PAPUA NEW GUINEA

Gold-Dust and Ashes

         

GOLD! YELLOW GOLD - heavy gold! He stared at it with burning eyes, this man on the mountain tops. His are unusual eyes that, when startled, instantly cloud over in a wary waiting. Throughout New Guinea he is known as "Shark-eye Park", or "Shark-eye Bill", rarely as William Park. He is a jungle-man, master too of the forest and of the wild men who dwell in both. Breathing deeply, he stared at the gold, a soundless laugh erasing the harshness from his face. In civilized surroundings that face would have smiled good humouredly, but here it portrayed the battler, the seeker. He was of midlife age, of more than medium height, with spare frame that suggested a panther-like strength. When he walked, his steps were noiseless as he moved among the trees.

Around him now the pines and red cedars of the Upper Bulolo towered above a maze of jungle. Near by on the Wau Plateau the sun shone upon acres of kunai grass that, walled by jungle, made a green amphitheatre which might have been a giants' sports ground. The sun shone across the deep gorges on to other grasses upon other mountain peaks hedged by jungle and sombre with scrub. Towering mistily above these peaks was grim Kaindi, swathed in rolling clouds. Truly, nature here reigned supreme; a land that was as it might have been in the Beginning, after it had first been made habitable for man. It was deathly quiet. Presently, up over everything crept a furtive sighing - the wind-blown breath from the great Bulolo Gorge far below. Upon a tree on the jungle edge flashed a thing of beauty, displaying a cascade of starlet and gold. In tremulous colours agitated by its dance a bird of paradise, pirouetted, then suddenly called in a strange, harsh tone. This man was alone, yet not alone. Savage men dwell on the unseen peaks around; village after village between him and the coast - a journey of eight days. Grim villages some, their stockaded portals stained with violence.

The white man's hands trembled as he gripped the dish. He had just washed the gold from Koranga Creek above where it splashed in the Bulolo. Although his face smiled now, his mesmeric eyes held the attention of the head-hunting tribesmen squatting around. Two Lambura men, also crouching there, with lowering brow and thick lips, were from a cannibal tribe. To these savage nature-men he was a bom-bom (white man) and long-long (mad) in the joy that he found in those yellow sands of the creek. They wondered in silent mistrust of his pleasure, for he was no white fol. He had but to glare and they felt their minds numbed, while their limbs, moved to do his bidding, leaving them to ponder afterwards. He was an 'un-explainable" to them, this grim personality whose tambaran (devil) could cow their own sorcerers; meet their wiliest planning with a tambaran yet more cunning; who could live among them as a right; even compel them to work. They did not fear the man. They feared his tambaran, the "devil power" that enabled him to do as he wished, go where he willed, in this their own land as even they could not. That he found his strange pleasure under the shadow of giant Kaindi was suspiciously natural, for it had been cursed in the days of long ago these slopes had long since been taboo to them and theirs. Why did yellow stones spat out from the bowels of Kaindi, though worthless to them, appear to be of magic value to the bom-bom? Gloweringly they watched, apprehensive that the spirit of the mountain and the tambaran of the bom-bom were conspiring against them.     

Park scraped the gold from the dish into a small canvas bag. With the little three-pound prospecting pick he dug again into the creek. From the hole he dug he washed a confirming dish of dirt. The gold glittered there in ounces. He stared, trembling, with a delightful smile. The tribesmen squatted motionless. This man held some queer mental power over all these people. In the gloom of a native house he could stare at a hostile man until the fellow hung his head or got up and uneasily slouched away. 'Without speaking, he could alter the course of their thoughts; change their contemplated actions. His ally was an iron command over his own will. He could enter a stockaded village and observe with those cold eyes of his, even should the warriors come dancing in yelling triumph, holding aloft a freshly severed head. He could give the impression that he was silently admiring the head; it was a good head, warrior's head, a token to be proud of if only properly cured. But when covertly they glanced at his head they were afraid. He understood and could intimately transmit his understanding of their mentality, their mysticism, their ceremonial life, their complete life. He could live among them in village after village, with tribe after tribe - and survive.

