|Introduction: I very much enjoyed Junghuhn's stories in "Wie verre reizen doet", compiled by Robert Nieuwenhuys in 1975. I googled the WWW but failed to find any English translation of the story: "Langs het Zuider Strand" ("Along the Southern Beach"), so I decided to do it myself as a supplement to my own story about sea turtles. First, however, I took a lot of effort to contact Dr.E.M. Beekman, retired from the University of Massachusetts and asked him if he ever had translated the story or considered doing so. He admitted having done so, and pretty well, in his "Fugitive Dreams" of 2000. I ordered a copy of this compendium on Amazon and just received it, so I scanned the relevant pages of Beekman's translation. True to measure, his English version of the story by Junghuhn- a German writing (very well) in Dutch - has two additional paragraphs as compared with Nieuwenhuys's. So now you have two versions in English by two separate retired Dutch professors living in the USA . . .|
Our tour went on all day along the coast which I had to survey,
while my brother Night collected all new or rare objects we came across.
Doing so, we reached only a single small village where we had breakfast
and then continued our voyage until about 4 in the evening when fatigue forced us to make a stop.
We had to look around for a suitable spot close to which running water could be found to locate our camp site.
Another half day's travel further westward from here there was to be a large village near the coast which we
wished to reach the next afternoon in order to penetrate from there in a northerly direction into the interior highland.
We selected as our night quarters the east side of a cape near which a crystal clear creek flowed into the sea. The region in which we were located was very wild. Astonishingly wide original jungles reached uninterrupted from the high mountains to the very coast. Indeed, they bathed their drooping branches in the waves so that only in a few spots - mainly in the back of the small inlets - a narrow sandy beach was left uncovered by trees. Wherever we looked, from afar or near, nowhere did we discover any sign of human activity.
In great haste we made the necessary preparation to pitch our campsite. Our boys and the coolies cut branches from the neighboring trees, built huts and made campfires. Together with my brother Night and two Javanese, I went further west to explore the nature of the surroundings. The cape or prominent point ("tandjoeng"; "oedjoeng" in Malay ["ujung" in Bahasa Indonesia]) was the termination of a rib descending from the mountain and formed a flat mountain ridge rising about fifteen to twenty feet above the beach of the adjacent bights. Many similar lower or higher rising "oedjoengs" between flatter sloping smaller bights reached way out into the sea and were all covered by forest trees.
When we reached the opposite side of the cape and emerged from the forest, we witnessed a remarkable spectacle. The beach enclosed between this and the next cape had the shape of a half moon, was entirely dry and barren and rose with a very gentle slope upward to a distance of aboput five hundred to seven hundred foot from the coastline. There it ended and transformed to sandhills. Immediately Landward of these hills arose the forest which extended deep into the ever higher rising mountains. This bare and flat sand beach - the coast of a bight - was about the length of a three quarters of an hour walk.
High overhead drifted raptors (Falco or Haliaetos species) describing circles in the sky. On the beach hundreds of bones were lying and immensely large turtle shields, partly bleached, partly dark colored, as if strewn across a battlefield.
It was a savage sitght. Driven by astonishment and curiosity, we climbed down and walked on the bare beach between the skeletons. Here we noted instantly many tracks of tigers and smaller animals, which were very clear especially near the sea. At our right, to the side of the hills in which direction the coast rose with a very low and even slope, the sand was getting gradually looser and drier. There it was in many places turned over, uneven, here and there cast up in heaps in between which could be found trough shaped lows. It appeared tht animals of various kinds had battled each other in the wildest war.. This entire beach flat was strewn with bones and shields of turtles. Within eyesight we counted several dozen whole shields between the shattered bones. Certainly it may be assumed that the number spread over the entire beach was into the hundreds. Most were found on the part of the coast furhhest away from the sea, at the foot of the hills. What surprised us most was that they all were lying upside down on their back. These were shields of the giant seaturtle (Chelonia mydas ; more rarely Chelonia imbricata)
which proportionately high and wide, ranged in length from three to five foot. Some had been lying there a long time and were completely bleached and smooth by the influence of sunlight and rain; others were darker in color and on the inside still provided with strips of dried meat; several were found to be still rather fresh. With ventral shields ripped open and to a considerable distance surrounded by torn, stinking innards were lying here on the sand. At distinct locations we saw long, straight tracks, lanes of a width of three to four foot consisting of two parallel continuous grooves. In the middle thereof it appeared that a heavier body had been dragged over the sand. These tracks started at the waterline and stretched perpendicularly between the skeletons up to the foot of the hills. The two Javanese who were with us appeared to know this phenomenon, because they had followed one of the tracks and called to us gladly from these hills where we saw them engaged in digging up the sand: "Tampat telor, telor! ("a nest with eggs, eggs!")
The hills were real sand dunes arising in the immediate vicinity of the foot of the mountains. Here and there across this dry, clear colored sand crwawled long ranks of the "daon katang" (Convolvolus species) which were decorated with large reddish-blue flowers; at other spots, the sand was either barren or only vegetated with a stickly crawling type of grass, "djoekoet lari-lari" (Spinivex squarrosus) From the crown of the dunes, however, not only "babak goan" (Tourneforia argentea) and other trees, but also the most prolific leave bushes of pandanaea looked down on us. At the foot of these dunes we found on one spot, in a nest dug to shallow depth covered with sand, more than a hundred bullet round eggs. They were palish white in color, as big as a small apple and had a weak parchment like shell.
These long tracks were, therefore, tracks of the giant seaturtle who had risen from the bosom of the ocean and crawled five hundred to seven hundred feet across the beach in order to lay her eggs and to leave their hatching to the sun! And on these short excursions ashore which they maybe undertake only a few times a year - are they then attacked by predators?
