2.11 Plantation on Mullins Bay

May 6, 2012

Writers and Missionaries and Businessmen – oh my.

August 12, 1911 – March 3, 1912

Hayes’ vague plan to see New Hebrides got revised:  “Withdrew my deposit on the ticket to the Hebrides and changed it to New Guinea.” Hayes feels he knows New Guinea and its inhabitants well, so Greer, the importer who thinks he knows coconuts, in partnership with the reverend R.B.S. Hammond, decides to send Hayes to purchase land “and see what about promotion of the plantation.”

R.B.S. Hammond
Robert Brodribb Stewart Hammond

Of the return trip up the Australian coast “there is little of interest to tell now” – miners, planters, rapidly vanishing blackbirders, smug missionaries…. Instead Hayes writes an extended apology for his way of life: “A man does not survive many years in this environment, unless it be the missionaries, whose lives are better ordered than we adventurers who break the way for so-called civilization. It is a thankless job, but we like it. The freedom of the bush, the confidence given by the simple natives, the absence of the binding conventions and man-made rules is sufficient reward and repays for the hardships we must meet. Then there is the thrill of being the first to see a new river, find a rich mine, a new people whose knowledge of white men is nil.”

At Port Moresby Hayes met “the Honorable Staniforth Smith, lieutenant governor of British New Guinea” immediately sizing Smith up as “a suave sort of person, one who steals your brain and all that’s in it.” Hayes has nothing to say to the “great explorer” sitting behind a desk reaping the credit for the work of “hardy prospectors.”

Staniforth Smith
Staniforth Smith 1916

During the stopover at Port Moresby, Hayes also met the writer Beatrice Grimshaw of whom he had written somewhat disparagingly earlier (see section 2.7 of this synopsis).  Grimshaw was forty-one in 1911 and had been living In Papua New Guinea for eight years.  Their  meeting in person wrung from Hayes this slight approbation: “now she picks out the truth from the tares and makes fairly creditable books.” He still chides her for writing romance about the Papuans: “Those who in a measure are civilized would be back into cannibalism in a month if left to themselves.”

Beatrice Grimshaw
Beatrice Grimshaw
When the Red Gods Call
When the Red Gods Call, 1911

At Samarai he hitches a ride on the Kaiora with a former boss, Joseph Cox, who is now director of the Papuan Rubber and Trading Company, around to a river he calls the Regurani on Mullins Bay. [This must be the Wegulani River, the only river on Mullins Bay with a similar name.] The dickering for land purchase goes well. “The old women, slaves as they are but controlling public opinion, favor me.” With the land deal sealed, Hayes returns to Samarai by the overland route, a “hard run” wading rivers across the peninsula “to get government consent.”

Upon return to Samarai, “Unfortunately envy has been aroused among my old associates because all the natives in the country want to work for me.” Hayes freely advises his associates on how they too can succeed: leave the women alone, play square with the men, and carry a pound of chrysophanic acid to doctor the ringworm. “All Samarai is amazed at my success.” The reverend Charles William Abel of the London Missionary Society at Kwato believes Hayes ought to have asked Abel’s permission since he “seems to think he is head of all this (region).” Instead, Hayes seeks out Connolly, territorial surveyor, who will return with Hayes to the river to officially define the borders of his tract.

Connolly was required by “the boys who sit in the seats of the mighty at Port Moresby” to outline all roads on his survey map. As there are no roads at his prospective plantation, Hayes paid Connolly 75 pounds after Connolly’s road map “plotted down where natives have been chasing kangaroos in the grass.”

Connolly leaves just as the season is turning a bit dryer, “though there seems to be no real dry season here.” The drier grasses permit all the villages around to join in a hunt using nets of pandanus fibre to snare wildlife fleeing a line of fire set in the dense, six-foot high lalang grass. (This hunt is reminiscent of one described by Barbara Kingsolver in The Poisonwood Bible.) One of the native men who Hayes describes as deaf and dumb, and “easily the strongest in this community,” wrestles a wild boar live from the nets. “This is counted a great feat” marked by a ceremonial killing followed by a great feast. “None of the youth, no woman nor child might eat of this, but they offered me some. I was glad enough to get a good hunk of leg.”

