EXPEDITION OF 1971 TO THE MACLAY COAST
In the late XIX and XX centuries, the expeditions of Russian scientists to Oceania ceased. But already in the mid-1920s, plans to continue exploring the South Pacific began to appear in the USSR. However, due to political problems, and then the outbreak of World War II, all work in this direction was stopped. Only in the first post-war years, the ship “Vityaz” (named so in 1949 in memory of two Russian corvettes of the same name, built in 1862 and 1884, the first of which delivered N.N. Miklouho-Maclay to the shores of New Guinea in 1871), placed at the disposal of the USSR Academy of Sciences began to make regular voyages to the Pacific Ocean, first to the northern and then to the southern latitudes. But these expeditions were mainly of an oceanological nature. Nevertheless, the “Vityaz” visited the Maclay Coast twice. For the first time, in April 1966, it stayed in the city of Madang for five days to refuel and replenish water and food supplies. In December 1970, the “Vityaz” visited the Maclay Coast again and went for a few hours to Constantine Bay (where the village of Bongu is located, near which N.N. Miklouho-Maclay lived and conducted research in the 1870s). On Garagassi Point, where the famous scientist’s hut was located, the participants of the oceanological expedition installed a concrete slab with a memorial plaque in Russian and English specially brought for this occasion.
As for the first scientific ethnographic expedition in the XX century dedicated to the 100th anniversary of N.N. Miklouho-Maclay’s first visit to New Guinea and the 125th anniversary of his birth, the ship “Dmitry Mendeleev” which arrived in the Maclay Coast in 1971, a year after the visit of “Vityaz”.
The 1970s became one of the important milestones in the development of Russian ocean studies, as Soviet ethnographers finally got the opportunity to conduct field research during the two voyages of the research vessel “Dmitry Mendeleev” organized in those years. The goals were to carry out complex ethnographic fieldwork on various island groups of Oceania and primarily on the Maclay Coast, as well as to prepare a springboard for longer studies of lifestyle and culture, economic structure, social organization, material culture, religious beliefs, folklore, education system, etc.
Departure of “Dmitry Mendeleev” from Vladivostok was scheduled for June 1971. From January to May, the research fellows from the Institute of Oceanology, the Institute of Ethnography and other scientific institutions (Zoological and Botanical Institutes of the USSR Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Anthropology of Moscow State University, the Darwin Museum, etc.) to take part in the voyage have been intensively preparing for the unique expedition.
The first thing to do was to choose the expedition team: who will be in the ethnographic group, who will be its leader? There were many ethnologists-oceanologists in the country at that time, but most of them could not travel abroad for various reasons. As a result, the expedition was led by an outstanding scientist Daniil Davidovich Tumarkin and his colleague Nikolay Alexandrovich Butinov, a well-known specialist in the ethnographic studies of Oceania, who had defended doctoral dissertation on the topic “The Papuans of New Guinea” in 1970. In addition, he began to deeply study the biography and scientific works of N.N. Miklouho-Maclay before the other members of the team.
At that time, Daniil Tumarkin was already a well-known expert in ethnography and he advanced quite far in studying the life and works of N.N. Miklouho-Maclay. But he had no experience working “in the field”. Not a single trip! And therefore, it was necessary, first of all, to have an experienced “in the field” ethnographer in the team. The selection criteria were as follows: a physically healthy person who had already traveled abroad, and was able to get the hang of things quickly and prepare for the study of a range of subjects. The choice fell on Vladimir Basilov, a specialist in shamanism of Central Asia.
Another experienced “in the field” ethnographer of the ethnographic group was Mikhail Kryukov, a fellow of the Institute of Ethnography. A specialist in the ethnography of East and Southeast Asia, especially China, and some subjects of general ethnography, he had interned in China and had experience in communicating with foreign scientists. As Mikhail Vasilyevich used to joke, he not only worked at the Miklouho-Maclay Institute of Ethnography, but also lived in Moscow on a street named after this scientist. How could he refuse to take part in an expedition in the footsteps of the brave traveler?!
It was decided to take an anthropologist and a folklorist into the team. So, Oleg Pavlovsky, a fellow of the Moscow State University Institute of Anthropology, was invited to take part in the expedition. There was also a first-class folklorist Boris Putilov, a fellow of the Institute of Ethnology (Leningrad branch). His main subject was the folklore of the Southern Slavs, for the study of which he repeatedly traveled to Eastern Europe. However, Boris Putilov, like Daniil Tumarkin, “got hooked” on Miklouho-Maclay too.
