Maclay Coast | Northeast of the New Guinea Island | Cape Solitude (Garagassi Point)
    “The only purpose of my life is the benefit and success of science for the good of mankind.”

     (N.N. Miklouho-Maclay)

    Choosing a place for a stay and construction of a hut

    On 20 September 1871, after 10 months of sailing on the corvette “Vityaz”, N.N. Miklouho-Maclay came ashore at the northeastern coast of New Guinea, where no European had ever set foot before.

    The captain of the Russian ship, P.N. Nazimov, warned the traveler that the ship would not be able to stay in the bay for more than seven days, so he asked Miklouho-Maclay to hurry up with choosing a place for a hut. Together with N.N. Miklouho-Maclay and the doctor, the captain sailed along the coast of Constantine Bay and recommended to settle near a sandy beach, where a deep river flowed into the sea. But, having learned that the Papuans (indigenous people) “leave their pirogue here, and cultivate plantations nearby,” Nikolay Nikolaevich preferred a different place, chosen by him in advance — on a small cape at Garagassi Point, near which a stream flowed, large trees grew and where three paths connecting the coast with the settlements of the inhabitants of Astrolabe Bay were. The traveler decided to settle a little further from the villages, so that, on the one hand, he would not interfere with the Papuans’ (indigenous people) everyday life, and on the other hand, he would have the peace and quiet that he valued so much. Later, N.N. Miklouho-Maclay named the place of his permanent stay Cape Solitude.

    The commander of “Vityaz” ordered to start clearing the site and building a hut for N.N. Miklouho-Maclay immediately. Thirty sailors under the supervision of officers, cleared the area from trees and shrubs, leaving only two large trees near the hut’s construction site, so that they would give shade and coolness. The result was a platform of 70 by 70 meters, bordered by the sea on one side and dense forest on the other three. Ship carpenters constructed the hut on piles. Its walls were made of boards about half the height from the bottom with canvas sheets that could be rolled up at the top. N.N. Miklouho-Maclay’s two assistants, Olsen (a Swedish seaman) and Boy (a young man from Niue), who came with him to New Guinea, also helped with the construction.

    P.N. Nazimov also left a four-oar boat with a sail for the traveler, so that he could visit coastal villages, and if there was an urgent need, move to a place where he could hope for more hospitality.

    In the morning of September 27, “Vityaz” hoisted anchor and slowly sailed away from the coast, and for almost a year and a half, the small hut became the scientist’s dwelling.

    The hut and the design

    The traveler’s hut was a wooden building with a roof of woven palm leaves. It was constructed on piles. A Russian flag was fluttering attached to a flagpole nailed to a tall tree nearby. There even was a secret storage place for N.N. Miklouho-Maclay’s expedition diaries in case he would not survive his expedition to this unexplored area of the Earth. The diaries of the Russian scientist still remain an important source on the ethnography of New Guinea, an unsurpassed material of field ethnographic research.
    The hut was divided into 2 sections: a living area for the Russian scientist, and for his assistants. It is worth noting that his servants actively assisted the Russian scientist only at the beginning, then they were constantly ill. Unfortunately Boy eventually died, and the scientist took care of his servant Wilson during his first stay in New Guinea. Wilson got almost paralyzed with fear of the natives and did not leave the hut during his entire stay on the island.
    In the scientist’s room, a large table was placed along the wall, on which a microscope, some instruments for meteorological and other observations, a box with medicines and surgical instruments, books and sketches of the locals were placed. Due to N.N. Miklouho-Maclay’s talent in drawing, we can see everyday life of the islanders of the XIX century. In total, the scientist created about 700 drawings, which are also a valuable ethnographic and anthropological source, because they were made “with the accuracy of proportions, precise details, and reflect both the anthropological type and individual features.”
    In the passage of the hut there was the scientist’s comfortable folding chair, which was given to him by Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna.
    Nevertheless, the hut had some disadvantages, for example, a constantly leaking roof, over which the Russian scientist and his assistants worked for hours for several months. Considering the cause of the leak, N.N. Miklouho-Maclay came to the conclusion that it was not the materials and not the laying of leaves that were to blame, but the roof’s flat pitch. This conclusion was made during his stay in the local villages where the roofs of the huts were constructed at an acute angle.