Perhaps courtesy toward the post-hunt ceremony required Hayes to eat from the cook pot. A paragraph later he writes, “I dislike eating anything cooked in these community pots. In them they boil snakes, goanas (huge lizards seven or eight feet in length at times), alligator flesh or eggs, and perhaps human flesh for all I know. For all the bush people are cannibals and think nothing of it.” His gladness over receiving a hunk of boar’s leg was probably relief at recognizing what came to him from the pot.

Australian Goanna

In November of 1911, Hayes traveled back to Samarai where his backers from Sydney urged him with confident words and glowing praise to carry on developing the plantation – but produced no additional money. He says they want him to exploit the native workers according to “the Spanish dictum practiced in South America and Mexico, to get the natives’ work for nothing, but to treat them right and see their souls are saved.” Hayes won’t practice the dictum, he knows that good pay, fair treatment, and respect for women brings the best result.

For the second time, Reverend Abel from Kwato tried to interfere with Hayes’ land purchase.  Of course Hayes ignores Abel about the plantation but Abel’s presumption prompts a lengthy comparison in the diary between missionaries and miners – the two vanguards of colonialism. Miners wear their faults openly: “drink and loose women.”  While, according to Hayes, most of the missionaries practice the same two vices but top them with hypocrisy. “To get to brass tacks there is little difference between the miners and the missionaries on any of these matters.”  (Hayes’ critique of missionaries is quite general.  His complaints about Abel are specifically about interference with Hayes’ prospective plantation.)

Back at the plantation, the land is fertile; it would be perfect for coconuts but with no cash on hand for a tractor the whole place grows to palms instead. As Christmas approaches, his tinned food runs out so Hayes turns to eating sago, kangaroo, and wild pig. Right after the first of the year 1912, beseeched by her distraught parents, Hayes doctored an extremely sick young girl from a nearby village. Walking six miles daily to attend the girl, Hayes finally got the fever under control with quinine and the girl lived – for which the entire village demanded payment. “It seems that an ethnologist spent a few days among these people some years ago. The samples of blood he took he paid for, telling them it was excellent medicine he was giving them.” A precedent had been established and all were angry when Hayes refused to pay.

Enough of bad food, no money, and ingratitude form Europeans and Papuans alike; Hayes writes to Sydney asking for fare back to Australia and departs the plantation project.

At Samarai, Hayes relates tales of men once wealthy and of high station reduced by drink to beachcombing. From one of the beachcombers  (a term Hayes uses derogatorily) he heard a long tale of cannibalism and retribution for cannibalism accompanied by the gift of two pineapple war clubs captured in the fight on the Yodda River as proof of the veracity of the story.

Pineapple War Club

When the boat to Port Moresby stopped at Yule Island to deliver booze to the priests, Hayes meets a saint – a haggard, emaciated crone who cooked for the mission for twenty-four years. “The hard boiled traders, miners, blackbirders all respect her, stand dumb before her when they blaspheme at the name ‘missionary’ concerning others.”

In Australia, all the talk is about the disappearance of lieutenant governor Staniforth Smith into the bush west of Port Moresby. Hayes says they ought to send a couple of prospectors experienced in the bush to find them rather than “a government party with all the trimmings.”