We decided to come here to spend the evening in order to espy what was going on. First we took along as many eggs as we could carry and next we returned to our camp.
The coastal forest arising on top of the cape had an entirely different physical appearance from the forest atop the dunes;
it consisted almost entirely of kiboenaga trees,(Calophyllum inophyllum) of which the lively green, blinking verdure united to a dense shade cover some
thirty to forty feet above the ground. Thousands of white flowers decorating this verdure impregnated the air with pleasant odiferous scents.
A few feet high, many old trunks divided into colossal branches stretching in all directions. On top of such branches,
some seven or eight foot above ground, the Javanese had prepared their own and our sleeping places.
Below, between the trunks, fires had been lit, because some of our Javanese had noticed crocodiles (Crocodilus biporcatus)
It is well known that they leave the water at night and prowl along the shore. This type of animal is even more dangerous than the tiger.
A similar seat high above the ground where we were safe from dangers we now also had prepared in a kiboenaga tree at the edge of the forest next to the bone field. After we had finished our dinner - of which the tasty turtle eggs formed the main dish - we climbed into the tree round 6 o'clock. The other Javanese had been instructed to run and carry torches to the place where we had hidden as soon as they heard our first shot.
We sat and looked; night fell. We saw first one, then several turtles leaving the sea . As soon as they reached dry ground, they stood still for a moment, stretched their long neck forward and up, turned aside a bit, cast a spying look around and then crawled in a straight line, rather rapidly and without interruptions across the beach, or rather, they shuffled and propelled themselves forward using their fins along the shortest way to the foot of the hills. Because of the increasing darkness we could barely overlook a quarter of the beach but inasfar as we could still discern objects we saw four of these dark plump bodies shuffling across the beach plain. No sounds were heard except for that of the breaking surf. Then suddenly we heard beneath us something splashing. It was much longer than a turtle and crawled much easier than it did across the beach: it was a crocodile at least fifteen foot long which now also kept wriggling towards the foot of the hill. Was it looking for prey? Holding our breath and keeping still as a mouse, we regarded the scene displayed in front of us. Far away, a turtle crawled back and disappeared into the sea. It did not take long till in our immediate vicinity another dark body similarly turned seaward. It approached us closer and closer but had not yet covered half the distance when suddenly a large number of animals emerged from the nearby forest. Initially, they did not make the slightest sound, but the moment they reached the turtle they produced a sniffing, short and interrupted howl, while in the blink of an eye they surrounded the animal and wildly grabbed hold of it.
We estimated there werer at least thirty attackers. They grabbed the victim by the head, by the neck, by the fin-shaped legs, by the tail, by the rear and pulled and ripped parts of the body,
twisted it around in a circle and betrayed the most horrible voracity and bloodthirstyness by their hoarse sounding sniffs which were expelled
like a series of barks. They went about it like mad and did not appear to take any notice of the crocodile which quietly and with light,
soft tread crawled closer on his stomach just like a titjak (small wall lizard) catches flies on the walls of a room -
ever closer and closer, next as an arrow from a bow shooting forward and already having
mascerated two of the howling dogs between its ferocious jaws before the others noticed him.
These were adjaks (Canis rutilana), so-called wild dogs which live in troops, smaller than wolves but much more voracious and wilder.
Although the turtle was not yet dead, she had suffered too much to be able to escape. The crocodile, who probably had made a good catch, took off in the direction of the sea. The adjaks now cast themselves anew on their prey, from all sides in a united front and appeared busy ripping apart her shields. I took aim with my rifle and was ready to shoot when one of the Javanese put his hand on my arm and whispered some meaningful words. His sharp eyes had already noticed the creature which had tred from the dark forest. She stood there, quietly, looked up, cast her flaming glance over the scene, laid down on the ground and - fell suddenly with an astonishing bound in the middle of the dogs. A horrible rattling sound which seemed to emerge from the deepest part of her throat was heard and the adjaks took off in all directions caught by a panicky fear. While making sounds which resembled whistling more than snorting they head over heels returned to the forest. The tyrant of the jungle, the royal tiger which had appeared on the stage, put her claw on top of the shield of the animal lying in front of her as a sign of victory. A second, smaller tiger, probably a panther also crawled nearer. The royal tiger turned around, snorting and blowing. I lifted my gun, took aim and the sound of the shot resounded in the silent night far and wide through the mountains. The struggle of the giant turtles, crocodiles, wild dogs and tigers had reached its end this time.
|Almost simultaneous with me my brother Night had also taken a shot. Under the verdure cover of the tree in whose branches we were seated, it was, however, already much too dark to aim for anything precisely, although we could still pretty well discern the shapes of the shields lying in front of us on the barren, clear colored beach.. We had both missed out aim, because the two tigers had run away. Even though we could take one more shot each, we deemed it to safer to reload both barrels. Just when we were climbing out of the tree the Javanese who had stayed behind in the camp and had heard the two shots came running towards us shouting loud and brandishing burning pieces of cloven wood to illuminate the scene. Close to the turtle we found the dead adjak. The life of the urtle was not extinguished yet but she had suffered horribly and was now terminated forever by the Javanese using their goloks (cutting and hacking knife). Because turtles cannot pull in either their head or their flippers underneath their shield, they are - notwithstanding their extreme size and sturdiness - an easy prey to predators who are much smaller than they, at least when these as in this case the wild dogs, attack simultaneously in large numbers. This phenomenon explains also the presence of the large number of skeletons and shields which covered this wild battlefield of animals devouring each other. That part of the flesh and guts which the wild dogs, tigers, panthers and crocodiles leave behind after they haver ripped out the ventral shield of their victim and have torn out everything forcefully at night, will be devoured the next day by sea eagles and other raptors. One always sees several of these birds flying high in the sky over this beach.|