    The first encounter with the Bongu villagers

    While being in the North-East of New Guinea, N.N. Miklouho-Maclay established friendly contacts and good relations with the indigenous people, the Papuns, as well as mastered some of their languages. With his patience, kindness, tenderness and courage, the Russian scientist and traveler won the trust, love and devotion of the natives. In fact, he “discovered” the Papuans (indigenous people) of the northeastern coast of New Guinea to the outside world. Later, he named this place the Maclay Coast “by the right of the first European who settled there, explored the coast and got scientific results”.
    During his expeditions to Southeast Asia and Oceania, the Russian scientist carefully and elaborately described the economy, life, material culture, customs and traditions of the locals, paying special attention to their original art.
    On the miniature model you can see a number of key episodes from the scientist’s diaries that testify to his humanism. Among them, one should especially highlight the moment of his first encounter with the Papuans (indigenous people) of the coast. Upon arrival in the North-East of the island, the scientist decided to go to one of the villages to get to know the Papuans (indigenous people) better. Despite the fact that he did not know what kind of reception was waiting for him there, he decided to go without weapons, believing that a pistol was not an assistant in his research. As soon as Miklouho-Maclay entered the village, he was met by a group of the locals armed with spears and bows. Then some of them raised their spears and took hostile poses as if preparing to throw them. Two arrows were shot at the scientist. Such a reaction, as it turned out later, speaks not so much about their aggression, but on the contrary, about fear, since they saw a white man for the first time in their lives. N.N. Miklouho-Maclay’s reaction was extraordinary: in order to convince the locals of his peaceful intentions, he did not respond with aggression, but spread out a mat and lied down on it, took off his shoes and put them next to him, stretched out as if nothing had happened, closed his eyes and fell asleep.
    Later, N.N. Miklouho-Maclay would write in his diaries that he woke up feeling very refreshed, because he had slept for almost more than two hours! When he opened his eyes, he saw several Papuans (indigenous people) sitting around the mat. They were unarmed and looked at him not so grimly, but on the contrary, very amazed. Then N.N. Miklouho-Maclay got up and, nodding his head in different directions, went to his hut. Thanks to this incident, the Papuans realized that the Russian scientist had come to them with good intentions, but they treated the mysterious newcomer not as a mere mortal, but at first as a dangerous being, and after a long friendship with him – as a deified spirit of their ancestors. Another argument in favor of Miklouho-Maclay’s unearthly nature was his white skin, since in the mythology of many New Guinean ethnic communities, white skin was a distinctive sign of the inhabitants of the underworld of the dead or spirits living in heaven.
    At the very beginning of N.N. Miklouho-Maclay’s acquaintance with the Papuans’ (indigenous people) life, his friendly relations with Tui played an important role. This Gorendu villager used to come to Garagassi Point almost every day. According to the scientist, he took lessons from Tui “on the Papuan languages spoken in Bongu, Gorendu and Gumbu”. Maclay learned the names of many rivers, capes and villages from him, and mapped them with Tui’s help. In turn, Nikolay Nikolaevich, using the few local words he heard and learned, tried to gradually broaden the horizons of his friend. Soon Tui, and then other villagers began to call the traveler Tamo Russ — “a man from Russia”. Later he also got another nickname – Karam Tamo, or “the man from the Moon”.
    Villagers of many coastal and mountain villages also came and sailed in canoes to have a look at N.N. Miklouho-Maclay’s dwelling. Eventually, the Russian scientist’s hut became a real gathering point for the Papuans (indigenous people) of the surrounding villages of Gorendu, Bongu, Gumbu and even the inhabitants of the coastal islands — Bili Bili (Bilbil), Yambomba (Yabob) and the larger island of Kar Kar located to the northwest of Astrolabe Bay. Tui acted as a “guide” during such visits. He told the guests about Maclay and his companions, showed some bizarre items with the permission of the traveler. Nikolay Nikolaevich found that his neighbors, excited and restless when he visited their villages, became “more tame” coming to Garagassi Point, and even allowed him “to examine, measure and draw them”. According to N.N. Miklouho-Maclay’s diary records dated October 10, 1871: “People from Bili Bili looked at everything with great astonishment and interest: pots and a kettle in the kitchen, my folding chair, a small table. My shoes and striped socks excited and delighted them. They kept opening their mouths, saying long “a-a-a…”, “e-e-e…”, smacking their lips, and in extreme cases putting a finger in their mouth. They also liked the nails. I gave them, in addition to nails, several beads and a red rag to everyone. Olsen got disappointed because he did not like that I was giving things away for nothing and that the guests had come without gifts”.

    “Maclay, don’t set the sea on fire”

    Over time, N.N. Miklouho-Maclay decided to expand the space of his hut. In 1872, he replaced the high porch with a veranda, which became his usual place for working during the day: it had enough light and he could talk to the Papuans (indigenous people) without moving. In addition, the veranda had a charming view of the sea and the Russian scientist would spend hours there, processing his research data.
    However, N.N. Miklouho-Maclay never stopped surprising the Papuans (indigenous people) by demonstrating his “supernatural abilities”. There was an interesting episode that occurred at the veranda, when several Papuans (indigenous people) together with N.N. Miklouho-Maclay’s first friend Tui once again came to the hut of the Russian scientist, and he decided to “conduct an experiment on their impressionability”.
    N.N. Miklouho-Maclay took a saucer from under a cup of tea and called his guests, poured water into it, drank a little himself and gave a taste to one of the Papuans (indigenous people), who also confirmed that it was water. Then he added alcohol to the saucer, which looked no different from water, and set it on fire. The Papuans (indigenous people) opened their mouths, raised their eyebrows and made a few steps back — they were shocked. Then the Russian scientist sprinkled the burning spirit on the ground: it continued to flame. The Papuans (indigenous people) jumped back, afraid that N.N. Miklouho-Maclay would spray fire on them, and ran away to the village. After a very short time, they appeared again, but this time it was a big crowd of the local villagers. The visitors learned from Tui about the burning water, and everyone wanted to see it. Tui begged to show everyone “how water burns”. When N.N. Miklouho-Maclay fulfilled this request, the effect was indescribable: most of them rushed to run away, asking the Russian scientist “not to set the sea on fire”. Many stood still, being so amazed and frightened that their feet literally froze. When the tension subsided after such a show, the New Guineans tirelessly invited N.N. Miklouho-Maclay to their villages.
    The trust in Tamo Boro Russ has increased significantly. The local villagers began to come to him more and more often, among others with requests to cure them of various diseases. Thanks to his medical education, N.N. Miklouho-Maclay was able to provide valuable assistance to his friends.
    In December 1872, the clipper “Izumrud” came up to the shores of northeastern New Guinea for N.N. Miklouho-Maclay. The Russian scientist promised to the Papuans (indigenous people) that he would return and kept his promise: he made two more expeditions to the Maclay Coast in 1876-1877 and 1883. During the second expedition, he lived in a hut built by the Papuans (indigenous people) on Cape Bugarlom, a few minutes walk from the village of Bongu, just a few kilometers from Cape Solitude where he had lived during his first expedition. Before sailing off on the corvette “Skobelev”, Tamo Russ called representatives of all the surrounding villages and informed them of his intention to leave the Maclay Coast for a while. The scientist advised the residents to send women and children to the mountains when a European ship appears, and to be extremely careful, since the whites would certainly have firearms. Then he explained to the audience the special signs by which the inhabitants of this coast could tell “friends from enemies”. The islanders were crying, parting with Maclay.

