The Malay Archipelago, by Alfred Russel Wallace, 1869, p.141-154:|
The island of Timor is about three hundred miles long and sixty wide, and seems to form the termination of the great range of volcanic islands which begins with Sumatra more than two thousand miles to the west.
It differs however very remarkably from all the other islands of the chain in not possessing any active volcanoes, with the one exception of Timor Peak near the centre of the island, which was formerly active, but was blown up during an eruption in 1638 and has since been quiescent [Athanasius Kircher's Mundus Subterraneus (1665) describes this event, but it is difficult to locate any other description of it].
In no other part of Timor do there appear to be any recent igneous rocks, so that it can hardly be classed as a volcanic island. Indeed its position is just outside of the great volcanic belt, which extends from Flores through Ombay and Wetter to Banda.
I first visited Timor in 1857, staying a day at Coupang, the chief Dutch town at the west end of the island; and again in May 1859, when I stayed a fortnight in the same neighbourhood. In the spring of 1861 I spent four months at Delli, the capital of the Portuguese possessions in the eastern part of the island...
I arrived at Delli, the capital of the Portuguese possessions in Timor, on January 12, 1861, and was kindly received by Captain Hart, an Englishman and an old resident, who trades in the produce of the country and cultivates coffee on an estate at the foot of the hills. With him I was introduced to Mr. Geach, a mining-engineer who had been for two years endeavouring to discover copper in sufficient quantity to be worth working.
Delli is a most miserable place compared with even the poorest of the Dutch towns. The houses are all of mud and thatch; the fort is only a mud inclosure; and the custom-house and church are built of the same mean materials, with no attempt at decoration or even neatness. The whole aspect of the place is that of a poor native town, and there is no sign of cultivation or civilization round about it.
His Excellency the Governor's house is the only one that makes any pretensions to appearance, and that is merely a low white-washed cottage or bungalow. Yet there is one thing in which civilization exhibits itself. Officials in black and white European costume, and officers in gorgeous uniforms, abound in a degree quite disproportionate to the size or appearance of the place.
The town being surrounded for some distance by swamps and mud-flats is very unhealthy, and a single night often gives a fever to new-comers which not unfrequently proves fatal. To avoid this malaria, Captain Hart always slept at his plantation, on a slight elevation about two miles from the town, where Mr. Geach also had a small house, which he kindly invited me to share. We rode there in the evening; and in the course of two days my baggage was brought up, and I was able to look about me and see if I could do any collecting.
For the first few weeks I was very unwell and could not go far from the house. The country was covered with low spiny shrubs and acacias, except in a little valley where a stream came down from the hills, where some fine trees and bushes shaded the water and formed a very pleasant place to ramble up. There were plenty of birds about, and of a tolerable variety of species; but very few of them were gaily coloured. Indeed, with one or two exceptions, the birds of this tropical island were hardly so ornamental as those of Great Britain.
Beetles were so scarce that a collector might fairly say there were none, as the few obscure or uninteresting species would not repay him for the search. The only insects at all remarkable or interesting were tho butterflies, which, though comparatively few in species, were sufficiently abundant, and comprised a large proportion of new or rare sorts.
The banks of the stream formed my best collecting ground, and I daily wandered up and down its shady bed, which about a mile up became rocky and precipitous. Here I obtained the rare and beautiful swallow-tail butterflies, Papilio ænomaus and P. liris; the males of which are quite unlike each other, and belong in fact to distinct sections of the genus, while the females are so much alike that they are undistinguishable on the wing, and to an uneducated eye equally so in the cabinet.
Several other beautiful butterflies rewarded my search in this place; among which I may especially mention the Cethosia leschenaultii, whose wings of the deepest purple are bordered with buff in such a manner as to resemble at first sight our own Camberwell beauty, although it belongs to a different genus. The most abundant butterflies were the whites and yellows (Pieridæ), several of which I had already found at Lombock [Lombok] and at Coupang, while others were new to me.
Early in February we made arrangements to stay for a week at a village called Baliba, situated about four miles off on the mountains, at an elevation of 2,000 feet. We took our baggage and a supply of all necessaries on pack-horses; and though the distance by the route we took was not more than six or seven miles, we were half a day getting there.
