Collection overview

The British Library’s Daniels Ethnographical Expedition to British New Guinea 1904 Cylinder Collection (C62) consists of 40 wax cylinders recorded in British New Guinea as part of the 1904 Daniels Ethnographical Expedition to British New Guinea.1The official expedition title was the Daniels Ethnographical Expedition to British New Guinea, although it is often referred to as the Cooke Daniels Expedition. “Cooke” was Daniels’s middle name, so the two names should not be hyphenated. The collection was formerly known as the Seligman New Guinea Cylinders (C62). The cylinders came into the British Library as part of the Sir James Frazer Collection, a group of approximately 2100 cylinders. This collection came from Cambridge to the British Institute of Recorded Sound (BIRS) in the 1950s (Ward 1984:11). The British Institute of Recorded Sound was founded in 1955, and became part of the British Library in 1983; it is known today as the British Library Sound Archive.

The Daniels Ethnographical Expedition was led by Major William Cooke Daniels (1870-1918), a wealthy American retailer.2 He met the British anthropologist Charles Gabriel Seligmann (1873–1940)3Seligmann changed the spelling of his name to “Seligman” in 1914 (Myers 1941:627); “Seligmann” is used throughout the present document as it refers to the period of time before the change of spelling. Note, however, that the previous title of the C62 collection was “Seligman New Guinea Cylinders.” by chance on a fishing trip in Hampshire, UK, and agreed to finance the expedition (Haddon 1934:2).4 Seligmann had taken part in the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to the Torres Strait in 1898, and remained interested in British New Guinea. The other members of the expedition were Walter Mersh Strong (1873–1946), a doctor who left midway through to become Assistant Resident Magistrate in Mekeo,5 and Arthur Henry Dunning, (1884–1959).6 Two crew members of Daniels’s schooner, the Kori, also contributed to the expedition’s ethnographic work: the captain, Pim, and Karlsson. Not much is known about these men.  

The 40 cylinders seem to have been recorded by Seligmann and Dunning, and the British colonial officer Francis Rickman Barton (1865-1947) probably assisted Dunning with three of the recordings.

Research by Vicky Barnecutt, British Library, and Don Niles, IPNGS. With thanks to Heather Donoghue for her help.

The Expedition

The Daniels Ethnographical Expedition to British New Guinea departed London in August 1903. Daniels funded a lot of the expedition, but the Royal Society7 made a grant towards the expenses, and the Royal Geographical Society8 lent instruments (Anonymous 1903:38). Daniels was responsible for ethnology and experimental psychology, and Seligmann was in charge of medical matters; he was also the representative of the Cancer Commission tasked with collecting data on the distribution and aetiology of cancer. Strong also worked on medical concerns, and in addition was responsible for geographical and geological observations. Dunning was in charge of “photographic work, which will include the use of the latest form of cinematograph for recording native dances and ceremonies” (Anonymous 1903:38).9Dunning gave four Lantern Lectures at the Royal Photographic Society between September 1906 and September 1909. These probably included New Guinea photos

The expedition encountered a number of setbacks. Daniels’s yacht the Kori needed repairs in Southampton, UK, so its arrival in British New Guinea was delayed by a number of months. Seligmann and, Dunning fell ill on the trip to western British New Guinea, with Seligmann having to return to Australia to recuperate. The full team of Daniels, Seligmann, Strong and Dunning had about 6 weeks together, from 23 May to early July, before Strong left to become a colonial official at the government station in Mekeo. He asked Daniels for permission to leave on 1 July 1904 (Seligmann 1903-1904:103). Daniels, Dunning and Seligmann then had a further four months, from July to October, with the Kori and crew. The ship enabled them to explore the eastern end of British New Guinea extensively.

Haddon may have been persuaded to take a phonograph on the 1898 Expedition by Jesse Walter Fewkes, who used the equipment in 1890 during his research on the Passamaquoddy people in North America. Fewkes is widely recognized as the first person to make phonographic recordings as part of anthropological research. Fewkes wrote to Haddon in March 1890 and described the usefulness of using the phonograph to record stories and songs (Clayton 1996:69).

Seligmann observed Ray and Myers using the phonograph in 1898, although we have found no evidence that he made recordings himself that year. It is likely he considered a phonograph and cylinders an essential part of equipment for the 1904 expedition. Seligmann gave his student Bronislaw Malinowski “a camera, a phonograph, anthropometric instruments and other paraphernalia of ethnographic work” for Malinowski’s first expedition to Papua in 1914 (Malinowski 1922:xix).

