Page images
[merged small][ocr errors]

striking contrast to the jungle of the other islands, and bears witness to the strength of the south-west monsoon. The slopes of the hills are scantily covered with grass, and on the lower ground, amongst the starved and twisted trees, numerous dead branches show white against the scanty foliage of the other wind - warped limbs. Below, the effect is stranger still, for the shrubs and bushes grow in rows running inland from the beach, so that one can walk up and down between them as in the lines of an artificial plantation.

The beach on which we landed was composed entirely of white coral sand, and upon it we found graceful branches of a brown and white coralline (Isis hippurus), and numbers of pearly - chambered spirulas. After forcing a way through the matted foliage, we reached the more protected parts of the island, where the jungle was of a more luxuriant description; but animal life was very scarce everywhere, and our list of the avifauna contains the names of ten species only.

There are no permanent inhabitants, but the Cinques are occasionally visited by the natives (Onges of Little Andaman and natives from Port Blair), who probably find it a good locality for turtle and fish. We picked up in the jungle an arrow of a kind afterwards obtained at Little Andaman, and discovered a path that ran from south to north, where, on the shore of a little sandy cove, stood a hut similar to those already seen, save that sides had been added, thus making a semicircular shelter, and a small platform of sticks erected above the fireplace. A number of baskets hung from the roof, and for flooring, instead of palm leaves, there was an old teak grating and some planks—Alotsam, perhaps, from a shipwrecked vessel.

At midnight a fair breeze sprang up and we made sail, crawling slowly southward by its help, until, twelve hours later, we dropped anchor off the coast of Little Andaman.

Eyubelong, as it is called by its inhabitants, the Öngés—a tribe, who, by their bows, absence of scarification, and other indications, seem to be closely akin to the Jarawas—is in shape an irregular ellipse, with an area of rather more than 250 square miles, and a level verdure-clad surface that rises gradually to a height of 600 feet in the interior towards the south. It has no harbour on its coasts, but on the northern shores two or three creeks run inland for short distances. We brought up off the northern of these, by name Bumila, which seemed to offer a well-protected anchorage ; but when the boat was sent off with a sounding-line to make observations, we found that coral reefs, stretching from either side, so narrowed and complicated the entrance that it would be a task of some difficulty to take the schooner in, and one still more so to get her out, against the prevailing breeze. The lead, too, at low tide, gave the greatest depth as 8 feet, and even in the channel large coral heads rose irregularly from the bottom : it was, therefore, decided that we should make a short stay only, and that during it the Terrapin should remain outside.

Already a group of natives had gathered on the beach, all waving bunches of leaves, and since we had been warned that all the tribes but those at the north end were still hostile, we concluded that this particular band were displaying that token of friendship common to nearly all savages—the green branch of a tree. Very soon, however, we found that the waving leaves were for a far more practical purpose, and that the creek thoroughly deserved its name. Bumila is S. Andamanese for “fly," and I don't think I ever saw so many of those pestiferous insects together at one time. They swarmed round the natives and settled on their naked bodies in hundreds, and no sooner had we landed than we were assailed in so impartial a fashion that we quickly followed the example of the inhabitants and supplied ourselves with defensive branches.

The Andamanese were quite friendly—although they are said to be treacherous and scarcely to be trusted in the southwestern portion of the island—so, after a short survey of the creek, we returned to the Terrapin, accompanied by a legion of flies, together with as many natives as the boat would hold, and the latter were soon at work on as hearty a meal as that made by their countrymen at Rutland Island. The party met DRESS OF THE NATIVES

39 at Rutland Island were also Onges and were merely visiting Rutland Island on their way to or from Port Blair.

By the time we landed again in the afternoon, the number of waiting natives had increased to about thirty, and they continued to arrive until between sixty and seventy were present, of all ages and both sexes.

One of our party, who stands some inches over 6 feet in his socks, and is proportionately built, was a contrast to a group of natives, none of whom were more than 5 feet in height; and nothing impressed my mind more forcibly than this sight with the racial diminutiveness of the Negrito race.

By way of ornament, the men rang the changes on chaplets and armlets made from the inner bark of a tree, and necklaces and girdles of cord, in which was twisted some bright yellow material of a straw-like nature. Similar ornaments were worn by the women, who, in addition, wore for dress an apron, or bunch of a fibre resembling bass, suspended in front from the centre of the girdle. Everything but the aprons was freely parted with, but the modesty of the women was so strongalthough the men go completely unclad – that we could not obtain them until we thought of tendering sufficient cloth beforehand to serve as a skirt, and then, after draping this about themselves, they were able to remove the girdle without doing violence to their praiseworthy scruples. Both sexes wore also about the neck a small reticule or purse, of netted twine, which served as a hold-all, and often contained tobacco, pipes, and fruit.

Both men and women cover themselves with a thick wash of reddish clay, which, when fresh, gives them a very striking appearance. On one of the men thus ornamented, the coating was applied in this wise :-On the face a circular patch extend. ing from brow to chin, but leaving nose and lips black; on the front and back of the body large elliptical patches, through which, while wet, the fingers were evidently drawn, leaving broad bands of four black stripes; the arms were covered to half-way

down the forearm, and the wash was applied to the legs from mid-thigh to shin. Several natives, besides this simple adornment, were daubed on head and shoulders with a greasy mixture of red pigment and fat.

The heads of both sexes were in various stages between baldness and a covering of hair of fair thickness: they shave, however, before the tufts reach the spiral state seen in the natives frequenting Port Blair, and the hair is never allowed to attain any length on temples and nape. Like those seen at Rutland Island, their bodies were free from the tattooing or scarification so noticeable on the South Andamanese. The man who seemed to be chief of the tribe provided the only case of elephantiasis remarked among these islands : it occurred with him in a very mild form_merely a slight swelling of the left leg. *

Having taken a series of photographs, during which operation the women were the cause of much laughter, as they stood in a row before the camera, we started off westwards along the beach to visit the village and obtain more curiosities. We set a rattling pace along the hot sand, to see what the little people could do; but when, after travelling nearly four miles, we reached the huts they occupied, those who had started with us were still up, although they had to break into a jog trot now and then to keep their position. They moved with a very springy action, and a swing of the body from the hips.

The huts stand singly, at distances of several hundred yards from each other, just within the shade of the jungle where it comes down to the beach, and are very different in style and construction from the majority of those of the northern islands. They are built to the shape of a somewhat flattened cone, about 13 feet high, and 30 feet in diameter. On a framework of light sticks,

* Scurvy is more prevalent on Little than on Great Andaman, perhaps owing to the low-lying swampy formation of the larger portion of the island. Hereditary syphilis is believed to be common among the Öngés, having been possibly introduced at some remote period prior to the occupation of 1858. Whether it is to be traced to Malay pirates, or through the Jarawa tribes to the Settlement of 1789, will never be ascertained, but, in coming to a conclusion, the Nicobarese must also be considered as a factor in the case.

[graphic][merged small][merged small]
« EelmineJätka »