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At either end, this disappearing beach was hemmed in by rising ground and rocks, which at its eastern termination contained a little stream and basin of good water.
On the 12th we rowed about the shores of the harbour, landing every now and then to search for the aborigines. The only signs of man's presence discovered, however, were rows of stakes set up across the creeks in the mangroves. One of these rows we utilised to hang our own net on, and obtained there such an abundant catch of small fish that we returned the greater part to the sea.
The shore-line is much more indented than the outline given on the chart, and in the shallow water and mud of a little bay, rows of tree trunks still stood, two or three hundred yards from the land. This subsidence, however, is local in its occurrence, for everywhere else in the Archipelago signs of elevation are markedly present, and it is to be attributed to seismic agencyearthquakes having several times been experienced in the group --and not to a general depression of the land.
The following day we went still farther afield, and crossed the harbour to a beach where stood a grove of coconut trees and a small hut. The trees were without fruit, and the house, though deserted, contained a number of bundles of split rattan, such as a small section of the Shom Pen trade in with the coast people. The plantation was surrounded by hilly country, covered with tall, open jungle: birds were scarce, and a hawk and a megapode were all we obtained in the way of feathered booty ; but, immediately on landing, Abbott caught sight of a couple of pigs, and knocked over the boar with a bullet. Though very similar to the Andamanese pig in size and appearance, it had patches of white on the feet. From it a new species has been described, under the name of Sus nicobaricus.
While rowing back to the Terrapin, we were overtaken by a blinding squall of wind and rain, which half-filled the boat and made the men (who sat with their feet on the thwarts) very uneasy, lest they should be polluted by contact with the blood and water that swished about in the bottom.
Next day we extended our search still farther, and ascended a little river, to which the name of " Jubilee” has been given by the surveyors. We rowed up several arms of this stream that wound to and fro in the mangroves, but only found a small fishing weir constructed of rattans. The muddy shores swarmed with water-birds-herons, whimbrel, redshanks, and others—and we surprised a monstrous crocodile, little less than 20 feet long, who rushed into the stream long before our guns were ready. Returning to the mouth, we landed and walked for a couple of miles along the beach; but the shore was everywhere covered with dense tangled scrub, behind which lay the swamps of the river.
On the last day of our stay, a junk arrived from Dring, where it had taken in a cargo of coconuts. It was handled very clumsily, and nearly ran on the reef before the anchor was down, eventually having to make sail again and beat up to a more suitable place. Considering the happy-go-lucky manner in which these junks are navigated, it must be admitted that they have good fortune-they have a compass, indeed, but all those we met were totally unprovided with charts.
Our mornings in this place were spent in searching for Shom Pen; the afternoons were passed in adding to the collections. The traps produced a couple of rats only; but we obtained several specimens of the storkbilled kingfisher, which was common about the shores of the bay. Several turtle were observed on the sea, but the harpoon never being at hand when requisite, they always escaped unmolested.
Possibly because of the proximity of high land—for Mount Thuillier, 2100 feet, the highest point of the Nicobars, rises near the northern end of the island-a good deal of rain fell every day, and somewhat spoiled the enjoyment of wandering in the jungle. At night when we lay in Ganges Harbour, it was nearly always calm, and many mosquitoes came from shore to plague us.
Traps were set on the shore throughout our stay, and we thus obtained a specimen of a new shrew (Crocidura nicobarica), the largest known Oriental member of the sub-genus; while two rats
-all that were caught-were both undescribed varieties, and have been named Mus pulliventer, and Mus burrescens.
Having filled up with water-obtained from a little stream trickling down a cool rocky ravine at the inner corner of the baywe made sail early on the 16th, and returned to Kondul.
Two hours' run before the wind brought the schooner to our former anchorage, where we were immediately joined by a junk from the north, and shortly afterwards by our companion of Ganges Harbour. After breakfast we reached the village, subsequent to a hard pull in the whaleboat against wind and tide, and found the junks' crews busily loading their boats with bundles of rattan; and by a chat with one of the skippers, supplemented the scanty information of the Sailing Directory anent the west coast of Great Nicobar.
Very few people were about, and the headman, suffering from an attack of inflammation of the eyes, had wisely confined himself to the shade of his house. Four jolly little boys, however, bestirred themselves to get us a supply of coconuts. One, after putting a loop of fibre round his ankles, climbed a palm tree and hacked off all the fruit, and then we all set to and carried the plunder down to the boat-a very awkward task, unless one knows the correct method, for the coconut is both heavy and bulky. With a dáo a notch is made in the husk and a strip of fibre pulled out, with which the nuts are tied together two by two, and slung across a pole, to be comfortably balanced on the shoulders. To the owner of the tree we gave a bucket of rice, and to our juvenile assistants a length of bright cotton, which one, a bald-headed youngster, immediately annexed and wrapped round his shaven pate.
Towards evening they came to the schooner with an old man, bringing some more nuts and a few fowls; they joined the crew at the evening meal, but were very nervous, and one boy, whom the men wickedly pressed to stay, eventually took refuge in his canoe.
That night quite a small fleet—the two junks and ourselves, lay in the quiet anchorage. The cook and boy, smartly attired in black oiled calico, went off in the dinghy to visit their compatriots.