He stared in ecstasy at the gold. A goldfield! He had found it - and alone! That knowledge and the gleaming stuff thrilled his heart. He wanted to throw the dish into the air, to yell his delight. After many years he had realized the prospector's dream. Untold wealth lying underfoot! A fortune for himself; fortunes for others! This yellow metal could transform him from an unknown wanderer into a financial giant, in a moment; make him a god among men if he wished. Gold might be lying here in tons, within the creeks, among the roots of the trees, under the river terraces. The law of the jungle here was ended. In a second of time this land had commenced a new era in its history. He looked at the natives, a thought dawning behind those eyes that could see and say so much. The kanakas glowered back. What would that yellow metal mean to them and the tens of thousands like them? A distant kundu boomed, hollow and sinister. It seemed, to tell "One-white-man" - "One-white-man" The drum's tones rolled over the Bulolo Gorge, over those sighing valleys, and were caught up by dimmer drums on farther peaks: "One-white-man" - "One-white-man-"

Park read the message; and staring at the cocked ears of the tribesmen he read, too, their expressive faces. War-drums! He put away the gold, brushing the last grains from the dish with his finger. His face was again stern, almost expressionless, as he worked deftly, but without seeming haste, though wildly excited. He stood up, one hand in his side, one grasping the gold he had won that day, and gazed at the glimpses of sky among the pines. The blood rushed to his heart and brain and he laughed aloud. For he had found gold! gold! He drew a delirious breath, then with his eyes fairly dancing under feelings that they would never fathom, he nodded to the tribesmen. Grunting, they picked up their long bows and, stepping softly as cats, stole back into the jungle, while the white man stood listening to the beat of the kundu drum.

New Guinea rises sheer out of the Pacific like some vast thing crouching o spring. It is a fiercely beautiful but a dangerous land; once seen and breathed it may lure you back again and again. Anchor in a quiet bay mirrored by cliffs whose foliaged heights are crowned by the clouds and you are aware of a vague sweetness - the smell of New Guinea. It is no illusion: many of us know it in various ways. A city man who figures in this story instantly detects it every time he opens a parcel from New Guinea. Alas, the last time, it came with the belongs of his dead friend.

New Guinea! Nature's last stronghold, luring the white man and the civilization she dreads! New guinea! Land of sudden death, delirious happiness, tragic despair! Land of vivid colour in herself and in the deeds of her people! In the old days she attracted the Spaniards and Portuguese in quest of an "isle of gold". The Dutch came too, with those hardy seadogs, the English, beating up wind for a bit at the bone, while the tricolour raced with them all. the Spaniards and Portuguese faded out during a highly romantic squabble between Holland and England over the "Spice Islands". the Dutch, aft4r a hundred years of war with the natives, gained Java and the East Indies, which interest Australians now because of the population of fifty millions within a few days' sail - a few hours by plane - of our shores. Holland later, by a treaty with a native prince of the Moluccas ()the Rajah of Onin), virtually bought Dutch New guinea for a packet of tea". Later still adventurous sea-rovers of numerous nationalities found the Pacific and South Pacific a sea-rover's paradise. American whalers in tall-masted ships sought oil and isles in the sun. Missionaries came, displaying a heroism and self-sacrifice that often served their country well. There were patriots among the sea-rovers who took national possession of great island systems, only to be bitterly disappointed when their respective governments failed to ratify the possession. Empire builders were not always taken seriously in those days, to the loss of the short-sighted national France took her share in new Caledonia and French Oceania and won a firm foothold in the New Hebrides side by side with England. America crossed the Pacific and annexed Hawaii, the Philippines, Guam, and eastern Samoa.

New Guinea was not partitioned until almost the last; her mountain barriers turned the adventurers to spoils easier of access. They chased whales all over the waters; raided sea-bed for pearl-shell; landed on smaller islands to cut the sandalwood beloved by the Chinese; and eventually settled far and wide on the small isles and started coconut plantations. In those coral seas and South Pacific isles, energetic characters made little private kingdoms and ruled sometimes kindly, sometimes with a fist of iron. That story is brightened with love and romance and darkened with blood and tragedy. Britain stepped in at last (after a far-seeing Queensland statesman had forced her hand) and took possession of the south-eastern portion of New Guinea. It is now known as Papua, and is politically a part of the Australian Commonwealth. So Time brought Australia into the picture.

The total area of Papua, with its adjacent island systems is 90,540 square miles. Adjoining it is Dutch New Guinea, now the Indonesian territory of West Irian, 151,789 square miles, almost one-half of the main island. An area of 91,000 square miles was left unoccupied; and this has turned out to e the riches portion of New Guinea. It is now our Mandated Territory. Again Time tossed the dice in favour of Australia. The "last shall be first" as it were; for Australia as a nation was not dreamed of when the pow4rs were busy seeking good things in the south Pacific. More than thirty years before the beat of that kundu which shook Park's nerves, Germany entered the South Pacific and was just in time to take possession of that remaining area of New Guinea, to be called until the Great War "German New Guinea". But a slip of a girl forestalled Germany by years. Captaining a handful if braves, with gums in her belt, she sailed in a small boat and took possession of the future Bismarck Archipelago. Later, as Queen Emma, she took the salote of the German fleet; was feasted by emperors; and become one of the world's wealthiest women - only to die tragically at the height of her great romance.