Hayes travels as fast as possible down to Sydney to be finished with the plantation, but boats are slow. Conversation with the “hard-bitten bushmen” (a complementary term Hayes uses to describe Europeans toughened by experience in the bush) on board turns first to crocodiles. The longest length mentioned is thirty-three feet. Hayes himself says, “I saw one on Mullins Harbor longer than my whale boat, which was 26 feet.” They will chase prey on land successfully unless the man or calf is smart enough to twist and turn. A crocodile can outrun you but turns poorly, so, when chased by a crocodile, dodge and weave. And should one of these monsters clamor over the gunwales of your lighter (small rowboat), shove an oar down its throat. He’ll snap it in half but you might survive. Then to giant clams:  If you step in an open clam’s mouth, you’ll be seized and drown. Oh, and the native men won’t dive for pennies when sharks are in the vicinity.  It’s so dangerous here, “Even many plants are predatory or parasitic in their ways.” Just the shipboard chatter behind the Great Barrier Reef on the way to Sydney.

After knocking about Sydney for more than a month Hayes finally settled up with Greer and the Reverend Hammond. They convinced Hayes to sign for 25 pounds in payment for his six months in the bush plus 200 shares of stock in the company.  Subsequently Hayes learned that Greer and Hammond allotted themselves 900 shares each. “I don’t blame Greer, he is a so-called business man, and we all know such are one the borderline of robbery. But Hammond is one of the most noted ministers of the church in all Australia.”

So much for Hayes Perkins plantation owner; he’s done with this kind of business and this kind of ministry.

2.9 East Australia and New Guinea

April 22, 2012

Now he’s back in motion bouncing around the east coast of Australia and cruising timber on Woodlark Island.

October 9,1910 – March 27, 1911

Hayes walked with Moody, one of the new men at the Sagarai River station, across the isthmus from the plantain site to Milne Bay stopping briefly at the Anglican Mission at the hilltop. A bit of a scrape ensued when one of the young Papuan women followed the men down to Davey More’s trading station at Gibara:  when Hayes pushed off from shore without replying as “Connie, clad in a coconut fiber rami, or waist mat reaching from waist to knees, eagerly pressed me with questions in her native tongue,” the worst happened. “She threw both hands over her head, ran up and down the bank screaming.” Old Davy accused Hayes of “spoilin’ the missionary girl.” (Hayes’ quote.) Moody loudly denied the charge, vouching for Hayes, but the rumor struck. “… So I grin and bear it. Just tell them I can’t help bein’ good looking.”

Waiting for a ship to Sydney, Hayes repeatedly circles “the enchantingly beautiful path” around Samarai Island watching the locals spear fish by torchlight and listening to the beachcombers tell hair-raising stories of cannibals. “Trouble is, most of them are prone to fiction.”  (Beatice Grimshaw‘s romance novel Guinea Gold published in 1912 uses this very short path around Samarai Island as the meeting place for her ill-fated lovers.)

The boat to Sydney travels first to Port Moresby through “a bad willy-nilly… the local name for a hurricane.” [Hayes’ diary has a date discrepancy regarding this storm. He says the steamer Koombara sank with the loss of all 128 aboard in October of 1910. Wikipedia says the Koombara sank in May of 1912.]  Approaching Port Moresby after the storm, Hayes says he’d rather watch the native Papuans sailing outrigger canoes than a yacht race. “If there be any faster sailing craft in the world, I have never heard of them.”

Turning South from Port Moresby, Hayes sailing with Strachan and his wife, have “ample time to plan what to do in the way of founding a new plantation.” But his diary makes Hayes’ skepticism clear: “But that is all up in the air as yet, and no one knows what will be doing before we are done. I long for Africa, my folks want me to return to the U.S.A., the company wants me to return for them.” Mrs. Strachan succeeded in smuggling tropical bird feathers hidden beneath her skirts into Brisbane, Australia despite the guilt advertised across her face.

Hayes enjoys regular food and the company of a few friends in Sydney but, “All round, I like the bush the best.” He does not like “the inner council chamber” of the rubber plantation company to which the investors summoned him immediately on return to Sydney. Based on Neville’s reports, the stockholders expected immediate dividends following the arrival of the new men and the sawmill at the Sagarai River station. “I explained as truthfully and without reserve as I could what was doing there.” In response, he describes “consternation” and “consideration” among those assembled.

