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IN THE ANDAMANS AND
The Terrapin–Crew- Itinerary of the Cruise-Daily Routine-Provisions
and Supplies-Collecting Apparatus-Guns-Shooting-Path-makingClothing-Head-dress-A Scene in the Tropics-Native IndolenceAttractive Memories.
The Terrapin, captain and owner Dr W. L. Abbott, is a Singapore-built teak schooner of 40 tons register and 67 tons yacht measurement. She is 65 feet long on the water-line, and 16 feet broad, and has been given an almost box-shaped midship section, partly to afford sufficient inside space for the ballast (iron), but principally with the idea that when she takes the ground she may not heel to any uncomfortable extent. The draught is 71 feet, but two years' experience has proved that this is too much for the class of cruising she is engaged in. The crew are berthed forward, and aft is a large hold where tanks containing about 3 tons of water, supplies, cables, etc., are stored. A large raised trunk hatch about 2} feet high covers the central third of the boat, leaving 3-feet gangways on either side. This structure affords ample head-room below, and gives coolness and abundant ventilation by means of windows which open all round it. Sailing in the tropics, with the thermometer constantly standing at 84° or so in the shade, necessitates for any comfort a very different arrangement from what would be fitting at home. Whenever possible, the boat, while
anchored, is covered with awnings from stem to stern. Under the hatch are a large saloon, two cabins, pantry, etc.
The crew-five ordinary seamen, a serang (boatswain), and sailing-master-are Malays; for natives are far more satisfactory in nearly every way on a small boat in the tropics than white men, even if the latter could be obtained. They can put up with more restricted quarters, are less inclined to grumble under the peculiar circumstances, or be disobedient, are more at home in every way in the surroundings and with the people one meets, are little trouble to cater for, and, most important of all, keep in good health and can stand the sun. A Chinese “boy” and cook are also carried.
Forward on deck there is a small iron galley for the preparation of meals, and aft repose two boats—an 18-feet doubleender for four oars, and a beamy 10-feet dinghy that best carries a crew of three. The schooner steers with a wheel.
The Terrapin left Singapore in October 1900 and, subsequent to calling at Penang, cruised off the coast of Tenasserim and among the islands of the Mergui Archipelago until I joined her late in December. A few days were then spent in the peninsula, where several deer and wild pig were obtained; then visiting High Island—where an unsuccessful search was made for Sellung * skeletons, and a number of birds and small mammals added to the collection-she left for the Andamans.
On the return voyage from the Nicobars we called at Olehleh, the port for Kota Rajah, Dutch capital of Acheen. Even a dissociation from them of only three months made the pinkwhite skins of the Europeans — sun-avoiding Dutch — seem strange and unhealthy.
Having spent a day or two at this place, where we first heard of the accession of King Edward VII., we skirted the north coast of Sumatra, with its park-like stretches of grass and forest, drifting INTRODUCTION
* The Sellungs are a primitive and timid tribe, who wander in canoes among the Mergui Islands during the fine weather, and make temporary settlements on lee-shores in the south-west monsoon. They number between two and three thousand.
along almost in the shadow of its great volcanic mountains, and then, crossing the northern entrance of the Malacca Straits, anchored once more in the harbour of Penang.
At Klang, in Selangor, we stopped a night to visit the museum at Kwala Lumpor, and were passed by the Ophir and her consorts as they steamed to Singapore; which place we ourselves reached, after a slow passage down the coast, on the 27th of April 1901, thus bringing the cruise to an end.
The day's programme during the voyage was simple. We rose before 5 A.M.; and after a hurried chota hazri, rowed ashore the moment it grew at all light. The next five hours were passed collecting in the jungle ; and then returning on board, after a bath, change, and breakfast, the preservation of specimens went on until two o'clock; next came tea, then more work until about 3 P.M., when we once more rowed ashore and sought for fresh material until darkness set in. Then after another bath and change came dinner, and by the time the second batch of specimens was disposed of, we were quite ready for mattress and pillow on deck; for unless it rained we never slept below. The development of photographs often kept me up till midnight, since they had to be manipulated in a small pantry which could only be thoroughly darkened after sunset. I have seldom been in a warmer place.
Some consideration should be given to the provisioning of a boat when cruising away from regular supplies for health is largely dependent on this point.
