CHAPTER 7. On the War-Trail in Cannibal Papua.

Expedition against the Doboduras - We hear reports about a Web-footed Tribe - Landing at the Mouth of the Musa River - A Good Bag - Barigi River Reached - A Flight of Torres Straits Pigeons - A Tropical Night Scene - Brilliant Rues of Tropical Fish - Arrival of Supplies - Prospects of a Stiff Fight - Landing of the Force - Pigs Shot to Prevent them from being Cooked Alive - Novelty of Firearms - A Red Sunrise - Beauty of the Forest - Enemies' War Cry First Heard - Rushing a Village - Revolting Relics of Cannibal Feast - Doboduras eat their Enemies Alive - Method of Extracting the Brains - Extensive Looting - Firing at the Enemies' Scouts - An Exciting Chase - When in Doubt Turn to the Right - Another Village Rushed - Skirmishes with the Enemy - Relics of Cannibalism general in the Villages - Camp Formed at the Largest Village - Capture of Prisoners - An "Object, Lesson" - Carriers ask Leave to Eat one of the Slain - Arigita's Opinion - Cannibal Surroundings at our Supper - Expectation of a Night Attack.

We were three white men, Monckton was the resident magistrate, while Acland and I myself were NON-OFFICIO members of the expedition, being friends of Monckton.

We had been some time at Cape Nelson, where the residency was, a lonely though beautiful spot on the north-east coast of British New Guinea. Whilst here I had made good collections of birds and butterflies, and had made expeditions into the surrounding and little known country, including the mountains at the back, where no white man had yet been. And now (September 17th, 1902) we were off on a government exploring and punitive expedition into the unknown wilds of this fascinating and interesting country.

We three sat on the stern of the large whale boat, while the twenty police and our four boys took turns at the oars. They were fine fellows these Papuan police, and their uniforms suited them well, consisting as they did of a deep blue serge vest, edged with red braid, and a "sulu" or kilt of the same material, which with their bare legs made a sensible costume for the work they had to perform in this rough country. As they pulled cheerfully at their oars they seemed in splendid spirits, for they felt almost sure that they were in for some fighting, and this they dearly love.

Our boys, however, did not look quite so happy, especially my boy Arigita, who was a son of old Giwi, chief of the Kaili-kailis. He - old Giwi - had gone on the previous day with three or four large canoes laden with rice and manned by men of the Kaili-kaili and Arifamu tribes, and we intended taking more canoes and men from the Okeina tribe EN ROUTE.

Our expedition was partly a punitive one, as a tribe named Dobodura had been continually raiding and slaughtering the Notu tribe on the coast, with no other apparent reason than the filling of their own cooking pots.

Although the Notus lived on the coast, little was known of them, though they professed friendship to the government. The Doboduras, on the other hand, were a strong fighting tribe a short way off in the unknown interior, no white men having hitherto penetrated into their country: hence they knew nothing about the white man except by dim report.

After we had settled our account with them we intended going in search of a curious swamp-dwelling tribe, whose feet were reported to be webbed, like those of a duck, and many were the weird and fantastic rumours that reached our ears concerning them.

The sea soon got very "choppy," and up went our sail, and we flew along pretty fast. We had left behind us Mount Victory (a volcano which is always sending forth volumes of dense smoke) some time before, and some time afterward we were joined by a fleet of fourteen large canoes, most of them belonging to the Okeina tribe, but also including the three Kaili-kaili canoes sent off on the previous day.

We all then went on together, and late in the afternoon we landed at a spot near the mouth of the Musa River. We spent the evening shooting, and had splendid sport, our bag consisting of ducks of various species, pigeon, spur-winged plover, curlew, sandpipers, etc. We also saw wallaby, and numerous tracks of cassowary and wild pig. After some supper on the beach, the Kaili-kaili, Arifamu and Okeina carriers, numbering over one hundred, were drawn up in line, and Monckton told them that he did not want so many carriers. If they (the Okeinas) would like to come, he would not give them more than tobacco, and not axes and knives, which he gave to the Kaili-kaili and Arifamu carriers. They unanimously wished to go even without payment, as they were confident that we should have some big fighting, and they, being a fighting tribe, simply wished to go with us for this reason. Monckton sent off the carriers that night, so that they could get a good start of us. It was a bright moonlight night, and it was a picturesque scene when the fleet of canoes started off amidst a regular pandemonium of shouting and chatter. I do not suppose that this quiet spot had ever before witnessed such a sight. We were off next morning before sunrise, and continued our way in a dead calm and a blazing sun.

