To all readers of this article. * I have purchased the use (Copyright) of these images from the British Museum of Natural History. They remain the copyright of the BMNH.
The Lepidoptera collected by the New Guinea Wollaston Expedition.
Lord Walter Rothschild produced an excellent account of the lepidoptera collected by Wollaston and Kloss. The Lepidoptera of the British Ornithologists' Union and Wollaston Expeditions in the Snow Mountains, Southern Dutch New Guinea was published in 1915. The two very fine plates from this publication are show here for easy reference. This section is accompanied by some high-definition British Museum images that were especially requested some time ago, when I first became interested in the Wollaston New Guinea Expedition. A few of these images have been shown in another thread but add much to the scientific interest of this article. The Delias specimens were collected by A.F.R Wollaston in February on Carstensz. None were taken in March, as the labels might suggest, Wollaston was back in his lower Canoe Camp by the first days of that month. Kloss was very busy during February on Carstensz, making a large collection of botanical specimens. Two of the dryaks were hired as collectors, but only to shoot and obtain bird specimens.
At his different camps and especially those that he made high up on Carstensz, Sandy Wollaston and his party collected 811 species of lepidoptera including 210 species of butterflies of which 40 species and 16 subspecies were new and of the moths, 212 species and around 20 subspecies were also new to science. There were no new Papilionidae and the Ornithoptera were rarely seen. Sandy caught a single female of O. tithonus at his base camp at sea level on the Utakwa River (Oetakwa River). This was the first specimen of this species to be taken in this area. Rothschild mentioned that the female O. tithonus sent to him by Wollaston, was different from those he had examined from Kapaur in the Onin Peninsula. Today, the O. tithonus Oetakwa River population is regarded by some authors as subspecies makikoae but others regard it as belonging to the nominate race.
Ornithoptera tithonus female taken by Wollaston.
Wollaston also took a number of the then rare and beautiful montane Graphuim weiskei. Only the males of G. weiskei were captured, the females as usual remained elusive. In his account of the lepidoptera of the Wollaston Expedition, Walter Rothschild took the opportunity to describe two new subspecies of Graphuim weiskei: goodenovii from a single male collected on Goodenough Island by A.S Meek in 1913 and stresemanni from the Mansuela range in Ceram where it was first found by the German naturalist Erwin Stresemann [1889- 1972]. Stresemann's Graphuim is now regarded as a separate species and Meek's discovery goodenovii, may also be another closely related distinct species.
Among the new butterflies discovered by the Wollaston party were four new Satyrinae and a female of the exquisite Taenaris [Morphotenaris] schoenberi wollastoni, which is now considered to be synonymous with the nominate race. There were 12 new Lycaenidae and 19 new skippers of which there was some amazing new forms. The fine collection of moths included some very beautiful species that included a giant Ghost moth Aenetus [Oenetus] wollastoni and Craspedosis wollastoni from the Geometridae family. A link to a specimen image of the very rare Aenetus wollastoni here
Among the outstanding lepidoptera captured on the Wollaston expedition and what pleased Walter Rothschild the most, were the butterflies of the Pieridae genus Delias. Walter Rothschild wrote of the new Delias species collected during the Wollaston Expedition " considering the number of new Delias obtained by Mr A.S. Meek on the Utakwa River and on Mount Goliath it was an immense surprise to find 6 new forms, 3 of which are quite unlike anything known hitherto ".
Albert Meek had found the butterfly collecting on the Upper Setakwa River poor, but a year later in 1911 he joined the Dutch Eilanden River Expedition. Meek reached the upper Eilanden River and set up his collecting camp at 6500 feet on Mount Goliath in the Star Mountains but soon found his stay in the mountain's moss forests, dank and miserable. When it was not raining, Meek and his collectors were usually enveloped in a cold mist, which made the trees always dripping wet. A. S. Meek spent three months on Mount Goliath from January to March but the butterflies were again scarce except for the Delias butterflies which were glorious. Meek and his native collectors endured many hardships on Mount Goliath but the Delias butterflies helped to brighten Meek's stay there. He wrote enthusiastically " They are white butterflies as regards the top side of the wings but on the underside the wings show the most beautiful colours : in some instances black and grey in others black and red- all very peculiar and very beautiful. The males and the females of this genus are in some instances very much alike, except that the females are darker in colouring than the males". On Mount Goliath, Meek discovered seven new Delias and obtained a good series of each species, including the elusive females. Meek had much experience in hunting Delias, especially in the Owen Stanley Range of the then British New Guinea.