For so long as flour will keep good it is pleasant to have fresh bread, but experience on this and other cruises is that it gets full of weevils after three months in a small boat. While tinned provisions and bottled fruits are very well for a time, one rapidly tires of them, and then there is nothing like the old stand-bys of salt beef and pork, ship's biscuits, rice, etc. Potatoes and onions will keep well for six months, and “sauerkraut," or Chinese preserved greens, are useful articles. Many of the birds shot for specimens-on this cruise, megapodes, pigeons, and whimbrelform welcome additions to the table, and one gets occasionally wild pig and deer; while even of such unorthodox animals as squirrels, the larger kinds—Sciurus bicolor attains almost the size of a hare, which it much resembles in flavour—are by no means despicable. When we were under sail, there were always lines towing astern of the vessel, which often produced bonito, dolphin, barracouta, edible shark, and other varieties, and we carried a seine, which, when stretched across the mouth of a tidal creek, was nearly always certain to entangle some kind of fish in its meshes, while with a casting-net catches of what one might call “whitebait” were often made.
One is rarely able to obtain much else than fowls from natives, and except in towns and large villages, where there are regular bazaars and markets, even fruit other than coconuts and bananas is scarce. Tinned and bottled preserves soon become insipid to the palate, but dried fruit, such as apples, apricots and prunes, we found far more attractive, and they should always be carried when native supplies are uncertain. In fact, beyond a few necessaries such as milk, butter, jam, tea, coffee, sugar, cheese and curry stuffs, and a few more luxurious articles, like soups, pickles—but those who have tried a well-seasoned piece of salt junk will admit that these and mustard are almost absolute necessities—sauces, etc., the fewer tinned provisions there are the better, so far as health in the tropics is concerned. When one can keep the hen-coop well stocked, and there is plenty of rice on board, one never feels like grumbling while there is any amount of work to be done.
In the matter of collecting apparatus, the newer powders are preferable, as with them there is less chance, through absence of smoke, of losing sight of the specimen as it falls, which is often the case otherwise. It is well to have cartridge cases of different colours for ease in selection, and the sizes of shot most useful seem to be:-SSG for pigs, deer, and large monkeys; AA and II for monkeys, eagles, and other large birds; V for pigeons, and others of similar size in high tree tops ; VIII for the same at moderate range, and for smaller birds and squirrels, etc., when distant; while 2 drams of powder and ounce of XI shot-the cartridge filled out by several wads between the two — is most useful for small
birds and animals up to 20 yards, and for others at proportionate distances. For such little things as sunbirds, and for snakes, lizards, or for point-blank shots, we carried auxiliary barrels, about 9 inches long, that can be slipped in and out of the gun like an ordinary cartridge, and which fired an extra long .32 calibre brass cartridge loaded with a pinch of dust shot (No. XIII). These were invaluable for obtaining the smaller specimens without smashing, and had a killing range of about 12 yards.
There is no more perfect weapon for the collecting naturalist than the three-barrelled guns that we used_shot barrels fully choked, and the third, placed beneath the others, rifled for long .380 cartridges. With one of these, the auxiliary barrel, and a proper selection of cartridges, one is ready for anything that may turn up other than the larger “big game,” for the equipment is so portable that there is no temptation ever to leave part of it behind.
The only drawback to such an outfit lies in the time lost in selecting a suitable cartridge for each shot, but the perfect specimens obtained by this method are ample compensation for the extra trouble involved. Even in this way accidents sometimes happen however, as when on one occasion, while walking through some grass, a tiny button-quail sprang up, and was knocked over at close range with what was thought to be a small charge of No. XI shot. The specimen was not found at once, but as it was the first of the kind obtained (and has since proved to be of a new species), the search was persisted in until after a quarter of an hour a little purple pulp attached to a wing was discovered. The collector had forgotten which barrel contained the smaller cartridge, and, pulling the wrong trigger, had fired a full charge of No. VIII from about that distance in yards, at a wretched little bird about the size of a sparrow!
To fire at flying birds in the jungle is both wasteful and unprofitable, for while a bird is only to be seen for a moment as it flashes between the branches, even if hit, it infallibly becomes lost in the dense luxuriance of vegetation. The chances in the favour of the quarry are, however, largely increased by a careful