Whilst Seligmann is currently noted in the British Library’s SAMI catalogue as the recordist for all of the C62 recordings, it is likely that Dunning helped him with some or all of them. It is evident that Dunning and Barton made three of the recordings, and it is possible that Dunning made others by himself. 37 of the 40 recordings have an initial announcement of an English-accented male voice giving some information. This male voice sounds very similar to the voice that announced all of the recordings in the C86 Veddas collection in the British Library.10For example, C86/1359. This latter collection was made by Charles Seligmann and his wife, Brenda, during their fieldwork in Sri Lanka in 1907–8. The similarity of the voice suggests that Seligmann most probably made the announcements on the C62 cylinders in 1904 also.

It also would have been much easier for two people to operate the phonograph for recordings. One person needed to be in charge of the technical aspects of the machine, starting it up, placing the recording stylus onto the cylinder, and then monitoring to ensure that the machine was running smoothly. A second person could then make the announcement, which needed to be directly into the flare of the horn, and ensure that the performers were in the right place at the right time.11Will Prentice email to Vicky Barnecutt 19 October 2020.

There are a number of sources of information on the Daniels Ethnographical Expedition, including journals and fieldnotes from Seligmann and Daniels, and various publications by Seligmann and Strong. However, these sources offer piecemeal details on the itinerary of the expedition, and no single report was published. Seligmann acknowledged this in the preface to his book The Melanesians of British New Guinea, saying that he had intended the book to be the first volume of “a series of Reports dealing with the work of the Expedition,” but had found himself “compelled to abandon this project” (1910:v).12Presumably Seligmann aimed to emulate the 1898 expedition’s six volumes of Reports of the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits. The book includes material from both his 1898 and 1904 visits, and from other sources. Researcher Heather Donoghue13 shared her extensively researched itinerary of the expedition with the True Echoes project; we have used this, along with publications and Seligmann’s journal, to construct the following timeline.

Daniels and Seligmann travelled to Australia together, meeting up with Strong and Dunning at some point before 9 December 1903 (Heather Donoghue pers. comm.). Daniels stayed in Australia to wait for his schooner Kori, which was undergoing repairs in England. Seligmann, Strong, and Dunning travelled via Thursday Island and arrived in Port Moresby on 19 December 1903. They met Barton, the Resident Magistrate, and Ahuia Ova, the Koita Chief and Village Constable of Hanuabada, the Motu/ Koita village near Port Moresby.14Motu and Koita are two different languages, of peoples who often live in close proximity in villages in Central Province. We write this as Motu/Koita to respect the convention of the term “Motu Koita” whilst also highlighting that they are different languages. They spent the next four weeks based in Port Moresby.

Back in Australia, Seligmann had arranged for the team to join a government expedition to what is today part of Western Province, Papua New Guinea, led by the British Acting Administrator Christopher Stansfield Robinson.15His middle name is variously spelt Stansfield and Stansfeld. It was spelt Stansfeld on the register of his birth (Heather Donoghue pers. comm.) but is most commonly spelt Stansfield. They left Port Moresby on the Merrie England on 13 January 1904 to visit Daru, Saibai, Mawatta, Bugi, Parama Island, Iasa, and Deliverance Island in the Torres Strait. They also explored the Bensbach River (Seligmann 1904:180). On 6 February, Seligmann and Dunning left the government party as they had become ill, presumably with malaria. Seligmann eventually returned to Sydney to recuperate, returning to British New Guinea in April 1904. While he was away, Strong and Dunning visited Orokolo in present-day Gulf Province, and Strong travelled with Robinson to the Mekeo area (Heather Donoghue pers. comm.).

The map below shows some of the different locations visited by the expedition in 1904. The order of the locations visited is indicated by the numbered pins.