We soon caught up with our canoes, which had gone on in advance on the previous night. A breeze sprang up and we made good progress under sail, and soon left the canoes far behind. We saw plenty of large crocodiles, and a persevering but much disappointed shark followed us for some distance.

We camped that night just inside the mouth of the Barigi River, on the very spot where Monckton was attacked the previous year by the Baruga tribe. They had made a night attack upon him as he was encamped here with his police, and had evidently expected to take him by surprise, as they paddled quietly up. But he was ready for them, and gave the leading canoe a volley, with the result that the river was soon full of dead and wounded men, who were torn to pieces by the crocodiles. The rest fled, but he captured their chief, who was wounded.

Upon our arrival late in the afternoon Acland and I started out with our guns after pigeon, taking our boys and some armed police, as it was not safe to venture far from the camp without protection.

The vegetation was very beautiful, and there was a wonderful variety of the palm family. We wandered through very thorny and tangled vegetation. We espied a fire not far off and went to inspect it, but saw no natives, though there were plenty of footprints in the sand.

Towards evening we saw thousands of pigeons settle on a few trees close by on a small island, but they were off in clouds before we got near. They were what is known as the Torres Straits pigeon, and were of a beautiful creamy-white colour. On the banks of this river were quantities of the curious NIPA palm growing in the water. These palms have enormous rough pods which hang down in the water, and there were quantities of oysters sticking to the lower parts of their stems. We dynamited for fish and got sufficient to supply us all with food.

About nine p.m. all the canoes turned up and the camp was soon alive with noise and bustle. The carriers had had nothing to eat since the day before, and poor old Giwi, the chief, squeezed his stomach to show how empty he was, but still managed to giggle in his usual childish fashion.

They brought with them two runaway carriers who had come from the Kumusi district, where many of the miners start inland for the Yodda Valley (the gold mining centre). They had travelled for five days along the coast, and had hardly eaten anything. They had avoided all villages EN ROUTE, otherwise they themselves would undoubtedly have furnished food for others, though there was little enough meat on them. There were many different tribes in this neighbourhood, and Monckton was far from satisfied as to the safety of our camp if we were attacked. We sent off a canoe with Okeina men up the river to get provisions from the Baruga tribe who had attacked Monckton the previous year, and they now professed friendship to the government. The Okeinas were friendly with them, but as they paddled away in the darkness Monckton shouted out after them to give him warning when they were coming back with the Baruga people, and they shouted back what was the Okeina equivalent for "You bet we will."

We pitched our mosquito nets under a rough shelter of palm leaves, and I lay awake for some time watching the light of countless fire-flies and beetles which flashed around me in the darkness, while curious cries of nocturnal birds on the forest-clad banks and mangroves from time to time broke the stillness of the tropical night, and followed me into the land of dreams, from which I was rudely awakened early the next morning by clouds of small sandflies, which my mosquito net had failed to keep out.

We stayed here the following day, and put in part of our time dynamiting for fish at the mouth of the river. It was a curious sight to see the fish blown high into the air as if by a regular geyser. We got about three hundred; they were of numerous species, and most of them of good size. Many were most brilliantly coloured, indeed the fish in these tropical waters are often the most gorgeous objects in nature, and would greatly surprise those who are only used to the fish of the temperate zone. During the day the Okeinas returned. They were followed by several canoes of the Baruga tribe with their chief, who brought us four live pigs tied to poles, besides other native food, which, together with the fish, saved us from using the rice for the police and carriers. New Guinea is not a rice-producing country, and the natives not being used to it, are far from appreciating it. A little later some of the Notu tribe from further north arrived by canoe. They had again been raided by the Dobodura tribe, and many of them killed and captured. They said the enemy were very strong, and Monckton told us that it was more than likely that they could raise one thousand to fifteen hundred fighting men. We determined to resume our journey the next day, and go inland and attack their villages. We seemed likely to be in for a good fight, and the police especially were highly elated. Old Giwi, who bragged so much about his fighting capabilities at starting, shook his head and thought it a tall order, and that we were not strong enough to tackle them.

We left again early on the morning of September 20th, the canoes with our carriers having gone on the previous night. Early in the afternoon we passed large villages situated amid groves of coconut palms. These belonged to the Notus, who had been suffering such severe depredations at the hands of the Doboduras. Shortly before arriving at our destination we found the carriers waiting for us on shore, they having too much fear of the Notus to reach their villages before us.