It is known that during his travels in the 1870s and 1880s, N.N. Miklouho-Maclay compiled dictionaries of the languages of the peoples he studied. In order to continue and develop these ethnolinguistic studies, N.A. Butinov recommended that Nikolay Girenko, a fellow of the Africa Department of the Institute of Ethnography (Leningrad Branch), be included in the expedition team. Before joining the Institute of Ethnography, he had been working for two years as a translator in Tanzania, was proficient in English and one of the most famous languages of the African continent – Swahili, and easily mastered new languages in general. Nikolay Mikhailovich was to help Butinov in studying the ethnolinguistic matter in Oceania, and above all on the Maclay Coast.
The voyage of the research vessel “Dmitry Mendeleev” in 1971 was dedicated to the double anniversary: the centenary of N.N. Miklouho-Maclay’s first visit to the North-East of New Guinea and the 125th anniversary of his birth.
The ethnographic group of the expedition consisted of eight scientists: D.D. Tumarkin (leader of the group), V.N. Basilov, N.A. Butinov, M.V. Kryukov, N.M. Girenko, O.M. Pavlovsky, B.N. Putilov, I.M. Meliksetova (ocean historian from the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences). In addition, documentary filmmakers V.G. Ryklin and A.N. Popov were invited. M.V. Sobolevsky was the captain of the ship, and an oceanologist A.A. Aksenovthe was appointed head of the expedition.
The expedition team left Vladivostok on 17 June 1971 and headed for the southern latitudes. On June 27, the ship called in at Singapore for four days and then set course for the shores of New Guinea. On July 8, “Dmitry Mendeleev” arrived in Madang, a port city in the immediate vicinity of the Maclay Coast, where an Australian employee of the local administration, Craig Simons, got on board as a “curator”.
The next day, July 9, “Dmitry Mendeleev” cast anchor in Constantine Bay (now Melanua). A boat was lowered, and the ethnographic team headed for the shore. On the ship anchored about 3 miles from Bongu, an order was announced: in order not to interfere with the work of the ethnographers, other members of the expedition team and the ship’s crew were forbidden to visit this village without special permission. Meanwhile, a crowd gathered on the shore. The Papuans (the natives) watched the approaching boat with a wary frown. However, their mood changed dramatically for the better when they heard: “Oh tamo, kaye! Ga abatra simum” (“Hello people! We are brothers”).
The fact that some members of the group could speak the local language to some extent made a strong impression on the Papuans (indigenous people). This language was then spoken only in the village of Bongu. The Australian colonial officials who visited the village from time to time did not speak the language and communicated with the Bonguans in Tok Pisin (an Anglo-native hybrid language, today one of the three official languages of Papua New Guinea, along with English and Hiri Motu). And now they saw strange white people speaking in their native language. But when the Bonguans learned that these people came from Tal Maclay (“Maclay village”), as they used to call Russia, their joy and surprise increased even more. The Bonguans willingly answered the questions of the Soviet ethnographers and helped them in every possible way. The researchers did not need to overcome the psychological barrier, as N.N. Miklouho-Maclay did 100 years ago. During the four-day field work, the researchers found that the Bonguans retained many of the major features of their original culture, and elements of Western influence were imposed on the traditional way of life.
So, the basis of the economy remained slash-and-burn agriculture and fishing. Agricultural tools were the same (wooden stake – sab and wooden spade – udya sab), widely spread mats made of palm leaves, dishes — of wood and coconut shells, as well as clay pots, which, as in the times of Maclay, the Bonguans purchased in the coastal village of Bili Bili. Bonguans went out fishing on traditional dugout boats with outriggers (balance beam), but they used iron fishing hooks, and the tips of bamboo spears were made from nails.
On the other hand, the importance and cohesion of the clans (vemunu) decreased, and the role of the small family increased. A missionary elementary school, a church (a large wooden shed with a roof of palm leaves), three small kiosk-type shops appeared in Bongu, which were closed almost all the time, and their owners were engaged in farming and fishing along with other Bonguans. The locals used metal axes, saws and knives, they wore European-style clothes made of purchased fabrics, but still walked barefoot, they used kerosene lamps (when they had enough money for kerosene). The elder of the village had a transistor radio. The main source of cash income was the sale of copra (dried coconut pulp) to Australian buyers.