"But space does not allow wandering in these fascinating bypaths - and I hear the beat of a kundu drum!

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SEEKING A NATION'S GOLD

Gold talks a language that is carried by the wind. Hence the rumour in distant Rabaul, and the whisper in Papua, that the three Australians prospectors were "getting gold". Again, odd men slipped over the border, only to be challenged and hastened back. Lucky of they escaped by losing only the gold or bird of paradise skins in their possession. Crows, Park, and Darling did not always stay strictly far to their invitation. Prospecting away from their allotted district, they occasionally found trouble. Darling, quietly sneaking along in a whaleboat up-river into forbidden country, was spied and chased by officialdom back to the open sea. Of course it could not be expected that old Matt Crowe would do otherwise than run foul of the German authorities: "I'm no bloomin' parrot in a cape," he said. "They're not going to pin me down to one district." And they couldn't. but they conducted his feathers and gave him a flying stars to help him along. "Not a damn feather to fly with," he growled. "And' I was going to play hell in Samarai." But old Matt cruised back again vowing he would "take it out of Germany". He got his chance when a German cruiser anchored in the mouth of the Waria. The prospectors, sailing into the river-mouth not in their district, were nicely caught. In so little trepidation they accepted the invitation to "come aboard". Old Matt's hair bristled to the whaleboat cruised up to the man'o'-war. "For heaven's sake," whispered Jim Preston. "Go steady, Matt."

"I'll show 'en!" growled Matt.
"Hush!" admonished Pryke. "These men have been decent to us it's our fault if we are prospecting here without a permit."
But old Matt glared up at the grey vessel, at the guns poling out over the sides, at the disciplined sailors:
"I'll show 'em! he muttered.
With apprehensive feelings his mates followed him up the gangway.
"I see you've got steam up!" Matt said as he climbed to the deck.
"Yes," replied the officer civilly. "We always keep steam up, we are always prepared."
"Always prepared eh!" growled Matt triumphantly. "Well you weren't prepared for that hurricane at Apia!"

Readers may recollect the big hurricane at Samoa when the British gunboat escaped destruction by steaming out to sea in the teeth of the hurricane, while the German and American vessels were blown ashore.

The natives of all New guinea (estimated at over a million) are a fascinating ethnological study; from the swamp "rat" with muddy claws and bat-like appearance as he flits through the reedy maze, up to the fine upstanding savage who builds his huge war-canoes, carves beautifully in woodwork and shell, weaves his native fibres like an expert, and builds communal houses three hundred feet long. Interesting varieties are the shy little pygmy, who often lives in trees to protect his hide, and the dread Kukukukus, who flit like hark-clad phantoms among the trees, with fibre bags around their necks in which to carry the heads of the slain. these uncounted tribes (except in the well-controlled areas in Papua) acknowledge the jungle law only; "an eye for an eye". The coast people sometimes build their communal villages over the water the better to avoid foes.

Yet other tribes live in trees, or away up on the craggy heights of precipices, or in the heart of miasmatic swamps. They speak a babel of tongues. To end this confusion, that quaint but highly useful language, pidgir-English, has come to stay. Brought by the seafaring wanderers of very early days, the New Guinea coastal man picked it up and rapidly "modelled" this lingo to his own tongue. In course of time it has penetrated some distance inland. the New Guinea native has a queer mentality. To him the white man is long-long, a fool. although the native lives under the jungle law, and the ever-present dread of the sorcerer, he would not live as the white man lives, or not until he is taught, and often not then. Those who for the first time saw the white man pushing the laborious way inland sneered from their heights in scorn. Sometimes they attacked. Then the rifles rang out, and the New guinea men retired in dazed stupefaction at something they did not understand. Anything not understood is a tambaran. A man who, by cunning or otherwise, can surprise or frighten his fellows, does so by means of his tambaran - his personal devil which works for him and is obedient to his command. This fear of the tambaran is ever present in the daily life of the New Guinea man.