The roads were mere tracks, sometimes up steep rocky stairs, sometimes in narrow gullies worn by the horses feet, and where it was necessary to tuck up our legs on our horses' necks to avoid having them crushed. At some of these places the baggage had to be unloaded, at others it was knocked off.
Sometimes the ascent or descent was so steep that it was easier to walk than to cling to our ponies' backs; and thus we went up and down, over bare hills whose surface was covered with small pebbles and scattered over with Eucalypti, reminding me of what I had read of parts of the interior of Australia rather than of the Malay Archipelago.
The village consisted of three houses only, with low walls, raised a few feet on posts, and very high roofs thatched with grass hanging down to within two or three feet of the ground. A house which was unfinished and partly open at the back was given for our use, and in it we rigged up a table, some benches, and a screen, while an inner enclosed portion served us for a sleeping apartment.
We had a splendid view down upon Delli and the sea beyond. The country round was undulating and open, except in the hollows, where there were some patches of forest, which Mr. Geach, who had been all over the eastern part of Timor, assured me was the most luxuriant he had yet seen in the island.
I was in hopes of finding some insects here, but was much disappointed, owing perhaps to the dampness of the climate; for it was not till the sun was pretty high that the mists cleared away, and by noon we were generally clouded up again, so that there was seldom more than an hour or two of fitful sunshine.
We searched in every direction for birds and other game, but they were very scarce. On our way I had shot the fine white-headed pigeon, Ptilonopus cinctus [Ptilinopus cinctus, Banded Fruit-Dove], and the pretty little lorikeet, Trichoglossus euteles [Olive-headed Lorikeet]. I got a few more of these at the blossoms of the Eucalypti, and also the allied species Trichoglossus iris, and a few other small but interesting birds.
The common jungle-cock of India (Gallus bankiva [Red Junglefowl]) was found here, and furnished us with some excellent meals; but we could get no deer. Potatoes are grown higher up the mountains in abundance, and are very good. We had a sheep killed every other day, and ate our mutton with much appetite in the cool climate which rendered a fire always agreeable.
Although one-half the European residents in Delli are continually ill from fever, and the Portuguese have occupied the place for three centuries, no one has yet built a house on these fine hills, which, if a tolerable road were made, would be only an hour's ride from the town; and almost equally good situations might be found on a lower level at half an hour's distance.
The fact that potatoes and wheat of excellent quality are grown in abundance at from 3,000 to 3,500 feet elevation, shows what the climate and soil are capable of if properly cultivated. From one to two thousand feet high, coffee would thrive; and there are hundreds of square miles of country, over which all the varied products which require climates between those of coffee and wheat would flourish; but no attempt has yet been made to form a single mile of road, or a single acre of plantation!
There must be something very unusual in the climate of Timor to permit of wheat being grown at so moderate an elevation. The grain is of excellent quality, the bread made from it being equal to any I have ever tasted; and it is universally acknowledged to be unsurpassed by any made from imported European or American flour.
The fact that the natives have (quite of their own accord) taken to cultivating such foreign articles as wheat and potatoes, which they bring in small quantities on the backs of ponies by the most horrible mountain tracks, and sell very cheaply at the sea-side, sufficiently indicates what might be done, if good roads were made, and if the people were taught, encouraged, and protected.
Sheep also do well on the mountains; and a breed of hardy ponies in much repute all over the Archipelago, runs half wild; so that it appears as if this island, so barren-looking and devoid of the usual features of tropical vegetation, were yet especially adapted to supply a variety of products essential to Europeans, which the other islands will not produce, and which they accordingly import from the other side of the globe.
On the 24th of February my friend Mr. Geach left Timor, having finally reported that no minerals worth working were to be found. The Portuguese were very much annoyed, having made up their minds that copper is abundant, and still believing it to be so... For more than a year he and his assistant explored the eastern part of Timor, crossing it in several places from sea to sea, and ascending every important valley, without finding any minerals that would pay the expense of working.
Copper ore exists in several places, but always too poor in quality. The best would pay well if situated in England; but in the interior of an utterly barren country, with roads to make, and all skilled labour and materials to import, it would have been a losing concern. Gold also occurs, but very sparingly and of poor quality.
