a very beautiful series of Maps of the Dutch [[11]] possessions in the East, by Baron Melville[sic] von[sic] Carnbee13.

On the small island of Mansinaru opposite Dorey have been residing for about three years two German missionaries. I fear however that in the Doreyans, they have very impracticable materials to work on, - & I fea am afraid they neither have made nor will make much impression. From the little I have seen of the Dutch missionary system in these countries, I am bound to declare my opinion that it is altogether wrong in principle -- I allude to the custom of the missionaries being also traders. In the island of Lombock during my stay there two gentlemen were employed in winding up the affairs of one of these trading missionaries who had failed to the amount of some 20,000 dollars. He was despised for his ignorance & incapacity in business by the acute Chineese[sic] & native traders, & was therefore in a decidedly false position when attempting to teach them. It seems to be that a man in in trades (especially in these countries) attempting to teach Christianity is in a terrible dilemma. To make his trade profitable, he must drive [[12]] hard bargains, he must take little advantages even of the necessities of his customers & disciples, & thereby stultifies his own teaching of unselfishness & charity. If he does not do this he cannot live! The best & most effective missionary system I have seen is certainly that of the French Jesuits in the Straits, in Siam & in China, because by living in poverty & establishing an almost entire community of property between the teacher & his disciples, they prove convincingly that their sole object is the benefit of their flock -- Whatever the doctrines taught may be the method of the teaching is certainly admirable.

When in Amboyna in January last I heard that an exploring expedition was decided on to fix upon some place on the coast of New Guinea for a settlement. A steam frigate war steamer & a sailing vessel carrying troops & stores left that port in [[13]] 14 March & commenced their exploration on the S[outh]. W[est]. coast near the Utanata river from which place to the island of Lakahia they made a detailed survey -- They then came round to Dorey where they arrived on the 5th of May. A few days before a coal ship from Banjarmassin in Borneo had left for Amboyna having staid[sic] in Dorey harbour two months waiting for the steamers arrival -- Thise captain told us his agreement was to return on a fixed day which was some days past when he left -- The steamer was nearly out of coal & could neither go on nor go back. It lay a month in Dorey & the soldiers firemen &c. were kept to hard at work cutting down & sawing up huge trees for fire wood -- This was all done & all got on board & the steamer was to leave for Amboyna the next day when back came the coal ship -- Now out went the wood again, & the coal being taken in the steamer went off to Humbold[sic] Bay where they staid[sic] a few days opening a communication with [[14]] 15 the natives who are quite unsophisticated, but superior morally & physically to the Doreyans. The plan of the original expedition was to explore the whole coast on their return by they were short of provisions & went straight back to Amboyna. The results of this voyage were not very great, & it may probably be resumed next year. The captain informed me that a recommendation would be given to establish a military post at Dorey which he had no doubt would be done. As a place for a settlement it is in every respect bad, - the soil is not good, there is little water & the natives of the interior are few scattered & hostile. It is however the only harbour for whalers or China ships after passing Pitts Straits into the Pacific, & it is this circumstance which decided the recommendation for an establishment.

This is the latest news from New Guinea. I shall not probably myself visit the main [[15]] land again, but hope in the next year or two to be able to reach Waigion, Salwatty & the little known island of Mysool.


Notes of a Voyage to New Guinea


Alfred R. Wallace


1. Text in unknown hand reads "Slip -- for | Journal" in the top left margin of the page

2. Text in pencil in unknown hand reads "For abstract | please return | to D. Shaw as | early as | possible" in the top left margin of the page

3. Text in pencil in unknown hand reads "Christy" at the top left of the page

4. The number "4" written at the top right of the page

5. The number "5" written at the top left of the page

6. The number "6" written in pencil at the top left of the page

7. The number "7" written at the top left of the page

8. Text in unknown hand reads "form" above the word "bosom"

9. Text in unknown hand reads "figures?" in the bottom left margin

10. Text in unknown hand reads "Beiing"[? ] in the bottom left margin

11. The number "8" written at the top right of the page

12. The number "9" written at the top left of the page

13. Pieter, Baron Melvill van Carnbee (1816-1856), Dutch naval officer & geographer

14. The number "13" written at the top left of the page

15. The number "14" written at the top left of the page

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