After Hayes’ truthful report about the lack of trees at the Sagarai River site, the company needs to find a use for their sawmill. After some haggling, Hayes agrees to go to Murua [Muyua or Woodlark] Island in return for forty pounds and refund on his fare from New Guinea. In the meantime, news arrives that Neville, the lead man in the plantation swindle, skipped to London “where he was taken by police and made disgorge 7,000 pounds.” Slight return to the investors, who lost the rest to this “flim-flam game to fleece the public.”

Matunga at Alexis Harbor, German New Guinea 1918

In December 1910 Hayes sailed first class on the Matunga toward Murua jostled by miners returning from the “cup races” at Melbourne and Randwick and by missionaries headed to New Guinea. One expects it from the miners but, “Most missionaries are tipplers, some openly, others surreptitiously; but they love their hooch. The others are godly, self-sacrificing people. These are in the small minority, and always have the lowest places.”  Sailing beyond Brisbane north toward Cairns, calm seas behind the Great Barrier Reef, “bring most of the disciples of Bacchus on deck. At Cairns “some say” the river falls 700 feet at Barron Falls and rainfall in this wet corner of a dry continent “is above 200 inches.”

Barron Falls

Arrival at Port Moresby on December 25th – all others on board are “blind paralytic” after the holiday celebration. “Once I looked on man as something apart from the so-called lower animals. I still do, but place man below instead of above them now. What pig, what dog would demean itself by acting as these people do?”

On the Matunga’s quick delivery run to Yule Island, Hayes observes the “65 whites,” on the island all Christian missionaries and all divided along denominational lines: “Methodists, Episcopal, London Missionary Society, the Catholics and perhaps one or two others.” Conversion progresses slowly: “If they have uplifted one native I have not seen evidence of it.” On the other hand, he wryly notes that they are having some success with snakebite:  At the Catholic mission, “the holy fathers were taking every precaution against poisonous serpents, for almost all the cargo discharged was Old Scotch, Johnny walker and other noted antidotes against snakebite.”

South from Yule Island, past Samarai and through “a maze of emerald isles like those described in fairy tales,” brings Hayes back to Murua where “I am established at Gus Nelson’s, a bar and hotel combination at the village of Kulumadau.” Arriving on January third, Hayes shares Gus Nelson’s with all the broke hung-over gold miners down to celebrate the New Year.

Away from the haunts of civilized society to Solongo (Suloga) Bay, Hayes camps with a scattering of gold miners while scouting “much good timber, easily gotten if so desired,” with “an old native named Doudau.” One of the miners, Slater, says he was with Bayley and Hannan discoverers of the “Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie respectively,” two of the richest mines in Australia. Each blew his large fortune. One is dead of drink, the other on the way. Though Hayes wrote earlier that he tires of wild tales of cannibals, he takes a paragraph to relate in a story from the 1870’s told by a miner Hayes knows only as Old Jimmy – Hayes relates grim detail about Papuans eating Chinese laborers gruesome beyond anything Jack London could possibly have gotten published.

Immediately following this forty-year-old, second-hand cannibal story Hayes writes a first-hand account of contemporary barbarisms: Of one of his European hosts he writes, “His wife doesn’t look over seven years of age.” Colonial practices differ little the world over: “The miners keep tab on all girls approaching puberty on Murua, and the district commissioner doesn’t see it. Thus the people are dying as the Indians did where I was born in Oregon, and unless something happens will soon be gone.”

While tramping around most of Murua, “Doudau regales me with tales of the old time islanders before the whites came. They were man-eaters then,and on the smaller islands of Nesquab and Velous are settlements of refugees who fled at that time some twenty years agone from raiding cannibals.” Hayes still writes second-hand information about cannibalism, though perhaps it’s more reliable coming from Daudau, a native to the island – who agrees about the contemporary disaster: “But these raiders were less harmful than the invading white man. At least they did not debauch the women, brought no social disease nor broke up rthe ways of living by means of which the blacks survived for ages.”

