Thursday, April 14th 1887 -At 3.30 a.m. I was called, and tried to dispel my drowsiness by the pleasing consciousness that an expedition to which I had long looked forward with such deep interest was about to be undertaken, and, as we had reason to hope, through the kind exertions of Mr. Treacher and Mr. Callaghan, duly accomplished. An hour later, these two gentlemen, accompanied by Mr. Crocker, came on board; and then we started directly in a long native canoe, with a crew and escort189 of thirty coolies, Sulus, Dyaks, and policemen. Our destination was the famous caves of edible birds'-nests at Madai. The steam-launch, well laden with extra coal in bags, and a few spare coolies, led the way, having in tow the heavy gig, filled with provisions of all sorts, and materials for camping out. Then came the long prahu—also in tow—laden almost to the water's edge with her thirty passengers and their gear. The extent and weight of this little flotilla reduced our progress to a speed of about five knots. It was a perfect morning, and the air was quite calm except for the slight breeze which we created for ourselves as we progressed. Soon after seven o'clock the sun became unpleasantly hot, and we were glad to spread our awning. At eight we breakfasted extremely well, the necessary cooking being done over a small spirit-lamp, in the absence of kerosene or any of190 the mineral oils, the use of which is not allowed on board the 'Sunbeam' or any of her satellites.
In about half an hour we reached a junction of two streams, where the boats composing our flotilla had to part company—the steam-launch to be left behind, the prahu to lead the way, and the cutter to be paddled and punted up after us as far as she could go. This point proved to be only to a small landing-place, at which eight prahus were drawn up near two temporary wooden kajang huts belonging to the bird's-nest takers, members of the Eraan tribe, to whom the caves are let. Birds'-nests, it may be remarked, are a profitable property, yielding a royalty of 15,000 dollars, or over 2,500l. a year, to the North Borneo Company.
From the cutter we embarked in the prahu, and from the prahu we finally landed in a swamp, where an hour's rest was allowed for the coolies to get their food, whilst we completed the arrangements for our return voyage, which, on account of the tide, promised to be much more difficult.