    Present day

    Nowadays, the Miklouho-Maclay Foundation for the Preservation of Ethnocultural Heritage maintains close contact with the residents of the Maclay Coast, who, in tribute to N.N. Miklouho-Maclay, preserve a memorial at the site of the scientist’s first stay.
    The expeditions following N.N. Miklouho-Maclay’s footsteps under the leadership of N.N. Miklouho-Maclay Jr. allowed to restore continuity in the Maclay Coast studies and to establish cultural and educational relations that contribute to preserving the memory of the Russian researcher and Russia’s contribution to world studies.
    All of the above mentioned became possible due to the memory of the great Russian humanist scientist N.N. Miklouho-Maclay, which the New Guineans still keep even after a century and a half. This proves once again how important it is to treat people with respect.

    This small-scale model layout of the Maclay Coast and the surrounding exhibits several scenes, which are described in detail in the following articles


    The model layout is made in an artistically realistic landscape style of durable, moisture-resistant materials. It is historically, ethnographically and naturalistically reliable. The model layout represents the scenery: the ocean, the shore and the place at the Cape where the hut was located, the glade, sea surf, the seabed, the rivulet, a part of the village glade, the jungle with its flora. There are buildings too: N.N. Miklouho-Maclay’s hut with household utensils (table, chair, chest box, bunk bed, cloths, pots, kettle, weapons, tools, books, adornments, etc.), village huts, Papuan man’s house. Characters represented: N.N. Miklouho-Maclay, Tui, Papuans on the glade, in the village and by the fire, with fish by the boat.

    A Russian scientist meets the indigenous people of the northeastern coast of the New Guinea Island for the first time in history

    In 1871, N.N. Miklouho-Maclay arrived at the northeastern coast of New Guinea (the Maclay Coast) on the Russian corvette “Vityaz”. On September 20, the young scientist set his foot on the New Guinea coast, which was destined to go down in the history of world and Russian science as the “Maclay Coast”. A few days later, Nikolay Nikolaevich finally settled in a hut at the Garagassi Point. Then he decided to go to the nearest village to meet the villagers.

    “Waking up at dawn, I decided to go to one of the villages. I was anxious to become more closely acquainted with the natives. As I was getting ready to leave, a dilemma presented itself to me. Should I, or should I not, take a revolver? I, of course, did not know what sort of reception awaited me in the village — but, thinking it over, I came to the conclusion that this kind of instrument could in no way be of much use in my undertaking.

    If I made use of it, in the case of apparently extreme necessity, even with complete success — that is, by laying low six men — it is, of course, probable that, at first, after such success fear would protect me. But for how long? The desire for revenge, the numerical strength of the natives, in the end would overcome their fear of the revolver.

    Then a reflection of quite another kind strengthened my decision to enter the village unarmed. It seems to me that a man cannot be sure, beforehand, how he would act in a given situation which he had not experienced up to that time. I am not sure how I would act, having a revolver in my belt, for example, today, if the natives began to treat me in such a way that I would not know how to cope with it; would I remain completely calm and indifferent to the uncertain behavior of the Papuans? But I was convinced that any bullet fired inopportunely would make it impossible to gain their trust — it would completely destroy all chance of success of the undertaking. The more I considered the position, the clearer it became to me, that my strength must lay in my calmness and patience. I left my revolver at home, but I certainly did not forget my notebook and pencil” – the traveler wrote in his expedition diary on October 5, 1871.

    N.N. Miklouho-Maclay’s hut located next to the forest paths leading to several villages — Gorendu, Bongu and Gumbu. For the first time, a path led the researcher to the village of Bongu. The moment of Miklouho-Maclay’s first acquaintance with the Bonguans is vividly described in his diaries: “I remained so deep in thought about the natives, who as yet I scarcely knew, and about the meeting that lay before me, that I was quite surprised when I finally found myself near a village; but what sort of a village I had no idea.

    I could hear some male and female voices. I stopped in order to consider the situation and what was going to happen now. And while I stood there reflecting, a few steps away a boy of about 14 or 15 years appeared. We looked at each other for a second or two in silence and perplexity. I could not speak to him and to go up to him would mean to frighten him still more, so I continued to stand still. The boy, however, rushed headlong back to the village. There were a few loud exclamations, a female squeal and then complete silence.

    I went on into the village square. A group of men armed with spears stood in the middle animatedly talking amongst themselves in a low voice. Others, also armed, stood further back; there were neither women nor children — they were probably in hiding. On seeing me, some spears were raised and some natives adopted a very warlike stance, as if they were about to throw the spears. Several exclamations and short phrases from different parts of the square resulted in the spears being lowered.

    Tired and somewhat unpleasantly surprised by the meeting, I continued slowly to advance, looking round hoping to see a face that I knew, but without result. I stopped near the barla and several natives approached me. Suddenly, whether on purpose or unintentionally I do not know, two arrows, one after the other, flew close past me. The natives standing near me began to speak loudly, probably addressing those who had fired the arrows, and they turned to me and pointed to a tree, as if they wanted to explain that the arrows were fired with the intention of killing a bird in the tree. But there didn’t seem to be any bird, and it seemed to me that the natives wanted to find out how I reacted to such a surprise as an arrow passing close to me. I couldn’t help noticing that as soon as the first arrow flew past, many eyes turned in my direction, as if studying my face, but apart from an expression of weariness and perhaps some curiosity, they did not discover anything much in it. I, in my turn, began to look around. There were only sullen, uneasy, displeased faces and expressions — as if saying: “Why have you come here to disturb our peaceful life?”

