Sir William MacGregor's Journey across New Guinea

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IN NATURE of December 17, p. 157, you publish an article describing Sir William MacGregor's interesting journey across the South-eastern Peninsula of New Guinea, by Mr. J. Thomson. As he has introduced some reference to my work in the Possession, perhaps you will kindly allow me space for a few observations. The names of seven travellers, besides my own, are mentioned whose attempts “to explore the Alpine region of the Owen Stanley Range” have “resulted in signal failure.” More than one of us, however, did reach the Alpine regions of the range, though none of us ascended Mount Owen Stanley. And I cannot think that any of those who made the attempt will feel any discredit attaching to them on that account, any more than attaches to Sir William MacGregor that he could not reach the mountains beyond the sources of the Fly River. That Sir William was the first to scale Mount Owen Stanley is true, and he deserves all the kudos he has received for his exploit. Yet the success which attended his efforts was in no small measure due to the information gathered by his forerunners, and even by their “signal failures.” Each traveller made it easier for his successor; and Sir William mounted on the backs of all who had preceded him, however much the historiographer for New Guinea may try to ignore their efforts. The reason why some of us who made a not ill-considered effort at great personal expense to reach the summit of the Mount, failed in accomplishing all we desired, was chiefly one of money. Sir William, who has the resources, the steamers and the launches of the Possession at his back, and has besides the prestige of “Great Chief” over the natives—no mean factor in the exploration of such a country—and can call upon his officials in all quarters for aid, is in a very different position from a private traveller dependent very largely (I speak for myself) on his own resources, and ought to accomplish far more than any other traveller.

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FORBES, H. Sir William MacGregor's Journey across New Guinea. Nature 55, 247 (1897) doi:10.1038/055247b0

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