Fairchild Tropical Garden Expedition aboard the Cheng Ho 1939-1940
FEBRUARY 1940
 
 
 
 
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MARCH 1940
 
 
 
 
 
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APRIL 1940
 
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MAY 1940
 
 
 
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MAY 1940
1

Buru Island, Indonesia

Written by Edward Beckwith on Wednesday, May 1, 1940

We have at last arrived at the Moluccas, the original objective of the expedition. At 6 AM I went on the upper deck and found David, Anne, Marian and Hugo there watching our approach to Buru, a beautiful sight with one of the many volcanic mountains standing up against the sky line. As the sun rose the foreground hills and valleys stood out in the lights and shadows of the clear and calm tropical morning.

Our anchorage was behind a small long island with a narrow channel to negotiate. Ted went out in the small launch with a sounding line and marked the 500 ft opening with tin can buoys. Before entering, David, Hugo, Anne, Marian, and I put off in the small launch and landed on the clear coral beach of the small island. David almost immediately made some new finds, among them a palm. After the necessary photography I went exploring with Hugo and then with David. A trail led inland, where we found a primitive native still for cajuput oil. The sweet smelling leaves were in a vat and some of the oil was being distilled from them by heat and a bamboo condenser cooled by running water. We talked with some of the natives and obtained some fermented sugar palm juice, which was much like mild cider but better. The amount obtained from one tree in a day was about a gallon and only one night was needed to complete the fermentation. It was quite alcoholic.

David and I took a swim in the warm clear water while Marian and Anne spent most of the morning in their usual shell collecting. We returned to the Cheng Ho for lunch at 1:30.

After lunch I started classifying film but there were plans for another boat party and I ended by going with David and Marian and Ah Fook to run the launch. We followed the very steep and heavily wooded shore line landing at intervals to collect something. Hugo started out with us but left for a shore trip. At one point a cold brook with a considerable volume of water came out of the rock. Ah Fook seemed as interested as anyone in finding something new and once brought out a flower which David had not noticed.

The whole setting of this sheltered bay behind an island is the most picturesque and beautiful of any we have seen. The shore line was partly mangrove backed by steep, wooded limestone hills, which rose toward the peak of an extinct crater.

We finally circled a small island and then returned to the shore in the dark to pick up Hugo, who had been waiting half an hour and had some rather large specimens to get aboard. David talked a lot about my settling down here somewhere for the rest of my life and said he might join me.

Our first contact with the Moluccas has certainly been impressive and favourable beyond all expectations.

There are many good things about this beautiful island. It is very sparsely inhabited, there are no roads, no automobiles, no controlleurs or residents to visit and entertain, and very interesting and varied forest, jungle and shore line.

The Cheng Ho off Buru Island, Indonesia
The Cheng Ho off Buru Island, Maluku, Indonesia. Photographed by Edward Beckwith.
Buru Island
Buru Island, photographed by Edward Beckwith.
Buru Island
Buru Island, photographed by David Fairchild.
Bruguiera trees, Buru Island
Bruguiera trees, Buru Island. Photographed by Edward Beckwith.
Still for purifying cajaput oil, Buru Island
Still for purifying cajaput oil. Photographed on Buru Island by Edward Beckwith.
Still for purifying cajaput oil, Buru Island
Still for purifying cajaput oil. Photographed on Buru Island by David Fairchild.
Hernandia tree on Buru Island
Hugo Curran and Anne Archbold on Buru Island with a Hernandia tree, photographed by Edward Beckwith.
Specimen from a Hernandia tree
Specimen from a Hernandia tree, photographed by Edward Beckwith.
Hernandia tree at Fairchild
Hernandia tree at Fairchild, grown from seed collected on Buru Island on May 1, 1940. Photographed by Carl Lewis on May 1, 2010.

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