    I myself became somewhat uncomfortable. Why did I come to embarrass these people? No-one had yet put down their weapons, with the exception of two or three old men. The number of natives began to increase. It seems that there was another village not too far away and the alarm caused by my arrival had spread there. A small crowd surrounded me: two or three men were speaking very loudly and with some hostility while looking at me. At the same time, as if to strengthen their words, they waved the spears that they were holding.

    One of them was so emboldened that, while uttering some phrases, which I naturally did not understand, he suddenly brandished his spear and almost struck me in the eye or the nose. The movement was remarkably quick and certainly it was through no fault of mine that I wasn’t wounded. I didn’t have time to move from where I was standing, but the dexterity and accuracy of the native’s arm enabled him to stop the end of the spear at an inch or so from my face. I stepped aside a couple of paces and couldn’t help noticing some voices who, it seemed to me, were reacting disapprovingly to this unmannerly behavior. At that moment I was pleased that I had left the revolver at home, not being sure then, whether I would react with such equanimity to a second attempt of my opponent, should he take it into his head to repeat it.

    My position was quite futile; not being able to speak to them, it would have been better to go away, but I desperately wanted to sleep. It was a long way to go back home — “Why not sleep here?” I thought. In any case I couldn’t speak to the natives; they wouldn’t understand me.

    I didn’t spend too much time thinking about it. I looked about for a place in the shade, dragged a new mat there (it was the sight of it, it seems, that first gave me the idea to sleep here) and with great relief I stretched myself out on it. It was very pleasant to close my eyes, weary from the sunlight, but I had to half-open them to undo my shoe-laces, take off my boots, loosen my belt and find something to put under my head. I saw the natives standing round in a half circle at some distance from me, probably surprised, and speculating as to what I would do next.

    One of the figures which I saw before I closed my eyes again, seemed to be the same native who all but wounded me. He stood not far away and was eyeing my boots. I recalled what had just happened and thought that it could all end very seriously; and at the same time the thought came to me that maybe this was only the beginning and that the end was still well ahead. But if I was fated to be killed, then it was all the same whether I was standing, sitting or lying down on the mat, or in my sleep. I thought also that, if I had to die, the consciousness that at the same time, two, three or even six natives had to pay for it with their lives, would be very little satisfaction. I was again pleased that I did not take the revolver with me. As I was dropping off to sleep, the voice of some birds attracted my attention; the harsh cry of some rapidly flying lories brought me back to consciousness several times; the peculiar mournful song of the koko (Chlamidodera), on the other hand, induces sleep; the sound of the cicada likewise does not hinder sleep but favors it. It seems to me that I went to sleep very quickly owing to the fact that I had got up very early and had walked for about two hours, almost the whole time in the sun; being out of practice, I felt very tired, and in particular my eyes were tired from the harsh sunlight.

    I woke up feeling very refreshed. Judging by the position of the sun it must have been at least 3 o’clock, which meant that I had slept for over two hours. When I opened my eyes, I saw a few natives sitting round my mat two or three paces away. They were talking in a low voice. They were without their weapons and looked at me not quite so sullenly. I regretted very much that I could not yet speak with them. I decided to go home and began to put my clothes in order. This operation greatly interested the Papuans around me. Then I got up, bowed my head in various directions, and took the same path in the reverse direction. It seemed to me shorter than in the morning”.

    This amazing story may seem fictional, but the Papuans (indigenous people) of the Maclay Coast, especially the village of Bongu, still remember it. New Guineans told Russian scientists about this during the expeditions to the Maclay Coast in 1971, 1977, 2017 and 2019.

    The scientist at work, making notes of his research

    During the expeditions to the North-East of New Guinea (1871-1872, 1876-1877 and 1883), Nikolay Nikolaevich made many discoveries in various scientific fields. Of the most fundamental importance was the anthropological study of the Papuans (indigenous people), for which he first went to New Guinea. Nikolay Nikolaevich searched with extra care for signs that many scientific figures of that time considered as specific features of the Papuan race. However, scientists who have never seen the indigenous New Guineans or observed them from the deck of the ship, claimed that the Papuans (indigenous people) had a number of “ape-like” features. It was claimed that the Papuans (indigenous people) had tuft-like hair on their heads, the skin was characterized by a special roughness, etc. The Russian scientist considered it his duty to verify these statements — and eventually refuted them. After studying the hair of the Bongu villagers, he wrote in his diary: “The hair of the Papuan grows, as I have myself established, not in groups or tufts, as may be read in many anthropological text-books, but exactly the same as ours. It was this — perhaps in the opinion of many people an insignificant observation — which dissipated my sleep and brought me to a pleasant frame of mind”. Nikolay Nikolaevich measured the heads, described the physiological features, took hair samples, determined the color of their skin on a special scale. Step by step, he defined that the locals do not differ much from the Europeans in their physical organization. But, perhaps even more important, the traveler found a great similarity between Papuans (indigenous people) and Europeans in everything that concerns mental properties. In his diaries and articles, Miklouho-Maclay describes the faces of Papuans kind, soft, intelligent, rejoices at their hard work, honesty and intelligence, emphasizes that they easily adopt new things. “All the carved decorations have to be done with a stone ground to the form of an axe, or with bones sharpened with splinters of shell or flint and one can only marvel that with the aid of such primitive instruments they are able to construct such good huts and pirogues and these not without some fairly handsome ornamentation”.