Arthur Darling hated to be detailed to a given district. Besides, he planned a trip from knowledge of the country, gained before he and Park had dissolved partnership. He determined to ascend the Markham to the Watut, then up along that wild watercourse to its head, and eventually climb across into the Bulolo head. Had he succeeded, as he nearly did, world history may have been changed. For he would certainly have discovered the present goldfield in the then German territory, German New Guinea would have been well populated by 1914; a German Pacific fleet would certainly have been stationed there; and ---?

In Papua, Darling recruited thirty Orokiva boys, most of whom had marched before under him and Crowe. The Grokiva were notorious fighters, warriors of the Binandels tribes, restless raiders for centuries past. there was nothing these husky, chocolate-brown Papuans lo9ved more than a fight. Darling's boys had been trained to the rifle and they would follow him anywhere. He sailed from Papua for German Markham River. Near by he passed a German Lutheran mission station, recently established. An "out-back" station it was, with a courageous man in charge. Darling pushed up-stream into No-white-man's Mountains, congratulating himself that he had dodged all official authority. soon the river shallowed and he was compelled to hide his whaleboat and march up-river into rugged country with his thirty armed braves. Now, the right or wrong of the case is not debated in the story. The simple fact is that Darling, one white man, was seeking a goldfield in a district inhabited by one hundred thousand fighting savages. He was completely cut off from civilized help, and from stores. He had to push on or be pushed out. He pushed on until he was pushed out.

Thirty-one hearty eaters take a lot of feeding. So to help replenish the commissariat, the boss boy, a fine giant of a man alive with initiative, and as faithful as a collie-dog, would march with twenty men to the nearest village. There they would trade, and return loaded with vegetables and fruit and pigs. but sometimes the scowling villagers refused to trade; instead, they ambushed the party. After the fight, providing they were successful, the twenty men would enter the native gardens and take what they could carry, returning to Darling, who generally remained with ten men at the camp. Naturally, as the little band pushed grimly on, with vengeance closed around them. With the booming of the kundu shadow figures came until it seemed that every jungle tree had a tribesman burning with the lust to take back a head to his village. The Adzera alone numbered twelve thousand! - fierce fighters all. They could have eaten those thirty men over and over again had it not been for the fear of those rattling rifles and the spirit that worked them, for this terrible little band fought and worked as one man, welded together by life and death. Darling reached the Watut and hacked his way some distance up it. A morning came when they must have more food-stuffs. This boss boy and what remained of his twenty braves filled their bandoliers and set out to procure the necessary while Darling with eight boys held the camp.

That afternoon Darling was lying down, drowsy with fever. The eight men were squatting around, careless as always when the Taubada (master) is ill, or careless himself. In an instant the very trees seemed screaming; hundreds of printed warriors howled at them, stabbing with spear, smashing with club. Automatically Darling swung up his deadly rifle, firing from the ground with two spears through his shoulder. Still firing, he tried to rise, but another spear tore into his hip. He kept on firing and those of his men not dead fired up into the bodies of the maniacs hacking down at them. The place was a butcher's shop in a minute. But the attackers vanished leaving Darling and four men still alive. The boss boy with his men burst back on the camp just in time. the tribesmen had planned well but had attacked a few minutes too late.

"It is all over, Taubada," said the boss boy sorrowfully as he bent over Darling.
"I am not dead yet!" gasped Darling with gritting teeth. "Cut these spears out of me!"
They backed and pulled them out, and out of three men who might live. it was a bloody surgery, while the remainder of the boys kneeled by their rifles and peered into the growing darkness. A chill was in the hearts even of these Orokiva fighters, for the Taubada was down!
"It is no use, Taubada," declared the boss boy late that night. "We must return. tomorrow we make a raft and float and fight our way down-stream."

They did so,. One glowering morning as the raft swept around a bend there was a sudden cry at sight of a timber-jam -- hundreds of trees all locked together in the river. In a moment the raft hit it and crumpled up, the current dragged it under the logs. The wounded men went with it but the others leapt on to the rolling trees, jumping from one to the other right across the bank, where they disappeared into the jungle. They were never seen again - except the boss boy and one other who leapt from long to log straight down-stream; over three hundred feet of flying leaps before they landed on the last log. Clinging to the branches, the boss boy peered into the water; a warrior, descended from a line of warriors, he was almost crying.

"Ah well," he said in Orokiva, "the poor old Taubada is finished." Then with a wild cry he plunged straight into the water.