Some men went to work on large plantations owned by Australian companies. The money received was used to pay the poll tax, the church fee, to pay for children’s education at school, to buy rice, fabrics, kerosene, etc.
Bonguans adopted Christianity only superficially and intricately intertwined it with their traditional beliefs. The memory of Maclay among the Bonguans was preserved and passed down from generation to generation, as the legends about him became an important part of local folklore and religious beliefs. The Bonguans also remembered that it was Nikolay Nikolaevich who brought the first steel axes and knives, many cultivated plants unknown to them, and gave a bull and a cow. These historical facts were imprinted not only in their collective memory, but also in the Bonguan language, which included several phonetically modified Russian words: skhapor (axe), gugrus (corn), abrus (originally watermelon, and later, when watermelons ceased to be cultivated, melon), bika (bull). In addition, it became common to add his name to the local names of some cultivated plants brought by the Russian scientist: diigli Maclay (cucumber), valiu Maclay (pumpkin), etc. The members of the ethnographic group tape recorded three versions of the legend about Miklouho-Maclay (two in Tok Pisin, one in Bonguan). The translations of them into English were also recorded. Traditional musical instruments, including those that played an important sacred role in the ritual life of the Bonguans, had been perfectly preserved. There was one primary missionary school in Bongu, which belonged to the “T” type — the so-called “territorial schools”, the programs of which were intended for the indigenous population. In addition to such schools in areas where the European and Asian population prevailed, there were schools with Australian educational programs. Children who spoke English well studied there. There were 5 grades at the Bonguan school instead of 7, which was a consequence of the lack of certified teachers from the indigenous population. This was mainly due to the lack of secondary and vocational education on the island. On the last day of the ethnographers’ stay in the village, the Papuans (the natives) arranged a grand celebration in their honor with songs, dances and pantomimes. Other members of the team and crew members joined this feast.
Especially vivid and memorable was the pantomime on the first appearance of N.N. Miklouho-Maclay. Here is how N.A. Butinov described this event: “In the village they beat a signal drum — a thick, hollowed-out log of two meters long. The sounds carry far away and announce that tamo russ Maclay will soon go ashore. We are going ashore. Making and two other Papuans (indigenous people), painted, decorated, with spears, bows and arrows, with feathers in their hair and with bracelets, are already ready to start the performance. The captain’s boat approaches, its engine chirring. Tamo russ Maclay jumps down into the water, goes to the sandy shore and begins his journey to Cape Bugarlom. As agreed, our captain plays Maclay. The memory of the Papuans (indigenous people) is imperfect. On his first visit, Maclay walked to Garagassi Point, and not to Cape Bugarlom. The bull and cow, the fear of which Making and his friends so successfully express, he brought not on the first, and not even on the second, but on the third visit. But does it really matter? Maclay walks calmly, slowly, and the Papuans (the natives) aim at him with the bows, swing their spears, retreat, fall, hide behind trees. I can see some concern in the captain’s eyes. Making pulls the bowstring to the limit and aims at his face. It is unlikely that any of the professional actors will have to play the role of Maclay in such conditions. If Making touches a tree branch with his elbow, his fingers could release the bowstring, and the arrow would fly to the target. Maclay has repeatedly got into such situations and came out of them with honor. Our captain decided to play his role as realistically as the Papuans (the natives) their own. He calmly walked along the path to the church under construction, turned right, went down to the shore at Cape Bugarlom, where Maclay’s hut stood in 1876-1877. Here the performance ended with a storm of applause and cheers from numerous villagers, crew members and the expedition team.” After the feast, the Bonguans paid a return visit to “Dmitry Mendeleev”, where they were given a tour. On July 13, the ethnographic group was taken to the ship, after which it headed for Madang.
Soviet ethnographers collected a huge amount of material on the culture and customs of the inhabitants of the Maclay Coast. These results were presented in several monographs and a number of articles published in various scientific journals. In 1975, the collective monograph “On the Maclay Coast (Ethnographic essays)”, related to the economic structure, material culture, languages, and the anthropological type of the inhabitants of the village of Bongu, was released. In 1972, the documentary film “To the Shores of Distant Oceania” was released, which consisted of the footage from the expedition.