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The- special commissioner of the Sydney Morning Herald, who was present at tbe proclamation of the British protectorate in .Heir Guinea, writes:—The visit of the Swinger to Milne Bay proved as interesting as that of the Eepiegle to Moresby Island, for it gave ns an introduction to cannibals surprised almost in the very act of feasting on the bodies of some of their enemies. We bad for several days been in the region of cannibalism, and had found old skulls and human leg bones hanging at the entrances to and inside the native houses, but we had seen no sign of any recent cannibal orgie, and .were therefore considerably interested when the Swinger rejoined the Nelson at the Killerton Islands, with a cannibal chief on board who had so recently been gorging himself with human flesh that sufficient time had not yet elapsed for him to have been able to digest his horrid meaL Milne Bay is peopled with cannibals, and very little intercourse has taken place between them and the white men. They are constantly at war, one tribe' with another, and those who are killed or taken prisoners are invariably cooked and eaten. On the morning of the Swinger's ■risit, the Babi natives had been, fighting with another tribe, and had killed two men and one woman. The bodies of the two men they had cooked ■ and eaten just before the Swinger arrived; the body of the woman they had thrown ' away — not because it was not likely to prove as palatable as the others, but because the others had proved sufficient to satisfy for the time their inhuman appetite. A few hoars' earlier arrival off the place would have revealed to Captain Marx and Mr. Chalmers the whole process of cannibalism --how the bodies when brought from the goene of the fight were put over afire and singed; how the chiefs of the war canoes which had been instrumental in killing the three natives had the singed bodies brought before them, while 'they sat on a kind of •tone pavement to receive them, as it were, Instate; how the ohiefs then directed the. bodies to be cnt np, and how they were then cut up,. and the various portions cooked by being boiled in pots (whioh are never afterwards used), or wrapped in banana leaves and roasted on hot stones; how the men of the tribe, in order to prepare themselves for the feast, shaved off a part of their hair and painted their faces hideously— . first on interne black, and then relieving the blackness with a series of white lines down tbe forehead and nose and round the eyes ; how the tidbits—the breast and the shin bones—the latter because they are full of marrow, were handed to the chiefs, and the other portions, except the heads, to the rest of the savages ; how the skulls were cleaned and hung np as trophies at the doors of the chiefs' houses ; and how, amid all the excitement attending these proceedings, the women and children stood by, equally excited, but, in accordance with custom, not sharing in the feast. All this might have been seen, for according to the best accounts, it is an exact description of what takes place at the cannibal ceremony which the natives engage in ; sot so much, it appears, because they like the taste of human flesh—though they do like It, and cay that the flavour of a pig is nothing to it—bat because of their insatiable longing for revenge. In the case under notice a neighbouring tribe attacked the Rabi people three months ago, and killed and ate one of their number, and the fight and cannibalism on the morning of the Swinger's appearance were the result of the previous enmity. When the Swinger had approached as near the shore in Milne Bay as safety would allow, s boat, containing Captin Marx, Mr. Chalmers, and an interpreter, left the ve3gel, in order to land at a village and indnce the chiefs of the place to come on board the Swinger so that they might be taken to the Killerton Islands, and witness there the ceremony of proclaiming the protectorate and hoisting the British flag. Mr. Chalmers was able to get two chiefs into the "boat, and then ascertaining that another chief he wanted was away at a village situated at another part of the bay, the boat was* immediately taken in that direction. This other village was the one in whieh the cannibal feast had just taken place, and there also there were signs of fear that the Swinger had come to do the natives some harm. Bat .Mr. Chalmers and Captain Marx landed with the interpreter, and it was explained to the natives who had come amongst them.- Many of the natives had their cannibal paint upon their faces, but it was not until the Swinger's boat had returned to. the ship with three chiefs that it became known that there had been a cannibal feast-in the village that morning. Then it was that tbe story of the fight and of the subsequent cooking and eating of the two bodies was recounted by one of the oniefi, and something of the horrible scene which the boat party had so narrowly missed witnessing, understood. On Monday night three cannibal chiefs were brought on board the Nelson. The principal one—he who had been ,feasting in. the morning, and who came to be. known on board as "Cannibal Jack," was in all respects,'so far as appearances went, a bad type of native,.' for bis face was cruel and treacherous. He was naked,with the exception of his girdle, and his limbs, though not. very muscular, were lithe and active. On his arms were two broad, blaok-colonred, grass-made armlets; in his ears small tortoise-shell and red shell earrings, and round his neck there was a plaited black cord necklace. His companions were strikingly different. One of hem was even more savage in! appearance, or his features were painted with somehing like tor, so that a broad black line passed,down the forehead and the nose to the lip,' and then lines of the same kind from the corners of the mouth and of the eyes. The third man, strange to eay, had more benevolence' than anything else about his features. He was evidently very old, for he could not o'new his betel nut; and to prevent himself from being altogether deprived <of it, he had with, him in his basket a small pei'de and mortar, with which he pounded the nnt before putting it into his mouth. It was he whom the Commodore' appointed- the principal chief of the Milne Bay district. After the ceremony of reading the proclamation and hoisting the flag on shore, the Commodore bad the- three cannibal ohiefs and other chiefs' brought into his cabin, and he there had interpreted by Rev. W. G. L'awes and a native teacher the address which had been ~ read at the varions places visited along the coast, in order that the natives might clearly understand what was 'being done. The Conimodore told them that one of the objects of the protectorate was to $aard- against - fighting-and bloodshed jnonget themselves, and that he was sorry to hear Milne Bay had rather a bad reputation in* this respect. Addressing himself to -the chief who had been concerned the day previous in the eating of the two men, the Commodore expressed bis sorrow that on his first visit to that part of New Guinea he should have heard of a fight between some .of the natives and of cannablism. He waa there, he said, to express his regret that cannibalism still existed, and to say that Queen Victoria expected her children to give up that sort of thing, that cannibalism was s> thing of the past, - and therefore he hoped from that day forth the natives of Milne Bay would -give it np. The cannibal addressed was asked if he underatood what the Commodore intended to convey, and what he had to say in reply. Hβ signified that he "did understand it, bat his only reply, at,first, was a raising of his eyebrows and a movement of his lips, half-contempt, .nous and" half • submissive, Then he said something which was interpreted to mean that he would tell hie people what the Commodore had said, and that they must not praotido cannibalism any more.

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Bibliographic details

CANNIBALISM IN NEW GUINEA., New Zealand Herald, Volume XXI, Issue 7198, 11 December 1884

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CANNIBALISM IN NEW GUINEA. New Zealand Herald, Volume XXI, Issue 7198, 11 December 1884

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