We determined to land on the far side of one particularly large village. Rifles were handed around, and we strapped on our revolvers, and all got ready in case of treachery. Then came a scene of excitement as we landed in the breakers. Directly we got into shallow water the police jumped out, and with loud yells rushed the boat ashore. There was still greater excitement getting the canoes ashore amid loud shouting, and one of the last canoes to land, filled, but was carried ashore safely, and only a few bags of rice got wet.

We pitched our camp on a sandy strip of land surrounded on three sides by a fresh water lagoon, our position being a good one to defend, in case we were attacked. Monckton then took a few police and went off to interview the Notus.

After a time he returned with the information that the Notus appeared to be quite friendly, and anxious to unite with us against the common foe on the morrow.

Several of them visited our camp during the day and brought us native food and pigs, which latter Monckton shot with his revolver, to prevent our carriers cooking them alive. It was quite amusing to see the way the Notus hopped about after each report, some of them running away, and small blame to them, seeing that it was the first time that they had ever heard the report of a firearm.

The next morning saw us up long before daybreak, and in the dim light we could see small groups of Notu warriors wending their way amid the tall coconuts in the direction of our camp, till about seventy of them had assembled. They were all fully armed with long hardwood spears, stone clubs and rattan shields (oblong in shape and of wood covered with strips of rattan, with a handle at the back), and led the way along the beach. The sun soon rose above the sea a very red colour, and a superstitious person might have considered it an omen of bloodshed.

It was hard work walking in the loose sand, and I was glad when we branched off into the bush to walk inland. We passed through alternate forests and open grass land, the forest in places being quite luxuriant, and new and beautiful plants and rare and gaudy birds and butterflies made one long to loiter by the way. Amongst the palm family new to me was a very beautiful LICUALA, perhaps the most beautiful of all fan-leaved palms, and a climbing palm, one of the rattans (KORTHALZIA sp.), with pinkish stems and leaves resembling a gigantic maidenhair fern, which looked very beautiful scrambling over the trees, together with two or three other species of rattans.

Our combined force was over two hundred strong, the Notus leading the way, then came most of the police, then we three white men, then more police, and our Kaili-kaili, Arifamu and Okeina carriers brought up the rear bearing our tents, baggage and bags of rice.

As we wended our way down the narrow track there were several moments of excitement, and the Notus several times fell back on to us in alarm, but their fears seemed groundless.

We continued our march for many hours, and just as we came to the end of a long bit of forest, the Notus came rushing back on to us in great confusion. We soon learned the reason. At the end of a grassy stretch of country was a village surrounded by a thick grove of coconut and betel-nut palms, and some of the enemy's scouts had been seen, and we heard their distant war-cry, a prolonged "ooh-h-h, ah-h-h," which was particularly thrilling, uttered as it was by great numbers of voices. The Notus all huddled together, then replied in like language, but their cry did not seem to possess the same defiant ring as that of the Doboduras.

We three took off our helmets and crouched down with the police just inside the forest, with our rifles ready for the expected rush of the enemy, having sent the Notus out into the open, hoping thereby to draw the enemy after them. We meant then to give them a lesson, make some captures, and come to terms with their chief. Two or three times the Notus came rushing back, and I fully expected to see the Doboduras at their heels, but they were evidently aware that the Notus were not alone, and all I could see was the distant village and palm-trees shimmering in the quivering heated air, and the heads of the Dobodura warriors crowned with feather head-dresses bobbing about amid the tall grass, while ever and anon their distant war-cry floated over the grassy plain.

We decided to rush the village, which we later found was named Kanau, but when we got there we found it deserted. In the centre of the village was a kind of small raised platform, on which were rows of human skulls and quantities of bones, the remnants of many a gruesome cannibal feast. Many of these skulls were quite fresh, with small bits of meat still sticking to them, but for all that they had been picked very clean. Every skull had a large hole punched in the side of the head, varying in size, but uniform as regards position (to quote from Monckton's later report to the government). The explanation for this we soon learnt from the Notus, and later it was confirmed by our prisoners. When the Doboduras capture an enemy they slowly torture him to death, practically eating him alive. When he is almost dead they make a hole in the side of the head and scoop out the brains with a kind of wooden spoon. These brains, which were eaten warm and fresh, were regarded as a great delicacy. No doubt the Notus recognised some of their relatives amid the ghastly relics. We rested a short time in this village, and our people were soon busy spearing pigs and chickens, and looting. The loot consisted of all sorts of household articles and implements, including wooden pillows, bowls, and dishes, "tapa" cloth of quaint designs, stone adzes, beautiful feather ornaments, "bau-baus" or native bamboo pipes, wooden spears, and a great quantity of shell and dogs'-tooth necklaces.