A fine spring of pure petroleum was discovered in in the interior, where it can never be available till the country is civilized. The whole affair was a dreadful disappointment to the Portuguese Government, who had considered it such a certain thing that they had contracted for the Dutch mail steamers to stop at Delli; and several vessels from Australia were induced to come with miscellaneous cargoes, for which they expected to find a ready sale among the population at the newly-opened mines.
The lumps of native copper are still, however, a mystery. Mr. Geach has examined the country in every direction without being able to trace their origin; so that it seems probable that they result from the debris of old copper-bearing strata, and are not really more abundant than gold nuggets are in Australia or California. A high reward was offered to any native who should find a piece and show the exact spot where he obtained it, but without effect.
The mountaineers of Timor are a people of Papuan type, having rather slender forms, bushy frizzled hair, and the skin of a dusky brown colour. They have the long nose with overhanging apex which is so characteristic of the Papuan, and so absolutely unknown among races of Malayan origin.
On the coast there has been much admixture of some of the Malay races, and perhaps of Hindoo, as well as of Portuguese. The general stature there is lower, the hair wavy instead of frizzled, and the features less prominent.
see also: Malaysia - The Philippines|
Indonesia - Australia - Papua New Guinea
All of East Timor
is one time zone
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East Timor News
Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste: The Portuguese began to trade with the island of Timor in the early 16th century and colonized it in mid-century. Skirmishing with the Dutch in the region eventually resulted in an 1859 treaty in which Portugal ceded the western portion of the island.
Imperial Japan occupied Portuguese Timor from 1942 to 1945, but Portugal resumed colonial authority after the Japanese defeat in World War II.
East Timor declared itself independent from Portugal on 28 November 1975 and was invaded and occupied by Indonesian forces nine days later. It was incorporated into Indonesia in July 1976 as the province of Timor Timur (East Timor). An unsuccessful campaign of pacification followed over the next two decades, during which an estimated 100,000 to 250,000 individuals lost their lives.
On 30 August 1999, in a UN-supervised popular referendum, an overwhelming majority of the people of Timor-Leste voted for independence from Indonesia. Between the referendum and the arrival of a multinational peacekeeping force in late September 1999, anti-independence Timorese militias—organized and supported by the Indonesian military—commenced a large-scale, scorched-earth campaign of retribution. The militias killed approximately 1,400 Timorese and forcibly pushed 300,000 people into western Timor as refugees. The majority of the country's infrastructure, including homes, irrigation systems, water supply systems, and schools, and nearly 100% of the country's electrical grid were destroyed.
On 20 September 1999, the Australian-led peacekeeping troops of the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) deployed to the country and brought the violence to an end. On 20 May 2002, Timor-Leste was internationally recognized as an independent state.
In late April 2006, internal tensions threatened the new nation's security when a military strike led to violence and a near breakdown of law and order. At Dili's request, an Australian-led International Stabilization Force (ISF) deployed to Timor-Leste in late May. In August, the UN Security Council established the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), which included an authorized police presence of over 1,600 personnel. The ISF and UNMIT restored stability, allowing for presidential and parliamentary elections in April and June 2007 in a largely peaceful atmosphere.
In February 2008, a rebel group staged an unsuccessful attack against the president and prime minister. The ringleader was killed in the attack and the majority of the rebels surrendered in April 2008.
Since the unsuccessful attacks the government has enjoyed one of its longest periods of post-independence stability.
CIA World Factbook: East Timor
Area of East Timor:
15,007 sq km
slightly larger than Connecticut
Population of East Timor:
July 2009 estimate
Languages of East Timor:
Tetum, Portuguese, both official
plus about 16 indigenous languages:
Tetum, Galole, Mambae, and Kemak
are spoken by significant numbers of people
East Timor Capital:
Free Books on East Timor (.pdfs)
The Malay Archipelago Alfred Russel Wallace 1906
A Bird's-Eye View of the World Onésime Reclus 1892
A Naturalist's Wife in the Eastern Archipelago
Anna Forbes 1887
A Naturalist's Wanderings in the Eastern Archipelago
Henry Ogg Forbes 1885
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