We were anchored along the western coast of Halmahera and in the distance we could hear low rumbling sounds. Storm clouds started to gather on the horizon and there were a few bolts of distant lightening so we assumed it was just thunder. But as we sailed away from the anchorage early the next morning, the true source of the strange rumbles was revealed: the nearby volcano Mt Ibu was erupting! Every few minutes or so it belched out more big grey clouds of ash (which then deposited all over our white decks!)
In Jailolo we forayed into the jungle in search of birds of paradise! The uphIll jungle trekking was accompanied by some pretty noteworthy birdsong – chattering lories, squawking white cockatoos and whistling whistlers – but the coolest sounds were the whump whump whump of the Blyth’s hornbills flapping their wings as they flew overhead. They sounded like pterodactyls. And when they stopped flapping and soared, they sounded just like drones.
After nearly fours hours of trekking we arrived at our overnight camp – a simple structure near a small running creek. We slept on a tarp on the forest floor, and once the evening rain finished, we could hear the calls of various pigeons, pittas, and night birds like the owlet-nightjar.
But the main show was early the next morning. In the weak light of pre-dawn we walked a short distance to the lekking tree of Wallace’s Standard Wing bird of paradise, Semioptera wallacii or burung bidadari in Bahasa, endemic to Halmahera. As we approached we could here the male birds’ distinct calls that accompany their display dance. Alfred Wallace, the naturalist who first observed the bird, described it as a continual “harsh, creaking note”, and as we trekked the four hours back down the mountain, we really felt we were walking in Wallace’s steps.
“I saw a bird with a mass of splendid green feathers on its breast, elongated into two glittering tufts; but, what I could not understand was a pair of long white feathers, which stuck straight out from each shoulder.” – Alfred Wallace
One more noteworthy noise was the gurgling sound of cooling water coming out of the starboard engine! We finally resolved the problem after we found a big groove in the inlet pipe of the versus strainer. It must have been the culprit letting air into the cooling system, so (fingers crossed) the mystery is resolved!