    “I had a rare good fortune to observe a population that still lived completely without communication with other peoples and, moreover, at such a stage of civilization development when all tools and weapons were made of stone, bone and wood. While in Europe yet, I chose for my future stay the eastern coast of New Guinea as the least known and where the Papuan race has been preserved in the purest form. The latter assumption was indeed justified: I did not find any admixture of alien races among the natives; therefore, the observations of my neighbors may be of value when studying the entire Papuan race”.

    And the scientist took advantage of this opportunity. In his diaries and articles, he described in details the material culture of his dark-skinned friends, their everyday life, customs and traditions, paid much attention to their original art. Despite the imperfection of his methodology, these materials remain to this day an important source on the ethnography of New Guinea, a unique example of field work in the tropics, among the people of the Stone Age.

    Nikolay Nikolaevich thoroughly compiled dictionaries of the key words of the dialects of the Maclay Coast. In the North-East of New Guinea, he encountered many language barriers, since the Papuans (indigenous people) of the Astrolabe Bay area used at least fifteen languages, often very different from each other. “The inhabitants of villages located at a distance of an hour’s walk from one another sometimes speak such different dialects that they almost do not understand each other” – the traveler wrote in his expedition diaries.

    There are also many interesting observations of the social structure of the Papuans (indigenous people) in the works of N.N. Miklouho-Maclay. The traveler found that the inhabitants of each village formed a community in which the principles of collectivism prevailed, that there were no propertied or unpropertied classes. “In this community, there were no bosses, there were no rich and poor, therefore there were no envy, no theft, no violence. The ease of obtaining a livelihood did not force them to work hard, that’s why anger, exasperation, annoyance did not take place. The name that I gave to the whole archipelago, “Archipelago of Contented People”, testifies to that impression that the peaceful life of the islanders made on me”.

    According to the notes of Miklouho-Maclay, the locals had neither hereditary nor elected Chiefs. But “big people” (tamo boro) spontaneously stood out among the community members, who enjoyed authority due to their martial skills, success in economic and everyday life activities or knowledge of magical rituals. “People do not obey their orders, but their advice or opinion” – Nikolay Nikolaevich noted in his diaries.

    Nevertheless, the main thing at the entry of N.N. Miklouho-Maclay into the Papuan world was his friendly, trusting relations with Tui. The Chief of the Gorendu village used to come to Garagassi Point almost every day. According to the scientist, Tui gave him lessons on “the Papuan language, which was spoken in Bongu, Gorendu and Gumbu”. From his friend, Maclay learned and then mapped the names of many rivers, capes and villages. In turn, Nikolay Nikolaevich, using the few local words he heard and learned, tried to gradually expand the horizons of his friend. Miklouho-Maclay wrote in February 1872: “Tui seems to be becoming very interested in geography. He repeats after me the names of parts of the world and countries that I show him on the map; but it is very likely that he considers Russia a little bigger than Bongu or Bili Bili”. Soon Tui and then the other villagers began to call the traveler tamo russ — “a man from Russia”.

    While on the Maclay Coast, the researcher paid a lot of attention to natural science research, primarily meteorological observations, which had not been carried out in New Guinea. Describing his working day in October 1871, N.N. Miklouho-Maclay introduces the reader to the schedule of his research: “About 7 o’clock I write down the temperature of the air, the water in the stream and the sea, the height of the tide, the barometric pressure, the direction and strength of the wind, the quantity of water evaporated in the evaporimeter. I take out of the earth the thermometer sunk to a depth of 1 meter and write down the reading. Having finished the meteorological observations, I either go out on the coral reef for sea creatures, or into the jungle for insects. With my “finds” I sit down at the microscope or put the insects in spirits or occupy myself with some other kind of work until 11 o’clock. <…> At 8 o’clock I go to my room and, having lit a small lamp (more like a night light than a lamp), I write down the happenings of the day in my diary. At 9 o’clock again meteorological observations”. Despite everything, Nikolay Nikolaevich conducted and recorded these observations throughout his stay on the coast of the Astrolabe Bay.

    However, on the Maclay Coast, the researcher suffered from malaria! Despite the treacherous weakness in his arms and legs, dizziness and loss of strength after another attack, he stumbled down to a rivulet for water, collected dry tree branches for a fire to make tea and cook beans or rice, did not stop meteorological observations. Here we see again his amazing ability to overcome himself, to mobilize all the hidden reserves of his body in extreme conditions, so that at the cost of maximum effort, not only to satisfy everyday needs, but also to continue scientific research.

    N.N. Miklouho-Maclay also initiated the study of the New Guinea fauna. In his diaries, one can find many interesting observations of marsupials (tree kangaroos, bandicoots, etc.), birds, crocodiles, lizards, fish, calcareous sponges. Whenever possible, he collected material to continue his comparative anatomical research: he dissected skulls and skeletons, placed brains and whole animal carcasses in conservative fluids. The researcher wandered around the reef at low tide, searched for calcareous sponges in crevices, collected jellyfish, siphonophores, crustaceans and other protozoan marine animals on the sea surface.

    Everyday life of the indigenous people of the Maclay Coast, cooking

    While staying in the North-East of New Guinea, N.N. Miklouho-Maclay sincerely wanted to contribute to everyday life of his friends from the New Guinean villages. For example, in order to diversify their diet and stop their chronic malnutrition, in 1876 the traveler brought to Bongu several domestic animals, seeds and seedlings of cultivated plants unknown to the villagers. Some of them were breadfruit, mango, orange, lemon, pineapple. A new plot of land was prepared in the thicket for a vegetable garden, and Miklouho-Maclay tried to explain to the Bonguans how to grow and eat those plants. In addition, Nikolay Nikolaevich brought coffee beans, which grow better in a drier and cooler climate. He gave this valuable gift to his old friend Saul, tamo boro from Bongu, and advised him to use the grains in barter with the inhabitants of the mountain villages, and asked to inform the mountaineers that Saul had received them from tamo russ Maclay. Most of the cultivated plants brought by the traveler took root and enriched the food diet of the New Guineans.

