I thanked Mahomet for his frankness, which I promised to remember should I ever have occasion to revisit Sumatra.
And now, all being ready, we put to sea, and by evening the island of Sumatra had disappeared beyond the horizon.
Hartog believed, from an ancient Portuguese chart which we had with us, that an island continent lay to the south-east, and after a lengthened period, during which we encountered bad weather and rough sea, we sighted a formidable coastline, which appeared to be a mainland extending on either side as far as the eye could reach. We coasted along this new-found country for several days in search of a landing place, without being able to find one, the coast being a continuous line of precipitous rocks. Toward the end of the third day we encountered a canoe, the largest we had seen, containing upward of one hundred natives. We offered food and other articles, but, although the canoe came quite close to us, none of her people could be induced to come on board.
These natives appeared to be strong and fierce, nor did they show the least fear of us, but rather an intention to begin hostilities when an opportunity should offer. In view of this we loaded our brass cannon, and made ready a supply of ammunition in case they should attack us. But after keeping company with us for some time the canoe made off, and Hartog had no mind to follow it.
Next morning we hove to off a pebbly beach, upon which I undertook to land a boat’s crew and examine the country. Hartog sent two boats, one in my charge and the other in charge of Janstins. The sea was smooth, so that we had no difficulty in running the boats ashore, where, leaving a man aboard each, the rest of us followed the course of a stream inland. Here we soon came to a valley so beautiful as almost to defy description. Colossal trees rose to a great height above our heads, festooned with a flowering creeper which resembled a bridal veil, whilst emerald green ferns stretched their fronds into a stream which descended from the higher land beyond by a series of cascades. A kind of flax plant grew here, with leaves over nine feet long, and bearing a flower which looked like a bunch of feather plumes, whilst palms and cabbage trees abounded everywhere in great profusion.
My attention was diverted from the beauties which surrounded us by some strange footprints which I noticed on the soft ground near the stream, and which appeared to have been made by a bird or two-legged animal of prodigious size. The footprints measured fully three feet in length, and I fell to wondering what kind of a creature it could be who had made them, when I was startled by a cry from one of our men, which caused me to look in the direction whence it came. At a distance of some fifty yards from where I stood I then perceived a huge, wingless bird. Its head, armed with a formidable beak, reared full twenty feet from the ground; its body, big as an ox, and covered with black bristles, supported upon legs thicker than the girth of a man. As yet this prodigy had not observed us, for it was stalking quietly among the trees, followed by a brood of chickens, each larger than the biggest ostrich I had ever seen.