A Naturalist's Journal on the Mountains and in the Forests and Swamps in Borneo and the Sulu Archipelago- by F.W. Burbidge. Classic Book Section: Sulu Online Library


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Voyage to Sulu

After having spent some time on the north-west coast of Borneo, varied by collecting expeditions further in the interior of the Murut and Dusun countries, I took a passage on the small trading steamer Far East, bound for Sandakan and the Sulu Archipelago. An intelligent young Scotchman, Mr. W. C. Cowie, part owner and engineer, was on board, and enlivened the voyage with a fund of information relating to the habits, customs, and trade of the natives among whom we were going. We were accompanied by his brother, who was going to reside in Sulu for trading purposes, and several Chinese and Malay traders also had taken deck passages. We sailed about 7 a.m. on April 5th, and the weather being fine we obtained capital views of the Bornean coast as we steamed along.

This was the greatest season of drought which had been known here fur some time, nearly five months with- out liain, and this under a tropical sun, and in several places we could see jungle fires raging along the coast.

The monsoon was dead against us, and we met numerous native boats flying down to Labuan before the wind. These were laden with pearl-shell, trepang, etc., and were mostly from the islands of Balabac and Palawan ; some, however, had come round from the north-east coast of Borneo, and even from the Sulu isles. In about a fortnight the monsoon is expected to change, when they will find no difficulty in returning safety. At sunset, and again at sunrise, we saw ” Kina Balu ” towering up into the clouds, and apparently very near to the coast, but the distance is very deceptive. It was dark when we entered Sandakan Bay, and about three o’clock on the morning of the 8th, I was awakened by the rattling of the anchor- chains, and found we were at Sandakan itself. It is merely a small trading station consisting of about a dozen ” ataps,” or palm thatched houses built over the water, and a long “jimbatan,” or jetty, also on piles, serves as a roadway and a landing stage for produce.

At the time of my visit the only European residents were Mr. W. B. Piyer, who acted as agent and resident for the company, who had just obtained cessions of territory from the Sultans of Brunei and Sulu respectively, and Mr. Martin, a trader. There was formerly a depot here belonging to the ” Labuan Trading Company,” managed by a Mr. Sachze, who died rather suddenly, as is believed by poison administered by his wife, a beautiful native woman given to intrigue. We landed at daybreak, and Mr. Cowie and myself took our guns and went for a walk in the forest behind the little group of houses. We followed a path which had been recently cut, and which led us in a northerly direction for about half a mile until we came to a stream descending the steep hill side in a series of little falls. Pigeons were plentiful here, but the trees were too high to allow of our shooting them. We also disturbed a colony of large red monkeys, who were breakfasting on a tall fig-tree in fruit. We clambered up the hillside and walked along the ridge for some distance. The surface vegetation was   …Please read more here.



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