    As for meat food, the Papuans (indigenous people) bred the so-called “Oceanic three” domestic animals: pigs, dogs and chickens, whose meat was eaten. Another part of the meat diet was provided by hunting for wild pig, cassowary, phalanger, crocodile, hornbill. Large lizards, snakes, various insects and their larvae were also eaten. Fish and shellfish were common foods. According to the diaries of N.N. Miklouho-Maclay, Bonguans were able to cook many dishes and knew different ways of culinary processing of products (cooking, smoking, baking, frying). N.N. Miklouho-Maclay’s diary notes enable us to imagine the cooking process of the New Guineans even 150 years later: “In the afternoon, I went to Gorendu and found the Papuans cooking evening meal. Tui was peeling potatoes sitting on a table. Two pots, one large (1 1/2 ft. in diameter), the other smaller, were put on the fire with stones around them, both covered with leaves and coconut shells forming lids. Fish and potatoes were cooked in the pots. Each fish was wrapped in fresh leaves, the potatoes were uncovered, all this was cooked without water – steamed”.

    Nowadays, vegetables still prevail over meat on the Maclay Coast. The main crops are coconut palm, yams, taro, sweet potatoes, bananas and sugarcane. Bananas belong to one of the vegetable varieties that are consumed after heat treatment. Of the plants introduced by N.N. Miklouho-Maclay, papaya and corn are still very popular among Bonguans. They have finally stopped to breed domestic pigs (because they were trampling down the garden crops), but keep on hunting on wild pigs. They continue to breed chickens, but their meat, like pork, remains more as a festive meal. Wild birds are still hunted, but their meat is also not an element of the daily diet. Fish and shellfish remain the most frequent source of animal protein. Insects and arachnids have completely fallen out of use. In addition to water and coconut juice, the most common drink is tea (purchased in Madang). Some families make juice from fresh papaya.

    N.N. Miklouho-Maclay was not only brave, kind and fair, but also brought the first steel axes and knives to the inhabitants of the Maclay Coast who lived in the so-called “Stone Age”. “<…> it was easy to see how iron would replace shell and stone in the making of tools. A small broken-off nail, carefully sharpened on a stone in the form of a chisel, in the hands of a skillful native proved an excellent instrument for cutting out rectilinear ornaments” — a note in the expedition diary of N.N. Miklouho-Maclay dated August 22, 1872. Papuans (indigenous people) immediately appreciated the advantages of iron axes and knives, which they received from Maclay in exchange for wooden statues of their ancestors (telum), hand drums (okama), large signal gongs (barum), and tried to attach sharpened pieces of iron instead of hewn stone to the handles of traditional axes. They began to use pointed nails as an awl, fragments of bottle glass — for shaving, “polishing wood and carving jewelry”. For the Maclay Coast villagers, metal items and bottles have also become prestigious objects of barter with the remote villagers. Before the arrival of N.N. Miklouho-Maclay, the inhabitants of the North-East of New Guinea used to make all the decorations with stone sharpened in the form of an axe, bones, shell fragments or flint, but at the same time they built huts, boats and carved beautiful ornaments on them.

    In the XXI century, everyday life of the indigenous people of the Maclay Coast has not undergone any significant changes. Despite the penetration of items of the modern Western world, the Papuans (indigenous people) of the North-East of New Guinea carefully preserve many of their traditions. Their original culture has not completely dissolved under the pressure of innovations and harmoniously coexists with innovations such as radio, cell-phones, solar panels, modern dishes for cooking. Moreover, many local residents are very sensitive to their ethnocultural identity and instill it in the younger generation with all their might.

    Hunters and warriors of the New Guinea Island

    150 years ago, in the times of the expeditions of N.N. Miklouho-Maclay to the northeastern coast of New Guinea, hunting was an important occupation among the Papuans (indigenous people) of the villages of Gorendu, Bongu, Gumbu, etc. They hunted mainly wild pigs and birds. In the XXI century, the situation has changed a little, but hunting traditions still remain on the Maclay Coast.

    During the expeditions, N.N. Miklouho-Maclay also hunted, both alone and with the indigenous people. The scientist resorted to hunting, since his daily diet (a glass of coffee in the morning with a small amount of taro, boiled or baked, and some beans, taro and a cup of tea at lunch) was insufficient for daily productive research. According to the diary notes of Nikolay Nikolaevich, hunting on the Maclay Coast “was not difficult because the birds were not aware of the action of firearms, and thus, were not afraid” and let the scientist very close. The scientist noted that it was irrational to go hunting every day, so he took two birds each time, even if it did not always work out.

    The indigenous people of the Maclay Coast hunted by other means: with the help of spears, bows and arrows, which were made from bamboo, reed or areca. In addition, especially for hunting, the New Guineans made traps with bait. Nowadays, the methods of hunting on the Maclay Coast are almost identical, except that spears are now made with an iron tip, but bows and arrows with various tips made of wood and bamboo are almost similar to items from the Maclay collection of the XIX century.