Muaru or Woodlark Island

After the joys of wandering about the bush at Solongo Bay, Hayes returns to civilization at Kulumadau to write a couple of pages of gossip about “the men who have known palatial halls and women clad in diaphanous silken things” sunk low by drink. He names some of these beachcombers, others are described only by position as “a bank manager in Melbourne who now lives on the beach at Misima in the Louisiades.”

Disgusted to see men laying drunk in the gutters, Hayes walked fifteen miles across Murua, accepted food and cool coconut water from the people “said to be dangerous,” and marveled at a forest of tree-ferns that, “reach to a height of sixty feet, and completely smother all other vegetation in the gullies where they grow.” The crocodiles grow big too; Hayes says he personally saw one “longer than my 26-foot whaleboat when it ranged alongside.”

The investors must still be trying to salvage something out of the Sagarai River rubber scheme; Hayes bought many rubber plants for them. And the timber prospects at Murua were good enough that “I am engaged to set up the mill and oversee it, but it means nothing.” On the way south back to Sydney, Hayes wonders, “if I’ll ever see this island again.” He knows his own wanderlust – he’s been four months in this region now – quite a long time for him.

Toward the end of February 1911, Hayes steamed back through Samarai, Port Moresby, Cairns, and Brisbane chatting with missionaries and the occasional sober prospector. “It is truly enjoyable.” Except for the politicians on board. “Politicians are a fungus that grows on the body politic whom the world would be better without.”

At Sydney he gave an encouraging report to the investors and checked in with Strachen about the plantation proposal. “Strachan has not yet succeeded in promoting the plantation. He is much too honest a man for this business.” Well, that’s Australia and New Guinea – where to next? His premonition was right about not returning to Murua.

2.7 Melbourne to Sagarai River

April 8, 2012

Broke and heading alone on foot into the bush on Papua New Guinea.

March 5, 1910 –June 6, 1910

Never a man for cities, after ten metropolitan days Hayes writes: “Am about satiated with Melbourne.” Sydney has more appeal for him; it will be easier to get into the bush from there.

A trip to the museum immediately followed by a tour of  the red light district in Melbourne touched off a pensive passage. At the museum Hayes saw the skeletons of the extinct diprotodon followed by those of the Wooreddy and Trugannini, the last of the native Tasmanians.

Diprotodon skeleton


In the red light district girls formerly beautiful and charming accosted him “offering what is most precious for a pittance.” The discordance between the exalted museum and the tawdry streets prompted Hayes to question: “Is man an equal to the wild creatures he is exterminating? When their natural appetites are satisfied they are willing to live and let live, even the predators among them. Not man, for I see in the harbor warships, about its shores forts and guns to destroy their own kind. I would like to forget men, am sometimes ashamed of my own species. Yet I am no better than the rest.”

At Sydney, Hayes takes up temporary residence at a Salvation Army hotel called the People’s Palace, “the largest hotel in the in the Antipodes.” The one-hundred rooms of the palace house too many men for his comfort so Hayes quickly transfers to a family boarding house where he bunks with only Carter, “a man from the back blocks of Queensland, near the Gulf of Carpentaria.” Hayes has heard of rich opal strikes up that way, but Carter warns him off: that area is poor, sparsely populated and almost unexplored. Carter says a smart man would try Cairns where there is lots of work in the sugar mills.

Just as he was about to leave for the bank to secure funds for the boat to Cairns, Hayes noticed an advertisement in a magazine trumpeting financial opportunities in Papua New Guinea. That afternoon, he was in the offices of Charles Neville landing a job pioneering 6,000 acres for a prospective rubber plantation. Hayes thought 300,000 pounds had been subscribed to this project but it turns out to be 1,500,000 pounds. Personally, he is down to 20 pounds, then flat broke by the time he outfits for the trip, but “Money doesn’t count in an expedition like this. I want to see the big world down in this part of the globe and this is a splendid chance.”

