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.

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2.8 Rubber Plantation Sagarai River

April 15, 2012

The map for this four month period shows relatively little travel by Hayes’ standards.  He’s putting together a colonial plantation site with just a few side trips to villages previously unvisited by Europeans and one longer trip to a mission at Isuleilei.

June 12, 1910 – September 12, 1910

Throughout his diaries, Hayes comments on the wildlife and geography of every region he visits and includes extensive observations about the architecture and religious and social organizations of the native people he meets. Though his descriptions are often unflattering, no doubt he regards his as an accurate record intended to offset the sensationalism of a writer like Jack London.

Dense mangrove forests grow in the saltwater swamp of the Sagarai River delta. Any houses in the region must be built on stilts above tides that rise as much as twenty feet. At a place he calls Karola Creek, Hayes finds a bit of solid ground on which to build two stilted houses, one for him and a larger one for men he is beginning to hire.


Stilt House Papua New Guinea

Within two weeks of arriving Hayes writes, “my name is good now, and I get new men constantly.” His self-restraint with the native women and his work ethic offer some explanation of how he can earn a good name in such a short time, nor does he hold himself above the men he hires. When the last sago palm frond finished the roof of his two houses, he and the men went to clear some sunken mangroves to make a shipping channel. “This required going into the water with the crocodiles, and as it seemed hardly fair to set the natives at it and me on the safety of the shore, I went in too. One of us stood guard constantly with the rifle to fire at any croc, but the singing boys frightened them away.” Canoes arrive daily with men looking for work thereby saving Hayes the six pounds other Europeans must pay to recruiters.

“New Guinea must be the aviary of the world, for there are thousands of bright plumaged birds about me constantly”: the iridescent bird of paradise, red bird of paradise, parrots, several species of pigeons, the flightless cassowary, water birds, waders, swimmers, even the megapodes laying their eggs in giant mounds of trash. Though he has not heard of the platypus seen here, the other animals he sees:  wild pigs, kangaroos, opossums, bandicoots, and even echidna suggest to Hayes recent union with the Australian continent.

Even with a good crew of dependable men paid a stick of tobacco to seal any bargain, Hayes still has to contend with trouble. Food is scarce and “Then there is the question of puri-puri. Witch doctors to you and me, meaning little, but to the simple native, life or death.” Paddy, one of the native men recently hired (and named), received a curse from the end of a pointed bone. Hayes forcibly fed Paddy, laughed at the curse and got him past the appointed hour of his death by convincing him that “my medicine was superior to that of the puri-puri man, and he lived.”

Work on the station proceeds well enough with his crew that Hayes can take a day now and again to wander the nearby mountains visiting “several villages where white men have seldom gone.” Not above some Jack London style exoticism he says that he laughed “to see the women nursing small pigs or pups at their breasts.” Full-grown sows roam the village “pugnacious to all but the immediate family” of their “foster mothers” right up to the moment they go into the stew pot.


Group of indigenous men Boku, New Guinea circa 1908-1910
photo by H.P. Schlenker missionary.  USC digital libraries.

Then too, in New Guinea the men routinely break the leg or wing of a captured bird to keep the meat fresh until they are ready to eat it. “They become angry when I kill these wretched brutes, saying their ways are not my ways, and that theirs suit them.” None of his arguments convert the Papuans to Hayes’ ethic. Hayes hears accounts of cannibalism as well: The skipper of a forty-ton sloop that came by their newly built station told of finding several men with limbs broken as for the wings of birds, “laid on a bed of live coals to slowly roast.”

On July 16th, about a month after Hayes arrived at the Sagarai River, Neville, the promoter of the rubber plantation, paid a visit “and he [Neville] realizes he has misrepresented the potentialities of the proposed plantation to the investors.” Nevertheless, a sawmill and several white men from Australia have arrived to further the project. The sawmill is useless and the men are worse; all have come in search of “sensual bliss” with the Papuan women, touching off the jealousies of Hayes’ native workingmen.

Strachan, Hayes’ immediate supervisor on the rubber plantation project, can also see Neville’s swindle unraveling. There are no rubber trees here – but coconuts would grow. Strachan and Hayes take a side trip down to the London Missionary Society station at Isuleilei harbor where Strachan proposes that he and Hayes dump Neville and start a plantation of their own. Strachan has wide acquaintances in Melbourne who will back the endeavor. Hayes knows he can manage the work and Papuan men – could he consider the prospect of owning  a plantation?


Mission House Kalaigolo, New Guinea circa 1908-1910.
photo by H.P. Schlenker (who served at Isuleilei until 1900), missionary.  USC digital libraries.

Through August and September, the lusts of the newly arrived men, Hans, Andy, Percy and the others, breed resentment among the Papuan workers. “The men resent it, have no respect for them and refuse to obey any orders unless forced.” Hayes suffers anemia from the poor food and barely keeps the malaria in check with quinine. His best native men are sent to other parts of the enterprise only to return “bitter because of the beatings so unnecessary, to say nothing of being brutal.”

By the middle of September Halley’s comet has about run its course and the profligacy of Hans, Percy, Andy et al, together with the beatings by other managers have ruined any prospect of maintaining a Papuan workforce in the area. How quickly the idyll of establishing a worksite in the good company of only native workmen is fouled by the ways of the foreign workers arriving to take up station there – time for Hayes to be moving on.

But – “copra is 27 pounds per ton, this will give 20% profit on any capital invested if properly handled.” Maybe Strachan could get the money together? Hayes Perkins plantation owner? “Strachan says he can raise it, and if so, it will be my big chance.” In October, Hayes sails south back to Samarai bound for Australia with this thought in his head: “If all goes well I will return shortly and see what happens in the way of developing land for a plantation of my own, at least in which I expect to be vitally interested.”


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


Truganini

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.