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Adventure in the Sunda Seas

Date: 2 September 1938
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Nancy Jean Steele Bequest
Object Copyright: © Australian National Maritime Museum
Object Name: Newspaper clipping
Object No: ANMS0542[031]

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    Additional Titles

    Primary title: Adventure in the Sunda Seas

    Assigned title: Abenteuer in den Sunda-See

    • Berlin News Friday, 2 September 1938 Adventure in the Sunda Seas Encounters on a journey in a collapsible boat by Oskar Speck 3rd installment The mysterious shark head Past Reo, a village about five kilometres up a river, I went along the coastline of Flores as far as the island of Paloweh. It is inhabited by a tribe that is different from the other inhabitants of Flores. The men wear their hair long and, with their large, wide noses, their facial features are similar to those of the people from Papua. I arrived there before sunset. The people were very friendly, but when I wanted to sleep in my boat close to the water as usual, they resisted strongly. A few of the villagers had already been taken by crocodiles and so they were terrified of the animals. My objection, that I had a pistol, did not help either. I had to carry my boat up to were their huts were built on stilts. Then they started a campfire and the villagers stayed awake all night feeding it. They passed the time weaving mats and telling stories, and I was sure that I was the protagonist in them even though I could not understand their language. The main speaker, still quite a young man, seemed to be telling the most absurd stories, and all night the men and women’s laughter did not stop. Since I couldn’t sleep either (and who could through those noisy outbursts of merriment?), I prepared my boat in order to continue my journey before daybreak. Suddenly one of the people came running up to me. From his gestures I concluded that a crocodile was lying on the beach. Only about fifty metres away from the last hut something was there that I would have taken for a tree trunk in the poor light. Just as I was about to approach it further, I was held back with imploring gestures. So I took out my pistol, attached the barrel extension, which turned it into a sort of a short rifle, and was about to approach the presumed tree trunk. In the meantime the sun had come up, and I just needed to take a few steps to arrive at the conclusion that it was indeed a huge crocodile. Since it was not moving, I made an attempt to capture the [illegible] on film. In a great hurry I took the tripod from the boat, attached the telescopic lens to the camera and carefully crept closer. About 30 metres away from what the inhabitants assured me was a sleeping crocodile, I set up the tripod. One of the natives seemed to have more respect for the tripod and the camera than for the crocodile. He came running up to me to help me set up the tripod. I have no idea whether the crocodile was woken only by the rushing steps or whether it had been watching my manipulations with an amused smile all along. In any case, it lifted its head slightly and then, with a sudden movement it pushed itself into the surf and was gone before I had finished all my preparations. With a sour face I packed up all my gear again and paddled away. [Photo of a native fisherman with the caption:] Native from Lamakera, fishing with bow and arrow A few days later I found a huge shark head where I had landed. Since I hadn’t seen a soul the whole day, and there was no village or settlement of any sort near where I had landed, I initially assumed that a crocodile had attacked a shark. But I immediately rejected this, since there would have been no reason for the crocodile not to eat the head as well. Also, the shark head was placed vertically into the sand. Upon closer inspection I found some red coloured water in a few coral hollows, in which fishermen washed the pieces of fish. I found out later that it was a sacrifice, which some fishermen had made to their god. A relatively large sacrifice, certainly, since the natives on Flores are quite poor and they do not throw any part of the fish they catch away. Two days later I arrived at Maomere, one of the main localities on Flores. I must have acquired the appearance of a rogue in the meantime, because when I arrived at the home of the Dutch official with my passport, I was asked to remain outside the house, which is quite contrary to the habits of Dutchmen living in these remote parts. The Dutch official’s wife and a few other Europeans on the veranda maintained an icy silence, while I marched up and down in front of it, quite depressed by that time, waiting for the official to appear. When he did appear, I was ushered into the house. But their aversion only disappeared after I had made a visit to the Steiler Mission stationed there and was very warmly received. The German Consul General in Batavia had already sent a letter of recommendation by the Bishop. At the Steiler Mission, where there are many German missionaries, I stayed for one day. Then I moved on to visit a coconut plantation in Rangahale, which belongs to the mission. From there I went around the tip of Flores to Larantoeka. I stayed at the Steiler Mission there as well and had the opportunity to learn a bit more about its work. They were working very hard, and some of the pastors and brothers I met had not been back to Europe in over twenty years. A dreadful imposition, which any of the other Europeans living in Dutch-India would indignantly reject. The natives were being taught various trades and quite a few capable workers emerged from the colleges of the mission over the years. The work that is being done in the mission hospitals is also exemplary. From Larantoeka I went on to the island of Adonara. I stayed for one day in a small place called Waiwerang. The island of Adonara has been the location for a number of family murders in the past. There are two different tribes fighting each other on this island. They practise blood revenge, and this had caused a lot of difficulties for the government for quite some time. Circumstances have improved a lot, but nevertheless, the majority of servants to the government officials in this area are former murderers. They receive prison sentences, but since most of the are quite harmless chaps, totally loyal to their European masters, they are made servants. I never met a government official who would have preferred to have a thief as a servant instead of an honest murderer. [Photo of a shark head with the caption:] The shark head on the island beach From Adonara I went across to the island of Solor. While the majority of the population on Adonara is Christian, albeit recently converted, Solor is Muslim. In the village of Lamakera, where I landed, I was received by an excited crowd. The natives behaved like madmen, and I had to be careful not to have my boat smashed to pieces. These people were not unfriendly at all, it was just the expression of their excitement about my visit. I was able to take some photographs, but the women were very shy, as is common among Muslims, and I could not get any of them in front of the camera. I also saw some natives fishing in Lamakera. The larger fish are caught with harpoons, while smaller ones are shot with bow and arrow. Instead of a pointy tip, the arrows have a sharp metal blade wounding the fish to the point where they have to come to the water’s surface, where they are caught by hand. From Solor I crossed a narrow strait of only about 5 kilometres to get to Lomblen. There also is a strong current in these straits, because the difference between the tides here is quite significant. When low tide is very low the natives go down looking for fish and shellfish in the ponds of water left behind by the receding tide in the coral banks. All these animals get pierced by three-pronged spears. The following day I arrived at the largest village on Lomblen, called Lamalerap. I came across another mission station there. The natives on Lomblen converted to Christianity about thirty years ago. Lamalerap, a real fishing village, is situated beautifully on the side of a mountain. It is the only village in this area where they catch whales. To be continued …
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