On his way back from Australia, Seligmann visited Samarai, arriving on 24 April 1904. From Samarai, he visited the nearby islands of Rogeia and Sariba, and made a brief trip to New Britain, in what was then German New Guinea. On 3 May 1904, he arrived back in Port Moresby, met up with Dunning, and visited Ahuia at Hanuabada. From 8 – 20 May, Seligmann, Dunning, Barton, and David M. Ballantine visited Yule Island on the government ketch Lokohu, stopping at Oroi and Diumana on the way. Ballantine (1868–1909) was at this stage the Treasurer and Controller of Customs in the British colonial administration in New Guinea.16

Daniels arrived in the Kori, and on 23 May, the expedition team of Daniels, Seligmann, Strong, and Dunning were together for the first time. They decided to visit the Mekeo district, leaving Port Moresby on 31 May to sail to Yule Island, travelling on to Waima via Pinupaka, and back via Bereina, Babiko, and Mou (Mohu). They also spent four days anchored off Yule Island working at Siria (or Tsiria) village. Seligmann decided to go to Mekeo Station, near Veifaa (also called Veifa or Veifa’a) alone, visiting Bereina, Inawae, and Inawi on the way. They all returned to Port Moresby on 23 June, and spent the next two weeks based there.

On 1 July, Barton held a festival in Port Moresby, with a feast, a speech by Barton, and dance performances by men and women from groups across the Central district. Seligmann referred to this as “the ‘durbar’ of the tribes of the Central Division arranged by Captain Barton” (1910:158).17In India under British rule, a durbar was “a public reception held by an Indian prince or a British governor or viceroy”, and it came to mean a ceremonial gathering or festival elsewhere also. Dunning and Daniels filmed some of the dance performances on the expedition’s kinematograph (Daniels 1904:190).18 There are 12 short films from New Guinea in 1904 in the British Film Institute;

On 7 July the expedition departed for Rigo with Albert Charles English, Government Agent for Rigo. They sailed to Gabagaba and then walked inland, visiting the LMS missionary Dr Lawes and his wife, Fanny, at Vatorata. They spent about 5 days in the area around the Rigo government station, visiting Tagana Keketo, Kwalimurubu, and Gumoridobu. At that time, Rigo Government Station was located to the south-west of the village of Saroa; at some point later on, the Government Station moved to Kwikila, to the east of Saroa (see map below, Haddon 1900:285).19Ward 1970:15, 20 indicates that the Government Station moved from Old Rigo to Kwikila around 1959.

On 13 July they sailed on to Hula, also known as Bulaa, where they spent 6 days, visiting Hula, Babaka, Kamali, and Kalo. Gima, the chief of Hula, organised a feast which took place on 18 July. Daniels noted that Dunning used the kinematograph to record the feast (Daniels 1904:37).

The group left for Samarai on 19 July, and arrived on 22 July. They spent five days in and around Samarai, sailing for Tubetube (Slade Island) on 29 July. They stayed on Tubetube from 30 July to 11 August. They then tried to travel to Muyua (Woodlark Island), but the weather and sailing conditions complicated their plans, and they ended up visiting Alcester Island instead. They made it to Muyua on 16 August, where they saw their first waga. A waga was “a large built-up canoe (Tubetube)” (Seligmann 1910:754).  On 26 August they arrived in the Marshall Bennett group, and spent time on both Gawa and Kwaiawata Islands. On 2 September they sailed to Iwa, and then on to the Trobriand Islands, where they were based from 3 to 12 September. They then returned to Samarai on 17 September.

On 20 September they left for Bartle Bay, and spent 21–29 September in and around the mission station at Dogura, visiting Wamira, Gelaria, and Wedau. Seligmann worked with the Anglican priest, Eric Louis Giblin; Giblin and Seligmann co-authored a chapter on folk tales and a number of other sections concerning the Southern Massim in Seligmann’s book The Melanesians (1910:376–421). They then went on to Wagawaga (Waga Waga), a village in Milne Bay opposite Alotau, where they stayed 1–10 October (Seligmann 1905:53). 

Ipunesa worked with Seligmann as a translator and cultural informant. Seligmann first mentioned him on 6 September when on Kiriwina in the Trobriand Islands. Seligmann noted in his journal that Ipunesa had the day off and so was not available to translate (Seligmann 1903-1904:133). Seligmann noted that he worked with Ipunesa on 8-9 September on Kaileuna Island in the Trobriands group, and from 2-10 October in Wagawaga, where Ipunesa was from (1903-1904:134, 139). It is not clear when Ipunesa started working for the expedition.