The Wollaston party collected 18 species of Delias on their expedition of which four were new. Rothschild called the new Delias Wollastoni a marvellous insect unlike any known Delias, a rare compliment from the taxonomist who had described so many beautiful butterflies and he named this special discovery in Sandy's honour. Another new and beautiful unanticipated species he named Delias inexpectata. Both of these new Delias and the very striking Delias klossi were described by Rothschild from single male specimens that were captured high on the slopes of Carstensz in February 1913. The female of the nominate D. klossi, remains to be discovered a 100 years after the Wollaston expedition! The fourth new discovery Delias carstenziana was more numerous but again only the males were taken.
. Delias Wollastoni. Holoytype Male.
Delias klossi. Holotype Male.
Delias inexpectata Holoytype Male.
All the specimens on the plates above, were taken during the 1912/1913 Wollaston Expedition except those added by Rothschild on plate one: figures, 9, 24, specimens obtained by Meek, Figure 15, collected by Stresemann. Only a few of the Heterocera specimens of the B.O.U. Expedition that were caught by Wollaston appeared in an Appendix in Rothschild's publication, the others stored in the British Museum were then awaiting study.
It is surprising that some of the Geometridae specimens collected by Wollaston in the New Guinea Mountains, are not so very different to some of those species which occur in Europe and in other Palearctic regions.
In 2001, Professor Chris Ballard of the Australian National Museum, published a paper in the Journal of Pacific Studies entitled " AFR Wollaston and the 'Utakwa River Mountain Papuan'Skulls". On his return from New Guinea during 1914, Wollaston presented four Papuan skulls to the British Museum. Ballard believes that these skulls were taken from the bodies of the dead Mountain Amungme people who were among those that mysteriously died of starvation or illness when they descended to the expedition's Canoe Camp (see the main expedition article above). The Papuan skulls collected by the Wollaston expedition, were labelled March 1914, Utakwa River. Reaching the expedition's Canoe Camp in early March, Wollaston began his preparations for his journey down the river to his Base Camp. Even in 1914, the collection of the Skulls would appear to be a rather disquieting act and was never mentioned in any biographical accounts or in Wollaston's own 1912-1913 expedition paper that was read before the Royal Geographical Society and which was later published in their Journal. Ballard mentioned that the four Papuan skulls collected by Wollaston were mentioned in the official expedition report, which gives details of their bequeathal to the British Museum. In fact it would seem the collection of the skulls by Wollaston during his expedition remained forgotton, that is until the investigations by Ballard.
Professor A.C. Haddon of Cambridge urged Wollaston to make Anthropological collections during his expedition. Wollaston was unable to secure any Amungme Skulls by trade as had happened with other lowland natives during the earlier BOU Expedition. The Amungme buried their deceased unlike many other New Guinea tribal people who placed there dead at the top of burial platforms and then later removed the remains and then placed them in their ancestral homes. .
The British Museum remains almost silent on the matter. The BM does gives a few Biographical details on Wollaston " Ballard (2001) suggests that Wollaston was involved in collecting human skulls (given to the Natural History Museum, London in 1914) - a possible factor in the tension he later felt between the scientific aims of the day and the rights of indigenous people with whom, in mountain Papua, he had established close friendships. ".
"Wollaston’s ethnological collection held by British Museum was transferred in 1939 from the Natural History Museum which retained the human remains (Ballard 2001:118). All 128 of these objects originate from the Mimika and Utakwa Rivers in West Papua. The Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge also holds a substantial Wollaston collection". It can be seen that the BM seem to refrain from admitting they have the Amungme skulls which they certainly have and always refer to Ballard as the source of their 1914 Wollaston acquisition.
Ballard wrote in his paper "Wollaston’s personal tragedy, perhaps, was that his sense of duty to science, and to colleagues in Cambridge such as Haddon, could so easily override any sense of obligation to the ‘Mountain Papuans’ who had brought him within reach of his own personal Eden, at the edge of the Carstensz glacier."
