Among the Islands: Adventures in the Pacific
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Flannery was traveling in search of rare and undiscovered mammal species, but he found much more: wild, weird places where local taboos, foul weather, dense jungle, and sheer remoteness made for difficult and dramatic exploration. Among the Islands is full of fascinating creatures—monkey faced bats, giant rats, gazelle-faced black wallabies, and more—and the adventure of discovery. This is an idea read for anyone who has ever imagined voyaging to the ends of the earth to uncover and study the rare and the wonderful.
the man who waved us off predicted that fighting would erupt as a consequence. ‘Like sitting on a powder-keg’ was how I described, in my diary, the tension I felt while awaiting the flight. Arriving back at the Australian Museum we had enough materials to write descriptions of the mammal faunas of the islands we had visited. This would provide useful information for the conservation of the species that occurred there. But our ambitions were greater than that. If we were to understand the
colleagues Oldfield Thomas was something of a hypochondriac—a ‘perpetual valetudinarian’ in the language of the day, whose hard-to-pin-down symptoms included heart palpitations and stress. He became obsessed with the effects of diet and daily massage, and he would retire to a darkened room after lunch each day for an hour-long nap. As with so many museum curators, when he retired from work in 1923 he carried on as if nothing had changed, turning up at his office punctually each day. Then, in
Serana, as we will call the complainant, was in his fifties, short and nuggety and dressed in only a pair of ragged shorts. He spoke no English—only the pidgin of the islands—and to him the issue was deadly serious, for, if not settled in court, it would end up erupting into rough-and-ready village justice. He began his testimony with a long description of his fine garden with its taro, sugarcane and sweet potato, and the great effort he’d gone to in fencing it to keep out pigs. Only a truly evil
temper. This is a rare thing for me, and I realised that we needed to leave the mountain as soon as possible if we were to avoid a great unpleasantness. Over the years I have frequently thought about the behaviour of the people of Valearanisi village. One factor that affected them was that the place had never been brought under full government control, so the old ways persisted. And there’s no doubt that the goldmine and the tales of enormous wealth being extracted from it affected the
When he arrived at the royal death bed, however, Williams was astonished to find that the old man, though somewhat feeble, was clearly still alive and kicking! Perplexed, he approached the king’s son who, ‘seemed greatly moved, put his arm round and embraced me, saying, before I could speak. “See, the father of us two is dead … his spirit is gone. You see his body move; but that it does unconsciously.”‘28 Williams was now faced with a cruel dilemma. Should he try to save the remaining women and