The Wollaston Expedition to the Snow Mountains of New Guinea Mar 11, 2016 10:31:55 GMT wollastoni, deliasfanatic, and 3 more like this
Post by nomad on Mar 11, 2016 10:31:55 GMT
I have written elsewhere, a synopsis of A.F.R. Wollaston and his expedition to the Snow Mountains of New Guinea. In this new article, I have given further details of Wollaston's New Guinea adventures, so that readers might understand a little of the dangers, this intrepid explorer and his companions experienced who went on such a hazardous journey. Alexander Wollaston who was known to his friends as "Sandy", was not related to the early English Entomologist; Thomas Vernon Wollaston (1822-1878).
This article consists of three other sections.
2. The 1912-1913 Wollaston New Guinea Expedition.
3. The Lepidoptera collected by the New Guinea Wollaston Expedition.
4. Wollaston and the Strange Case of the Papuan Skulls.
An Introduction ; The Snow Mountains of New Guinea and the 1909-1910, British Ornithologists' Union New Guinea Expedition.
The Snow mountains are part of the Nassau Range and are situated in Western New Guinea. In 1623 the Dutchman Jan Carstensz, sailed along the Southern Coast of New Guinea and was astonished to see a snow capped peak glistening on the far horizon. That mountain named after the 17th Century explorer, the Carstensz Pyramid, is at 4,884 meters, the highest Peak of the Island. When Carstensz returned to Holland and told his countrymen what he had seen he was roundly laughed at.
I first read about the Snow Mountains of New Guinea when I found a book in an old second-hand bookshop. This 1963 publication was called 'I come from the Stone Age' and was written by the legendary Austrian explorer and mountain climber 'Heinrich Harrer'. Harrer had set off in 1962 on a three part expedition to Dutch New Guinea. The first part of Harrer's expedition was to the Snow Mountains which he reached from the north, his goal being the unclimbed Carstensz Pyramid. When Harrer made the first successful ascent of the Pyramid, there was still tribal warfare among the natives, they used stone axes and the Carstensz area was still a pristine wilderness. The American owned, Freeport giant Grasberg mine, which today has scarred the area irreparably and has polluted the rivers, was then thankfully for Harrer and the local native Amungme people, an ecological disaster of the future. Ironically it was the Dutch explorer, the geologist Jean Dosy during the Anton Colijn Expedition of 1936, that found the rich mineral deposits on the Ertsberg Mountain below the Carstensz Pyramid. Colijn and his party made the first successful ascent of the Carstensz Peaks but in three attempts they could not climb the highest summit, the Pyramid. Today, the Snow Mountains are really no longer that, global warming has seen the internal snow and glaciers of that mountain range recede and then vanish and they are only dusted from snow from time to time.
Half a century before Harrer, another explorer the Englishman 'Alexander Frederick Richmond " Sandy " Wollaston' [1875-1930], set off on his own expedition to the Snow Mountains of New Guinea. Wollaston had been an ardent lover of nature from an early age and made a collection of butterflies and moths, he was also passionate about Ornithology. Wollaston became a keen mountaineer and explorer and during several expeditions, he made important collections of insects, including many new species of lepidoptera for the British Museum and for Lord Walter Rothschild's private museum at Tring.
Wollaston qualified as a medical doctor, a profession he disliked intensely, to gain access to major expeditions and with his skills as an all round naturalist, Sandy Wollaston became a good candidate for such enterprises. After, an expedition to Africa, Wollaston joined the ill-fated British Ornithologists' Union Expedition of 1909-1911 to Dutch New Guinea. Walter Goodfellow was the leader of the BOU Expedition and the objective of his large party was to reach the Snow Mountains of the Central Ranges by travelling up one of the rivers from the south coast. Wollaston was appointed the expedition doctor and was also to be in charge of the entomological and botanical collecting parties. The BOU had originally planned to use the Utakwa (Oetakwa) River to reach the Snow Mountains but because a Dutch military Expedition had the same intention and, as a result of colonial competition, the British were directed to the much less promising Mimika River. Here the BOU expedition began to flounder in the lowland swamps and rainforest and there was much death and illness in the large party. Even the butterflies were scarce, Wollaston wrote in desperation " The myth that a tropical forest was where birds of wonderful plumage flashed from tree to tree and brilliant butterflies flitted among exotic blooms was born in a globetrotters' hothouse. You may travel for many miles in this jungle and never see a flower or a butterfly" Somehow the entire BOU lepidoptera collection was destroyed except for 600 specimens of Heterocera. After 15 months, the expedition finally made it to some lowland foothills and Wollaston had a tantalizing view of the Snow Mountains that were still 40 miles distant and as unreachable as the moon.
Before he left New Guinea, Wollaston was able to travel to the Utakwa River where he met the leader of the Dutch Military Expedition, Captain Van der Bie. The Captain told Wollaston that although he had only reached the foothills, the river offered the best possible route to the Snow Mountains. Van der Bie's expedition had hoped to find a route that would result in the first crossing of the Island. This is an Intriguing meeting because with the Dutch Military Expedition was the now legendary collector 'Albert Stewart Meek'. Wollaston referred to Meek as the Australian collector although he was in reality a fellow countryman. Did the two men meet, it is quite possible that they did, considering they had both collected for the Rothschilds, although if they did the details of their conservation remains unrecorded.