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Such mishaps during one's earlier opportunities are always most vexatious; later we found monkeys very numerous in the other islands.
On 22nd February a Chinese junk passed northward, and the same day another arrived, and anchored in the harbour; that night there was carousal in the village and the noise of much singing
Visitors to the Terrapin were fairly continuous during our stay here, and the appearance of some of them was as ludicrous as it was striking.
One man, who wore a battered "billycock” on his head, had encased his feet and legs in a pair of rubber jackboots; between these extremities he sported a sailor's jersey, and the usual T bandage.
But, impressive as was this man's apparel, it was quite put out of the running by the grande parure of a fellow-dandy who arrived later. A top-hat worn sideways, and draped with a spotted cotton handkerchief where a mourning band might be, a gunner's jacket, thickly laced with yellow braid, and a light-blue pair of Chinese breeches, combined harmoniously (!) with heavy bead necklaces, and a face profusely bedaubed with red oil-paint. This gentleman's idea of refreshment was brandy, and to obtain it he had furnished himself with a supply of fowls, with which he was prepared to purchase it at the rate of a chicken a drink.
When not arrayed in these exotic costumes, everyone wore merely the neng, and perhaps a fillet of twisted cotton about the head.
A man who came to be doctored was treated with a glass of Eno, and an aloes pill, which he slowly sucked! This latter is the sort of medicine natives like, and as the awful bitterness of the drug became evident to his palate, the fellow doubtless thought it very effective treatment indeed. Give a native 10 grains of quinine in sugar-coated tabloids, and he probably holds you a very poor sort of doctor; but dissolve that same quinine in a large glass of water, and make him drink the solution slowly -he will perchance recover on the spot! Faith and imagination, both in savagedom and civilisation, have a lot to do with these matters.
The women of the village were very shy and timid, but we now and again saw one or two going about their daily business; the children, however, could not get used to us, and fled screaming whenever we appeared.
A few days before we arrived at the village a woman had died there, and during our stay a performance for ridding the place of the ghost was gone through.
A large catamaran was constructed and rigged like a schooner, with sails made of green coco-palm leaves. The local doctor or bobo * then went through certain ceremonies, at which we were not present, and finally seized the ghost or devil and threw it into the boat, which was pushed off, and drifting away, was carried out to sea, where it disappeared.
The Malays have an almost similar custom to this, in the employment of the kapal hantu (ghost ship). This they use during times of pestilence, or in cases of individual sickness; but instead of forcing the evil spirits into it, they are attracted by a show of coloured rice, etc. Once they are cajoled on board, the vessel is pushed off, and carries the illness to whatever fresh locality it may reacht
The day before we left, Yassan, who had promised to collect, brought in a number of charms—figures of crocodiles, birds, women, men, and some fever pictures, called here déūshi (derived from the Portuguese for God, and is applied to the representations of the Deity in the pictures on boards and spathes). The people had but few scruples with regard to parting with such things. After being paid, he asked for a chit and a bottle of rum,“ to use, mixed with eggs, as a medicine for his stomach!”
In the waters of the bay we caught quantities of small fish, which, although easily obtained by us with the seine, cannot be
* The Nicobarese equivalent is menlúana (“medicine man,” or shaman).
+ The belief that evil spirits cannot cross water seems to be of world-wide prevalence, cf. Burns' “Tam o' Shanter."
a staple of diet in the case of the natives, who have no nets. I once observed a native in a canoe following a shoal, and making casts with a many-pronged fish-spear; he continually threw his weapon, but during the ten minutes I watched him, he caught nothing at all.
There is no good water here, and to fill our tanks we dug holes just above high-water mark; the liquid that filtered in was slightly brackish, and gave a heavy deposit of earthy matter.
Any quantity of coconuts may be obtained, with a few chickens and perhaps a pig or two.
Kachal is about 62 square miles in area, and reaches a height of 835 feet on the eastern side, which is composed of hills of calcareous sandstone and marbly slate, formed in deep seas during the Tertiary period. The western side, which is of very recent formation, consists of a flat shore plain of coralline alluvium, mixed with decayed vegetable matter and loam brought down from the hill. It is covered with dense forest throughout. The population is stated to be 281-an increase of 100 in the last fifteen years.
LITTLE NICOBAR AND PULO MILO
A Tide-rip,Islets-A Cetacean-Pulo Milo— Timidity of the Natives-Little
Nicobar-Geology-Flora- Population-Site for a Colony-Jungle LifeBanian Trees—The Houses and their Peculiarity-The Natives-Practices and Beliefs—The Shom Pen- The Harbour- We ascend a River-Kingfishers-Water-Caves—Bats and Swallows - Nests—A Jungle PathMenchál Island—Collections—Monkeys-Crabs.
SAILING across the Sombrero Channel, some 30 miles wide, between Kachal and Little Nicobar, we passed the islet of Meroë. It is low-lying, and about i mile in length. A yellow beach separates the dark crown of jungle and coconuts from the sea, except at the southern end, which is slightly elevated and rocky.
On its western side, a tide-rip—to which the chart ascribes a strength of 5 knots an hour at times-caught us, and we were in some danger of being carried inshore, but that the breeze was just strong enough to bear the schooner safely past. The tides in the channel set strongly, and are said to attain in parts a velocity of as much as 5 knots at springs.
South of Meroë are the islets of Trak and Treis, and from the deck the red sandstone cliffs of the latter could be seen with much distinctness. Little Nicobar, rising 1400 feet, showed broken and hilly, completely covered with dense jungle, and beyond it Great Nicobar loomed faintly above the horizon.
During the afternoon, when in the vicinity of Meroë, we were somewhat excited by a glimpse at what was perchance a
specimen of the killer whale (Orca gladiator). The first hint we obtained of the presence of such an animal, was conveyed by the sight of a long black fin showing above the water immediately in the course of the schooner.
As we sailed over the spot where it had been, we perceived, while looking over the side, a stout, rotund body of a deep black colour, marked with large patches of a yellowish hue about the head and the posterior portion of the back. Only a momentary glance was obtained before it faded from sight in deep water, but we judged it to be some 15 feet in length.
The dorsal fin distinctly differed in shape from that figured in descriptions of the killer; instead of being more or less triangular, it was sabre-like, long, narrow, and curved. *
We were all day journeying from Kachal to Little Nicobar, and had to anchor for the night somewhere west of Pulo Milo. As it became dark, immense flocks of pigeons left the forests of Little Nicobar for Trak and Treis, where they roosted for the night, and when day dawned we saw them passing back again. That morning, however, we made sail again, and reached our anchorage in a very short time.
The harbour is a fairly good one, and is formed by the coast of the island here bending to form a right angle, and by the island of Milo, which forms a protection on the west. Good shelter is afforded during the south-west monsoon—the most important consideration; and at other times only strong northerly winds need be feared.
We found 7 fathoms sand in the centre of the channel where we rounded to; and soon after the sails were down, three wild - looking fellows in black Chinese jackets came alongside, followed presently by a couple of old men clothed in red cotton.
For some unexplained reason, they seemed much afraid, and were with difficulty induced to believe that our intentions were nothing but good. From answers to questions, we learned that the people of Little Nicobar have nearly all died—a piece
* This cetacean is probably of the same species as that observed by Mr Holdsworth in the Indian Ocean, and described in the Mammals of India.