We saw three or four of the enemy scouting on the edge of the forest, and I was asked to try to pick one off, but before I could fire they had disappeared. Then several Notus ran out brandishing spears, and danced a war-dance in front of the forest, but their invitation was not accepted. We next saw several armed scouts on a small tree about five hundred yards away, and we all lined up and gave them a volley; whether we hit any of them or not it is hard to say, but they dropped down immediately into the long grass. At any rate, it must have astonished them to hear the bullets whistling round them, even if they were not hit, as it was the first time they had ever heard the report of a firearm of any description. Some of the police went out to sneak through the long grass, and we soon heard shots, and they came back with the spears, clubs and shields of two men they had killed. They also brought a curious fighting ornament worn on the head, made of upper bills of the hornbill.

We continued our march through some thick forest, and at length came to the banks of a river, where we suddenly crouched down. An armed man was crawling along the river bed, peering in all directions, and shouting out to his friends on the opposite bank. We were anxious to make a capture. Monckton suddenly gave the word, and up jumped a dozen police in front of me and plunged into the river and gave chase. I followed hard, but the police in front were gradually leaving me far behind. Till then I always fancied I could run a bit, but I knew better now. Seeing the man's shield, which he had thrown away in his flight, I at once collared it as a trophy of the chase. Then looking around, I found that I was quite alone, and the thick jungle all around me resounded with the loud angry shouts and cries of the enemy. I found out afterwards that my friends and the rest had no intention of giving chase, but had been highly amused in watching my poor effort to keep up with the nimble barefooted police. I shall never forget those uncomfortable few minutes as I rushed down the track in the direction the police had taken. Visions arose before me of the part I should play in a cannibal feast, and I expected every minute to feel the sharp point of a spear entering the small of my back, just as I had been seeing our people drive their spears clean through some running pigs.

To my dismay I found the track divided, and it was impossible to tell which way the police had gone. To turn back was out of the question. I had come a good way, and I had no idea where the rest were, and from the uproar at the back I imagined the Doboduras were coming down the track after me. I hastily decided to go by the old saying, "If you go to the right you are right," and it was well for me that I did so, as I found out later from the police that if I had gone to the left - well, there would have been nothing left of me, especially after one Dobodura meal, as the enemy were there in full force. As it was, I soon afterward came up with the police, feeling rather shaky and white.

The police had captured a middle-aged woman, whose face and part of her body were thickly plastered with clay. This was a sign of mourning. We learnt that she was a Notu woman, who had been captured some time previously by the Doboduras. She was much alarmed, and whined and beat her breasts, and caressed some of the police. We made her come on with us, and the rest of the party soon joining us, we came to another village, which we "rushed," but it, too, was deserted. There was more killing of fowls and pigs, and a scene of great confusion as our people speared and clubbed them and ran about in all directions, looting the houses, picking coconuts, and cutting down betel-nut palms, many of them decorating themselves with the beautifully variegated leaves of crotons and DRACAENAS, some of which were of species entirely new to me. It seemed a bit curious that these wild cannibals should exhibit such a taste for these gay and brilliantly coloured leaves and flowers, which they had evidently transplanted from forest and jungle to their own village.

We continued our way through bush and open country, our police having slight skirmishes with small bands of natives. One big Dobodura rushed at Sergeant Kimi with uplifted club, but Kimi coolly knelt down and shot him in the stomach when he was only a few yards off. The round, sharp stone on the club being an extra fine one, I soon exchanged it with Kimi for two sticks of tobacco (the chief article of trade in New Guinea, and worth about three half-pence a stick).

Toku, Monckton's boy, and a brother of my boy, Arigita, who carried his master's small pea-rifle, shot a man in the back with it as the man fled, and thereafter was a hero among the boys. Arigita wished to emulate his brother, and begged hard to do some shooting on his own account with my twelve-bore shot gun, which he carried, and he seemed very much hurt because I would not allow it.