They returned from Wagawaga directly to Port Moresby, and Daniels left British New Guinea on the Kori on 18 October. Seligmann and Dunning stayed on in Port Moresby until 4 November, spending time with Ahuia and Ballantine, and visiting the villages of Pari and Hohodae, the island of Dougo, and the Koiari villages of Tabaiani, Gurinumu, and Wafana.20Hohodae is the Koita section of the Motu/Koita village complex of Hanuabada near Port Moresby

  • Anonymous. 1903. ‘The Daniels Ethnographical Expedition to New Guinea.’ The British Medical Journal 2, no. 2218 (4 July): 38.
  • Barton, Francis Rickman. 1910. ‘The Annual Trading Expedition to the Papuan Gulf’ in C. G. Seligmann The Melanesians of British New Guinea, 96–120.
  • Clayton, Martin. 1996. ‘Ethnographic Wax Cylinders at the British Library National Sound Archive: A Brief History and Description of the Collection.’ British Journal of Ethnomusicology 5: 67–92.
  • Daniels, William Cooke. 1904. Major Daniels diary. Manuscript. SELIGMAN/3/1/1. London: London School of Economics Library.
  • Dunlop, Ian. 1979. ‘Ethnographic Film-Making in Australia: The First Seventy Years (1898–1968).’ Aboriginal History 3/1–2: 111–119.
  • Dutton, Tom E. 1970. ‘Notes on the Languages of the Rigo Area of the Central District of Papua.’ In Pacific Linguistic Studies in Honour of Arthur Capell, ed. S. A. Wurm and D. C. Laycock, 879–984. Pacific Linguistics, C 13. Canberra: Australian National University.
  • Firth, Raymond. 1975. ‘Seligmann’s Contribution to Oceanic Anthropology.’ Oceania 45/4: 272–282.
  • Groves, Murray. 1972. ‘Hiri.’ In Encyclopaedia of Papua and New Guinea, ed. Peter Ryan, 523–527. 2 volumes. Clayton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press. 
  • Haddon, Alfred Cort. 1900. ‘Studies in the Anthropogeography of British New Guinea.’ The Geographical Journal 16/3: 265–291, 414–440.
  • Haddon, Alfred Cort. 1934. ‘Appreciation’ in E. Evans Pritchard et al (eds) Essays Presented to C. G. Seligman. London: K. Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co.
  • Kolia, John. 1975. ‘A Balawaia Grammar Sketch and Vocabulary.’ In Studies in Languages of Central and South-East Papua, ed. Tom E. Dutton, 107–226. Pacific Linguistics, C 19. Canberra: Australian National University.
  • Kolia, John. 1981. ‘The Lala and Balawaia in Central Province.’ In Oral Tradition in Melanesia, ed. Donald Denoon and Roderic Lacey, 231–39. Port Moresby: University of Papua New Guinea & Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies.
  • Malinowski, Bronislaw. 1922. Argonauts of the Western Pacific: An Account of Native Enterprise and Adventure in the Archipelagoes of Melanesian New Guinea. London: Routledge.
  • Moyle, Alice. 1983. ‘Archaeomusicological Possibilities in Australia, Torres Strait and New Guinea.’ Bikmaus 4/3: 131–135.
  • Seligmann, Charles Gabriel. 1903-1904. New Guinea journal. Manuscript. SELIGMAN/1/2/2. London: London School of Economics Library.
  • Seligmann, Charles Gabriel. 1904. ‘Note Concerning the Progress of the Cook-Daniels Expedition to New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.’ Man 4: 180–181.
  • Seligmann Charles Gabriel. 1905. ‘Further Note on the Progress of the Cook-Daniels Expedition to New Guinea.’ Man 5: 52–53.
  • Seligmann, Charles Gabriel. 1909. A Classification of the Natives of British New Guinea. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 39 (Jan–Jun): 246–275, 314–333.
  • Seligmann, Charles Gabriel. 1910. The Melanesians of British New Guinea. Cambridge University Press.
  • Seligmann Charles Gabriel, and Walter Mersh Strong. 1906a. ‘Anthropogeographical Investigations in British New Guinea.’ The Geographical Journal 27/3 (March): 225–242.
  • Seligmann, Charles Gabriel, and Walter Mersh Strong. 1906b. ‘Anthropogeographical Investigations in British New Guinea (Continued).’ The Geographical Journal 27/4 (April): 347–365.
  • Ward, Alan. 1984. ‘The Frazer Collection of Wax Cylinders: An Introduction.’ Recorded Sound 85: 1–11.
  • Ward, Marion W. 1970. ‘The Rigo Road: A study of the economic effects of new road construction.’ New Guinea Research Unit ANU, Canberra: Allans Printers.

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