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SOUTH ANDAMAN

29

Rutland Island, rising on the east in tall precipitous cliffs, on the north slopes gently to the strait, which on both sides is bordered by alternate tracts of yellow beach and bright green mangrove.

We hauled round Bird's Nest Cape—a bare rocky headland of serpentine, still producing those edible delicacies which are responsible for the name—and, with a man aloft to con a passage along the coral-reef, carefully avoided a rock near midchannel, and took up a berth in quiet waters about a mile from the entrance of the strait.

When sailing along little known shores, especially in the tropics, a look-out man should always be stationed at the masthead, for from that place dangers of reef and rock unnoticed from the deck are plainly visible. Year by year coral-reefs increase, and banks alter so greatly that entire reliance cannot be placed on the chart, even though it be of comparatively recent date.

We landed on South Andaman in a little bay, whose waters lapped a beach of golden sand. It was, as usual, nearly filled with coral, but fortunately the tide was never so low that we could not land directly on the shore. To left and right the land rose in gentle hills, on the one hand forest, and on the other grass-clothed, but beyond the centre, where it was flat, lay an expanse of tangled swamp.

Although their tracks, made since the last high tide, ran all along the beach, we saw no natives then or later ; but just within the bush we found an old camping-place-cold ashes, heaps of broken shells, and a dilapidated hut about 6 feet square and high, made of light branches stuck in the ground, with tops drawn together and covered with a few palm leaves laid stem downwards.

That night a fire shone brightly on the beach of Rutland Island; and so next morning, while Abbott in the dinghy went north to make the round of the traps, I, with a crew in the whaleboat, rowed across the strait, and when we were within two or three hundred yards of the shore, a tall native ran down the

beach and commenced waving a flag on the end of a long

pole.

As the sea was pounding heavily on the reef, a couple of men were left in the boat to keep it off shore, and the rest of us, jumping overboard, waded to the beach. Two or three other natives now arrived, and we showed our good intentions by slapping them on their backs, with broad grins, to the latter · part of which process they responded most heartily.

It was too early in the day to get to work with the camera, so, after fetching my gun from the boat, I struck into the jungle and spent an hour with the more clothed of its inhabitants.

The jungle was of the kind that may perhaps be best described as forest : that is to say, it was fairly free from the usual superabundance of rattans, lianas, and all those creeping growths which close the intervals among the trees with a thorny network of vegetation, and compel the intruder to go where he can and not where he will. Mighty trees towered upwards, branches interlacing and shutting out the sun, while down below, in the aisles of tree-trunks, stood the smaller brethren and the saplings, waiting the fall of some neighbouring giant to give them in turn room to lift their branches towards the light.

Little blue fly-catchers, utterly fearless, Aitted about in the lower bushes, and, higher up, golden-billed grackles hopped or flew from branch to branch, their loud clear whistles resounding through the forest, whilst from the tops of the biggest trees came the deep “boom, boom," of the great fruit-pigeons. However, although birds were fairly numerous, I got but few prizesbest among them, perhaps, a pretty little olive-green and yellow minivet (Pericrocrotus andamanensis), and a black racquet-tailed drongo (Dissemuroides andamanensis), a bird whose Alight, as its long tail feathers stretch out behind, is extremely graceful, and who possessed one of the sweetest combination of notes heard in the jungle.

With such specimens in my bag, I presently came on a

APPEARANCE OF THE NATIVES

31

little stream, and after following its course to the sea, tramped along the shore, and so came back once more to the boat.

A large fire had been made on the beach, and near it, in spite of the hot sun, the men sat fraternising with the members of the native party-five men and boys, three women, and three children.

In this little company there proved to be the three biggest men we saw among the Andamanese; in height they stood 5 feet 44 inches, 5 feet 31 inches, and 5 feet 2 inches respectively.* Although possibly a little weak proportionately in the legs, where the skin covering the knee was so thickened and corrugated as to almost resemble callosities, the members of the party were well built and not ungraceful, but spoilt in most cases by a varying degree of distension of the abdomen: this state of things is caused by the immense amount of food they will, when possible, consume at a sitting; but the striking appearance of the eldest matron of the tribe was a more or less temporary feature, principally due to the interesting condition in which she was.

It was a pleasure to photograph these people, for they submitted to the operation most docilely; and when, after taking a series of pictures, I gave a graphic invitation to breakfastpointing to my mouth, and rubbing that portion of the figure situated in the middle front—the men of the party all accepted the offer, and, reinforced by them, we returned to the Terrapin.

Arrived on board, they were at first rather inquisitive, but after inspecting the schooner and spending a little time below watching us at work, they went forward, and seemed quite comfortable amongst the men. As soon as it could be prepared, a large pailful of boiled rice was placed before them, and this was finished without any sign of flagging being shown. What a convenience the absence of tight clothing must be at such times !

The next few hours were passed by them lying on deck in the sun, where, out of regard for their feelings, we left them

* See Appendix F.

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