We passed through many more villages, embowered in palm groves, and in each village we saw plenty of human skulls and long sticks with human jawbones hanging upon them. On one I counted twenty-five; there were also long rows of the jawbones of pigs, and a few crocodiles' heads. These villages were all deserted, the natives having fled. At length we came to what appeared, from its great size, to be the chief village, which we later learnt was named Dobodura. It extended some distance, and stood amid thousands of coconut palms. Here we determined to camp, but we found that most of the police had rushed on ahead after the Doboduras, much to Monckton's annoyance, for it was risky, to say the least, as the enemy might easily have attacked each party separately. But the police and carriers, now that they had "tasted blood," seemed to get quite out of hand, and their savagery coming to the surface, they rushed about as if demented. However, they soon returned with more captured weapons of warfare, having killed two more men, and they also brought two prisoners, a young man and a young woman. The prisoners looked horribly frightened, having never seen a white man before, and they thought they would be eaten: so Constable Yaidi told me.

The man was a stupid looking oaf, and seemed too dazed to speak. The woman, however, if she had been washed, would have been quite good-looking. She had rather the European type of features, and was quite talkative. She told us that most of her people had gone off to fight a mountain tribe, who had threatened to swoop down on this village. These complications were getting exceedingly Gilbertian in character. To begin with, the Kaili-kaili and Arifamu carriers were afraid of the Okeinas, who in their turn were afraid of the Notus; the Notus feared this Dobodura tribe we were fighting, and the Doboduras seemed to be in fear of a mountain tribe. We ourselves were by no means sure of the Notus, and kept on guard in case of treachery. These tribes, we heard, were nearly always fighting, and always have their scouts out.

To return to the prisoners. We showed them how a bullet could pass clean through a coconut tree, and they seemed to be greatly impressed. They were then told to tell their chief to come over the next morning and interview us, and that we wished to be friendly. We then gave them some tobacco and told them they could go, and it was evident that they were astonished beyond words at their good fortune. As they passed through our police and carriers, I feel sure that they suspected us of some trick on them.

A bathe in the cool, clear river close by was delightful after a very hard day, but we, of course, had an armed guard of police around us, and practically bathed rifle in hand, as the growth was dense on the opposite bank.

Our people seemed to be quite enjoying themselves, looting the houses, and one of the police was chasing a pig in this village, when he was attacked by a man with a club. The policeman was unarmed, but immediately wrenched the club from the man's hand and smashed his skull in, and the body lay barely one hundred yards from our tent. This was too tantalizing for our carriers, who came up and begged permission to eat it, although they knew full well that Monckton had given orders that there was to be no cannibalism among them. Needless to remark, the request was refused, but they had the pluck to ask again before the expedition was over.

My boy Arigita had often eaten human meat, and as he expressed it in his quaint pidgin English, "Pig no good, man he very good." It can be imagined it must be really good, as the Papuan thinks a great deal of pig. We had a good appetite for supper, in spite of the fact that we ate it within a few yards of a half-burnt heap of human skulls and bones, which appeared quite fresh. Our various tribes were all camped separately, and they looked very picturesque round their different camp fires, with their spears stuck in the ground in their midst, their clubs and shields by their sides, and the firelight flickering upon their wild-looking faces.

To our astonishment, our late man prisoner returned and said that his chief wished to see us that night. At once there was a great commotion among our police and the Notus, who all spoke excitedly together, and were unanimous that this implied treachery, and that behind the chief would come his men, who would attack us unawares. We also learned that it was not their usual habit to make friendly visits at night. Monckton thought the same, and told the man that if the chief or any of his people came near the camp that night they would be shot. The man also informed us that all his tribe had returned; no doubt swift messengers went after them to bring them back. The man went, and we waited expectantly for what might happen. Everyone seemed certain that we should be attacked, and if so, we had a very poor chance with from a thousand to fifteen hundred well-armed savages making a rush on us in the semi-darkness, as there was no moon, and it was cloudy.

The enemy would rush up and close with our people, and while we should not be able to distinguish friend from foe, we should not be able to fire in the darkness at close quarters. They could then spear and club us at will. Now we had always heard that Papuans never attack at night, but the police and Notus told us that these Doboduras nearly always attacked at night, and if we had known this before we should most certainly have made ourselves a fortified camp outside the village. But it was too late to think of this now, and we knew that we were in a very awkward position. The fact that they could gather together so large a force as was alleged, was estimated by Monckton from the size of these villages, which showed that they were a very powerful tribe.

The whole police force were put out on sentry duty, as also four or five Kaili-kailis who had been taught at Cape Nelson to use a rifle.