MAKAMBO of Burns Philp & Co at anchor
Steamer Makambo

Seen from the deck of the steamer Makambo, Halley’s comet grows larger nightly on its approach to perihelion. By day, deck chatter concerns George V succeeding Edward VII in England but “I take a deal more interest in the rapidly growing comet, now the finest feature of the skies, than all the kings of earth.”

On the passenger list of the Makambo Hayes reads the name Young who are missionaries and plantation owners at Bundaberg. When he “chipped in a sovereign for the work,” Miss Florence Young approached Hayes to tell him “She sees how the Lord has laid it upon me to run their small sailing craft between the islands picking up copra and trade, receiving nought but my keep.” He agreed to the work “if she would give me what the secular trading and planting companies did.” No sale.

[According to Riedl and Tietze in Jack London’s tales of Cannibals and Headhunters, London had lunch on this same ship, the Makambo, on August 22, 1908. In his short story The Terrible Solomon’s,  begun shortly after that lunch, London’s character Bertie Arkwright learns about inevitable white men on a steamer called the Makembo.  London also writes the Makambo into his novel Michael, Brother of Jerry.]

After a brief stop at Tulagi, the Makambo pulled in at Pendufferyn, a plantation on Guadalcanar (sic) where the white managers are still laughing about the recent visit by Jack London. Seems the adventures he set down as real were entirely vicarious. “In truth, he sat on the veranda of the wide bungalow and penned these thrilling episodes in safety, drinking numerous highballs the while.” Later, on the way to Gizo, Hayes continues on the subject of adventure novelists: “One of the worst features of the South Seas is the itinerant writer.” He complains that these writers soak up the wild tales of beachcombers and island traders in a six-week tour on a boat like the Makambo then write these tall tales as personal experience. “Consequently there are almost no books portraying these people truthfully to be read in any library.” Jack London and Beatrice Grimshaw receive low marks for veracity; Louis Becke rates a little higher. [London spent two years sailing the South Seas on his ketch the Snark. Hayes’ comments are particularly unfair to Beatrice Grimshaw who spent 27 years on Papua. Louis Becke spent more than 10 years adventuring about Australia and the South Sea island chains.]

Jack London on the Snark circa 1908

Beatrice Grimshaw

Louis Becke

Dinner Island, all of its 54 acres, received the name Hayes recorded when Captain John Morsby paused there for a meal in 1873; maps now call it Samarai Island. Perhaps two miles across a small strait surging with great tides Hayes can see the mainland of Papua New Ginea.

At Waga Waga, the orchids, coconut palms, frangipani, hibiscus, coral sands, and bluest sea elicit from Hayes, “What a marvelously beautiful land!” As usual, for Hayes the beauty of the natural world exceeds that of its human inhabitants: “Many are not unprepossessing, but others are hideous.” He goes on for two paragraphs: piercings, distended earlobes, betel nut, sipoma, hair died red in enormous dreadlocks, etc.

On the walk overland to the Sagarai River, Hayes amazed the native porters by taking onto his own back a load from an exhausted man, “for such a thing as a white man carrying a load is unknown. But we did it all in Alaska.” At the 6,000-acre prospective plantation, Hayes finds constant rain and no solid ground on which to build. “All the natives seem half wild” – especially the women – which Hayes says, “gives one suspicion of the attitude of the general run of the Europeans toward the native girls and women, and these people are extremely jealous.” Fortunately, the natives speak an understandable English jargon and, by toting the pack, Hayes has made a good impression on them.

It’s June, it’s raining, Hayes, a lone “European” in the bush, is already gaining the trust of the native workers – and he’s about to discover, little to his surprise, that the rubber plantation is an investment swindle.