"Not yet," gasped Darling, as the boss boy helped him up to his companion on the slippery tree. Those were the very words used. The current had taken Darling under those three hundred feet of trees and, although almost unconscious, he told afterwards how clearly he had heard the words of his boss boy as his own head emerged to the surface. The Orokivas got Darling down to the Markham, then to the whaleboat. They had one rifle between them, and needs must travel in haste and silence. They fed themselves and Darling with fat white grubs chopped out of rotted trees, and finally reached the mission station near the river's mouth. The missionary was kindness itself, and placed at their disposal all he had. They rested there a week. Then Darling had a fright; he was very weak. One afternoon a crowd of coastal kanakas came along dragging a prisoner. Darling weakly tried to interfere. They motioned him to mind his own business. Then they clubbed out the prisoner's brains. The executioners explained what the boss boy already understood; it was merely a "payback". This man's people had caught one of their people and clubbed him in the bush. So when they caught this man - "an eye for an eye".

Darling and his two men crawled into their whaleboat and floated out to sea. In raving delirium they were picked up by Len Joubert in his launch Buna. But it was the finish of Darling, although nearly a year later he and Bob Newcombe were getting ready for another attempt. he was actually dying at the time, but he was a man who refused to die until he was quite dead. And his boss boy was killed down in the hold of Whitten's famous old island steamer President. The boss boy was a splendid man in bushy or jungle, but he did not understand the slings in unloading a ship. he was helping to unload the Taubada's stores when a cane fell and broke his back. Newcombe later went to Darling to discuss the boss boy's burial expenses. Darling cried. He was near his last breath from those old spear-wounds, but he did not want his boss boy to die.

A notoriously quiet man was Park, tireless and thoughtful. He listened to others, but always knew his own mind. An invaluable man to his mates, for at a glance from him truculent natives simply did as he willed. A man who never broke a promise; when he said he would do a thing he did it, though at the risk of his life. The natives always admire those traits in a man. but he was a cold, steely devil if aroused; they knew that if ever, in that cold voice of his, he threatened to kill a man he might do it. Strangely enough in a man leading such a life he had one great dread - that of dying with his boots on! He never wore them when it was possible to do without; he never entered a canoe with his boots on, nor forded a deep mountain stream leather shod. Sometimes with a inmate, sometimes alone, he pushed ever farther in. Intuition had long since brought him in tune with native mentality in Papua. that intuition was worth more carried for him; it gave him news; it place what the natives knew at the service. He presently began to take longer and longer trips entirely alone. He could dispense with white men's company; could go where he liked, stay where he liked, live where he liked. He found himself independent of civilization, unfettered by the need for civilized stores. Then he became quite independent of German authority; he could go and live where it dared not go.

In 1913 the German governor granted a mining-concession to an Alsatian named Kaempf, who, after some wildly adventurous experiences along the Waria, located what looked like a dredging proposition. At last it seemed that German New Guinea was to produce gold on a large scale. In 1914 Captain Detzner and Lieutenant Baum led an expedition into the Mount Albert Edward area in an attempt to break through to the Markham valley. Detzmer's force consisted of a large number of trained native constabulary, well disciplined, and armed to the teeth. One day his little army, tired and unsuspecting, pitched their camp right against the Papuan border. From the shrubbery on the hill above, Patrol Officer Chisholm and a dozen police boys, reinforced by a score of miners from the Lakekamu goldfield, with a few armed carriers, looked down on them. A Papuan native police sergeant carrying a white paper approached Captain Detzner. That sergeant was game, but his eyes were bright with fear at suddenly finding himself right in the "white man's war". He expected to be immediately shot. He handed the surprised Detzner the paper, then stood at rigid attention. Detzner read:

"War is declared. Surrender."

Detzner stood one startled moment then shouted an order. In an instant his coloured soldiers and disappeared into the jungle leaving their little white tents and the Papuan sergeant all alone in the sun. In Berlin, shortly before the outbreak of war, a mining-concession was granted to Rudulph Wahlen, who also had located promising areas on the Waria. Meanwhile, Detzner was king of Central New Guinea, trying hard to save the land for the Double Eagle. He fed his "army" on the country, and some hostile native tribes suddenly realized that there was a real war on. The Lamanai swarmed down from the Bubu heights and tackled Detzner tooth and claw. A very big war it was, according to the tribesmen's account.

Baum, after several years, became ill with fever and staggered down to Morobe to surrender. But Detzner held out and did not surrender until after the war. Shark-eye Park, alone away up on the misty heights of the Gulolo listened to the kundus sullenly booming as they had never boomed before. Detzner was drawing very close. Shark-eye silently stole away, and drossed right through into Papua. Impossible to find, impossible to stumble across, a jungle-man!

 

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