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Nowadays, all that marks our possession of these islands is the Colonial Jack, presided over by a Hindu; all that shows our past occupation, fallen brickwork, grass-grown roads and graves: these things, and the result of our contact with the native inhabitants. In the north, some knowledge of the English speech, and the beginning of education ; here the suppression of piracy.
The agent told us that in the group people were dying almost day by day; the cause, from his description, ague and malaria.* Beyond two or three slight cases of elephantiasis, we ourselves noticed no symptoms of disease amongst the adults, but the children nearly all seemed to be suffering from yaws.
The country around the settlement is very undulating, and covered with long grass growing on a sterile clay. It was almost lifeless, for we saw little more than wagtails, pipits, and an occasional button-quail (Turnix albiventris and Excalfactoria, sp. nov.); but in one of the numerous gullies between the hills we found a little jheel where formerly paddy had been grown, and floating on its surface was a small flock of whistling teal (Dendrocygna javanica). A couple were dropped before they flew out of range, and next day we met in the same place a larger number, which all got off scot free; but a falcon (F. peregrinus), that like ourselves had just made an unsuccessful attack, was soon reposing in a game-bag, in company with a chestnut heron (A. cinnomomea), and a redshank.
On February 11th, when we left our anchorage, the breeze was very light, and bore the schooner slowly through the calm waters of the harbour as we steered for the western exit.
Blair, 3s. Dictionary of Nancowry and Nicobarese Languages (both parts), Calcutta, 75. 6d.
* This decline of population has been even more marked in the southern group than in the central, and has been found to be due to paucity of births and not to increased mortality. It has been attributed to injury done by the practice among the men of the Central and Southern Islands of fastening the neng or loin-cloth unduly tightly over the organs of generation, whereby these are in many cases rendered impotent. At Kar Nicobar, Teressa, and Bompoka, and Chaura the neng is worn less tightly.
All around, the shores sloped downward, covered with dense forest, but now and again the inland hills rose grass-clad above the tree-tops; on either hand we passed small villages, Itoë (six houses), and Pachoak (five houses), placed just above the edge of the water.
The western opening is bold and rocky, but very narrow; and among the boulders of the shore are several blow-holes, from which, when the sea rolls on the beach, spouts of water fly upwards and break into showers of spray.
Outside, the wind was still light, and we tacked along the coast for some hours before it strengthened. Much of this side of Kamorta consists of low broken hills with pointed summits looking like volcanic cones-a grassy country, varied by occasional small patches of forest—while along the shore low bluffs and stretches of coco palms succeed each other,
Soon we passed the entrance of Expedition Harbour, a deep, land-locked bight, separated from Nankauri Harbour by a narrow strip of land; this was the reputed headquarters of the band of piratical savages who formerly committed so many depredations in this neighbourhood. Near by, Mount Edgecombe, of a very volcanic appearance, rises about 400 feet.
This shore seems but little inhabited, for until we reached our destination at 4 P.M., we saw only one small village of four or five houses.
The wind was off the land when we arrived at Dring Harbour, and since the entrance was narrowed by rocks and reefs projecting from either side, we lowered all sail and warped in.
The bay is about half a mile square, and the head, which is slightly wider than the mouth, is bordered by a long sandy beach, backed by a belt of scrub and palm trees, from a quarter to half a mile in depth. The other shores are partially formed by small cliffs, with a thin fringe of jungle, bounding grassy hills and downs.
The village of Olta-möit (fifteen to twenty houses), “Captain John,” headman, lies along the beach, which abuts at the southern end upon a fair-sized creek leading to a mangrove swamp at
the back of the houses. Several natives came on board at once, in expectation of a feed; none spoke English, but all understood Malay.
The patch of jungle about the village is rather small, and to reach more necessitated a walk of some miles; we succeeded, however, in adding to our collection a diminutive serpent-eagle (Spilornis minimus), and caught sight in the denser jungle of a fresh variety of a little forest hawk. Specimens were also obtained of a small bat which has since been named Pipistrellus camorta.
The neighbourhood of the harbour has for long been frequented by descendants of buffaloes, turned loose by the Danes when they abandoned their settlement at Nankauri. Formerly it is said that large herds were to be met with in the neighbourhood; but we learnt, both from the inhabitants and from the Port Register, that the animals are now becoming very scarce, and only a few have recently been killed by visitors from the station gunboat.
I was out after them on two consecutive days. Both had been preceded by nights of rain, through which tracking was much facilitated. The country round is very undulating, often broken by deep gullies, and covered here and there with small patches of jungle, while everywhere are scattered pandanus trees, either in clumps or singly. On both occasions I picked up fresh tracks in the red clayey soil when some distance from the village, and after following them for several miles lost them in distant jungle. There seemed to be only two animals in the neighbourhood—one very large indeed, and the other of much smaller size. This decline in numbers is not due to the natives, who, with their spears only, could cause little destruction, and who evince no eagerness to pursue.
Tracks of pig were innumerable, and every now and then a bunch of little quail whirled away from beneath my feet. Although out by 5 A.M., I was not early enough; at three o'clock on a moonlight night one would probably be more fortunate.