Ballard visited New Guinea to interview the Amungme people regarding their recollections of the Wollaston Expedition. Several of the older Amungme knew the stories well, as they were passed down to them through eye witness accounts. The Amungme gave Ballard important details of the Wollaston Expedition including the route they had taken. Wollaston was known to them as ‘Koat Woret’. Ballard mentioned that " Amungme recollections of the Wollaston Expedition are dominated by the horror of the deaths of so many of their kin, held to be the consequence of attacks by spirits who are responsible for malaria and other diseases associated with the lowlands". The Amungme also knew the story of their kinsmen who in 1914 went down to the lowland camp to retrieve their deceased relatives and came back with the news that some of their heads were missing.
What kind of man was Wollaston. He was obviously a good and brave leader of men who could hold a large expedition together through adverse circumstances. It is often said that he said little, was often thoughtful and kind and especially to the native people he encountered. However, he did have quite a temper, especially to those he disliked. When a Papuan native was wounded by a soldier early on in the expedition and then killed by one of his dryak collectors at the Canoe Camp during his absence, he wrote in his diary on October 27th " When I got up this morning to our top camp (Canoe camp) I heard a dreadful piece of news. It was that a few days ago one of a party of Papuans visiting the camp had stolen a pick, and was making off down the river when our sergeant ordered a man to get his rifle and shoot near the culprit. The soldier fired three shots as he was told, but with a fourth shot he hit the man. In meantime, one of our Dayak collectors, Jagat, fetched a 12-bore gun, dashed into the jungle along the river (neither Kloss nor the sergeant seems to have made any effort to stop him) and killed the Papuan. Nothing excuses the brutality of shooting a man for a small theft nor the savagery of the man who gave this poor wretch the coup de grace, and it is altogether a most miserable and deplorable business".
During 1920, Wollaston was listening to an address to the Royal Geographical Society by the Australian Government Anthropologist of the Territory of Papua, E.W. Pearson Chinnery. An irritated Wollaston could contain himself no longer, he stood up at the end of the speech and defended the rights of Papuans to a form of self-determination, and declared his personal friendship for them:
" You call them ‘savages’. Many of these people are personal friends of mine. I have always found them to be a happy and cheerful people, sufficiently fed and suitably clad. So far as I know they are as truthful as most of us, and in many months I have spent with them, though they have had endless opportunities and unspeakable temptation, I have never known one of them to steal ".
Wollaston also that stated in his address to the meeting after Pearson's lecture, " I suppose it is too much to expect that the whole of interior New Guinea, should be kept as a vast ethnological museum; but I should like to believe that the Australian Government will set apart a really large area- there is plenty of room-to kept as a nature reserve where these people can live their own life, and work out their own destiny, whatever that may be. Into that country no traders, no missionaries, no explorers, not even Government police themselves should be allowed to go. Perhaps it is an impossible dream". Yes it certainly was.
Many thanks are due to Professor Chris Ballard help in supplying his paper for my research and for further information. Today, Chris Ballard is a champion of the Amungene rights to live peacefully on their own land and wrote " Sandy is something of a hero of mine too and I plan to write more on his plans for the protection of Papuans". I was pleased to hear those comments for he is one of my heroes too.
The following books and article can be found on A.F.R. Wollaston.
Race to the Snow 1907-1936, Chris Ballard, Steven Vink and Anton Ploeg, 2001. Enthralling account of the early exploration of New Guinea with a chapter on the BOU and Wollaston Expeditions by Chris Ballard.
My Father Sandy by Nicholas Wollaston, 2003. Absorbing biography by Wollaston's son.
Thanks Peter again for this brilliant last article.
Your topic gave me the will to learn more about Wollaston and I have just purchased an original edition of Rothschild's publication about his expeditions and "An expedition to Dutch New Guinea" from Wollaston in a reedited version.
Very good Olivier. A good account by Wollaston of his expedition. His diary book is also worth having, selected by his then newly widowed wife Mary and also the biography by his son. Both give good details of Wollaston's New Guinea Expeditions.
Many of Wollaston's early diary notes give details of the birds that he saw. He liked to find their nests, many of which were well hidden. Wollaston and many of the earlier Ornithologists were also interested in oology, making a collection of bird's eggs One of his son's early and few recollections of Wollaston were his fathers cabinets of butterflies, moths and bird's eggs.
A diary entry for August 23rd, when Wollaston and his friend were tramping through Lapland mentions "Had a good view of a flock of siskins. Newton and other people would not believe last year that we saw them as far north as this. There were swarms of Camberwell Beauties (Nymphalis antiopa) all along the road, and I caught half a dozen." Wollaston would have known that Nymphalis antiopa is a rare migrant to Britain from Scandinavia.