    N.N. Miklouho-Maclay had a high status and credibility among the coastal villagers, therefore he took part in a real hunt together with the residents of Bongu. One of those episodes, which occurred on 13 July 1872, is vividly captured in the expedition diaries of the traveler:

    It was not yet 11 o’clock and I was not thinking of going for the new kind of hunting, when suddenly I heard the sound of approaching voices and there quickly appeared several inhabitants of Bongu in full war attire with a tightly-drawn bow and a quantity of newly-sharpened arrows of various kinds. Each had two spears, the ends of which were smeared red as if covered with blood. Besides the feathers waving on their heads, the hair of the natives was adorned with the crimson flowers of the hibiscus. In the arm and leg bracelets were thrust twigs of the yellowish-red leaves of various kinds of Coleus and long dark-red leaves of Colodracon. At every movement all these ornaments were fluttering and swaying and produced a brilliant effect. They announced that the unan was already burning and I had to go at once. Throwing on my hunting gear and picking up something to eat, I set off accompanied by my multi-colored suite. Passing through the jungle by the shortest path and arriving at the edge of the jungle I heard a noise like the sound of a waterfall whose volume of water was not increasing but diminishing.

    Coming out of the jungle I saw, at about 100 paces, a strip of fire on the ground, which was moving away from us, leaving behind the blackened burnt remains of unan and piles of light ash. Columns of smoke rose near Gorendu, far to the southwest, right to Bongu, and on the other side to the east beyond Gumbu near to the Gabenau River.

    The fire was only just beginning and we disposed ourselves in the shade at the edge of the jungle. I started to eat <…>. In about three quarters of an hour the fire had moved away from the edge of the jungle, approximately a distance of a half-mile, thanks to the north-west wind which drove smoke in the opposite direction from us.

    We went over the burnt area which turned out to be by far not so level as I had imagined it. As far as I could see it was covered with mounds about two meters high and approximately three and one half or four meters in diameter at the base. These mounds were of irregular size and consisted of earth and small stones. The origin of these is probably related to the earthen constructions of the Maleo (a species of megapod). In the jungle there are similar mounds but not so frequent.

       We went about 10 paces from the line of the foe and each of us chose a mound for purposes of observation so that a chain of huntsmen was formed parallel to the line of the fire, following the movement of the flames and ready to attack the prey. Sometimes the fire increased, sometimes decreased; at times a whole wall of brown-white smoke rose to the sky and great tongues of flame were torn hither and thither by the wind. At times the flames almost died out, the shroud of smoke parted disclosing a view of the distant mountains and nearby jungle. Suddenly and unexpectedly the columns of smoke would rise again. The natives stood in war-like poses, holding the bows and arrows in the left hand and flexing the right arm holding the spear balanced above the shoulder with the point forward, intently watching the movement of the flames, each wishing to be the first to discover the enemy. Several boys of 10 or 11, with miniature bows and arrows, stood at a little distance and served as living examples of how the science of Papuan living is transmitted from generation to generation. The dry unan crackled and blazed up and died down; sometimes a gust of wind drove the

    smoke towards us; the light ash of the grass flew into our noses and mouths making us sneeze and cough. Sometimes, the fire, as if confused, rushed in various directions, turning back and adding an oppressive heat to the already scorching rays of the sun.

    Very fatigued, I could definitely have gone to sleep standing up if the voice of the neighboring sentry had not reminded me that I had to move forward as the fire moved on. After an exhausting two hours we went over to the other side, and our line met up with the opposite line of natives. The keen eyes of the natives intently examined the blackened area, but they found nothing and when the last straws had blazed up and a fine rain of ash floated about in the wind, I heard from the nearest hunter a disconsolate “bul aren” (no pigs) and we descended the mounds. Some inhabitants of Gumbu forming the opposite line also announced that they hadn’t seen anything.

    I stopped one of them who had an animal new to me hanging behind, tied to his spear. It was like a large rat. I took a little time to examine it; the hair was interesting in that they were like flat needles but flexible. They were partly burnt, as were the legs and snout, and the protruding tongue was a little charred. The animal was probably suffocated by the smoke. I was examining the sharp teeth when suddenly a cry of “Bid! Bul!” from some natives who had gone some little distance away, caused me to look round.

       A hundred paces away, maneuvering among the many spears stabbing the earth, a large pig was running. I snatched the double-barreled gun from the native who was holding it while I inspected the new animal, and let the pig come to about 20 paces and fired. The shot pierced its chest but not its heart. The pig staggered but dashed to one side and ran past me. I aimed again and smashed its hind leg. The pig stopped for a few seconds then seeing me moving to attack again ran a few paces away. Drawing my revolver, I began to approach it. The animal drew back its upper lip and showed a respectable pair of tusks and gave a hollow growl. With each shot I approached closer, and stopped about six paces from the pig, which fell on its side but was still able to raise itself and show its tusks. The natives ran up and did not give me time to fire again — a spear pierced its side, another spear flew past it, but one of the three arrows (palam, with a broad flat bamboo head) plunged into its neck. It still had sufficient strength to be able with a few movements to free itself from the spear and the arrow, the end of which remained in the wound. Wishing to put an end to it I approached it from the opposite side, although the hunters called out to me not to go near, and choosing the right moment, I plunged my long knife up to the handle in its side a little below the forelegs. A stream of blood covered my hand, and the animal finally collapsed. The natives around me unanimously announced that the pig was mine and lavished praise on me and my taboo.

