National Geographic : 1961 Feb
A INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCES go, this one ambled along amicably enough. Every nicety of diplomacy and protocol was in play. Nevertheless, it was clear that a fiasco was in the making, one that could be a disaster for me. The site was a dripping camp in a tiny village clearing chopped from the jungle west of the Alim bit River, on the little-explored island of New Brit ain, largest of the Bismarck Archipelago. The participants included David Moorhouse, a tall, hawk-visaged young patrol officer representing Australia, which governs New Britain as a United Nations trust territory, and myself, a middle-aged ornithologist representing the American Museum of Natural History, the Explorers Club, the National Geographic Society, and the incurably questing curi osity of science. The third conferee was a wild man. Advice: Get Help From Wild Men Barely a week before, in the minute settlement of Kandrian on the island's southwest coast, Assistant District Officer Campbell Fleay had put it bluntly: "Go to a village called Hualil-the end of the line so far as our maps go -and try to make contact with a character named Iangmili. He's chief of a gang of 'wild men' we've been trying to soften up this past year. There is a chance he will help, but if he won't, you might as well give up your hopes of exploring the interior." This was hardly bracing news for an expedition planning "to explore, collect, and make a photo graphic survey of the flora and fauna" of the island's high mountains. Already my principal goal-to find the bird of paradise on New Britain-seemed dis turbingly remote. The name "wild men" had been given by coastal natives to some 200 or 300 extremely tall and re markably uncordial residents of the interior. A few had recently been seen near Hualil. When Patrol Officer Moorhouse had last visited the region, his orders read: "Under no circumstances are you to 261 High in the crown of the i Whiteman Range, a hunter surveys the rain forest of New Britain. The Gilliard expedition laboriously chopped its way across un explored wilderness bris tling with bamboo to this summit camp, where it collected rare birds and mammals. Sparrow-sized river king fisher, Alcedo atthis, in habits the lowlands.