    Distant cries proclaimed that more prey could be expected. I loaded the gun again. The hunters went off one after the other, exasperated by their first lack of success. Finding a convenient mound, I sat down and waited. In the distance cries of “Bui! Bui!” could be heard and distant voices called me. Then some natives returned and told me that there had been two pigs, but they got away because I wasn’t there with my taboo. A party of Bongu people came to announce that they had killed one pig, but while doing it Saul had been knocked down and bitten so much, that his side, his arm, head and eyes were covered in blood when they carried him away to Bongu. In their turn my companions told of our adventures, about the taboo and about the large pig of Maclay. We went to the dead animal and on being asked where it was to be taken, I said that I would take the head and a hind leg, and the rest I would give to the people of Bongu; that, leaving my gun at home, I would go to Bongu to bandage the wounded Saul; and that I was inviting them all to my place <…>. Everybody was pleased and we moved off in a long procession <…>”. Modern Russian researchers who arrived on the Maclay Coast in 2017 were also lucky enough to take part in hunting wild pigs. According to the memoirs of I.V. Chininov, the ethnologist of the expedition: “One morning, a hunter named Yalla took me with him. He handed me a huge spear with a bamboo shaft and an iron tip, and he had a spear made entirely of iron. Yalla told me that wild pigs were hunted only with spears. We were accompanied by three of his hunting dogs, who discovered pigs in a dense thicket. This time we were not able to find the animals, but I am sure that this was only due to the fact that I’d chosen a late time to go hunting. Usually, the proper time is the early morning”.

    Fishing and pirogues

    As in the time of N.N. Miklouho-Maclay, as 150 years later, in the XXI century, pirogues were traditionally used by the indigenous people of the Maclay Coast. For greater stability, the boats were equipped with an outrigger (balancer) and were used for fishing and moving between islands off the coast of New Guinea.

    For the residents of the Maclay Coast, fish is the main source of protein, but they still apply traditional methods while fishing. Since ancient times, Papuans (indigenous people) have been fishing with a small fishing rod, using small crustaceans as bait collected in wet sand, or special arrows and spears that hit fish in the water. At night, New Guineans use spotlighting (a common fishing or hunting method in the dark with the help of a bright light source). They go fishing on small oar canoes with an outrigger. The process of fishing was described in the expedition diaries of N.N. Miklouho-Maclay: «For a long time I watched how Tui’s son (a lad of about 15) was firing arrows at fish, but quite unsuccessfully, for he didn’t get one. The arrows disappeared for a second in the water and then floated to the surface standing upright in the water. They were then retrieved by the hunter. The arrows differed from the usual kind in that instead of one point they had several — four or five, sometimes more. The points were made out of hardwood and were fixed on a long thin cane» — the traveler’s note of October 20, 1871. Iron items, which first appeared on the Maclay Coast thanks to the Russian scientist, also were actively used in fishing. The Papuans (indigenous people) began to use fishing gear made of iron, including hooks. Over time, they also began to make spearheads and arrowheads of iron.

    Interestingly, one of the peculiarities of the second expedition of N.N. Miklouho-Maclay to the northeastern coast of New Guinea (1876-1877) was the numerous trips of the researcher deep into the jungles and along the coast of the Island. On land, Nikolay Nikolaevich traveled on foot, between the islands – on a small pirogue with an outrigger, while long trips he made on spacious Papuan sailing ships called “vang”. These vessels, with cabins protecting from torrential rains and tropical heat, were operated by the village Chief Kain and other friends of the explorer from Bili Bili Island, who traded clay pots produced on the Island with the tribes of the Maclay Coast. As a result, the traveler visited more than twenty villages located in different parts of the Maclay Coast. Nikolay Nikolaevich’s diaries keeps the notes and sketches of the unique vessels of Bili Bili residents: «These pirogues <…> have quite a spacious cabin on the platform, so that in one of these pirogues could not only find room for all my things, even including a hanging kerosene lamp, but find a place for the table and for a small easy chair. In the cabin of another pirogue Sale was installed with all the cooking equipment <…> Each vang was operated by two men — one for the sail, the other for the steering. One of the vangs belonged to my old friend Kain, and the other to Kisem, a very energetic, but unfortunately, a much too garrulous inhabitant of Bili Bili. The people of this village for generations, several times annually, have journeyed along the north-east coast to the village of Telyata. They have studied this area, the prevailing winds, their periodical changes, the currents, the convenient places for landing along the shore, etc. It was therefore quite natural that I should leave to my companions all the navigational part of the expedition, persuading them only that we stop at each village as long as would be necessary for me. Kain and Kisem explained to me that all the travel from one village to another along the coast will be done in the evening or at night, utilizing the shore breezes which blow uniformly every night, beginning an hour or two after sunset and continuing until dawn”.

    At the very beginning of the XX century, Bili Bili islanders rebelled against the German colonizers, because of which they were forcibly resettled on the coast of New Guinea. Now the Bili Bili village is located near the settlements of Gorendu, Bongu and Gumbu. The descendants of the Bili Bili people retained the skills of producing pottery, but their wonderful vangs, described and sketched by N.N. Miklouho-Maclay, have long ceased to be part of the culture. They were replaced by pirogues with outriggers, which are distinguished by the ease and quick production. Nevertheless, the pirogue production also requires certain skills, and is carried out by quite rare masters from the Maclay Coast. The length of the hull of modern pirogues, hollowed out from a single trunk, varies in size, but the largest boats can accommodate no more than 4 people. They are stored right on the shore and painted in bright colors: yellow, green, blue. In the times of N.N. Miklouho-Maclay, the pirogues were of natural wood color. Moreover, sitting on the veranda of his hut, the traveler often watched the indigenous people fishing on their pirogues at both day and night.


    The Maclay Coast model layout is an exhibit which was created in accordance with the original concept of Miklouho-Maclay Jr. and the scientist’s diaries of the XIX century. It is exhibited in museums of Russia as a part of thematic exhibitions. It reflects in detail the life of Miklouho-Maclay and the Papuans (indigenous people) at that period (1871-1872) and, based on drawings made by the scientist during his expeditions, exactly reflects the facial features of each character.

    The model layout is a diorama with free viewing from all 4 sides. Scale 1:20. Dimensions 111x111x80 cm. Characters were made using 3D modeling.